Are you ready to walk the line?
Britain is continuing to boom with latest official figures showing UK productivity is at its highest level for more than a decade.
Good news for a nation that will pull up the anchor with its largest trading partner – the EU – in less than 12 months.
But looking behind the headline figure for the final quarter of 2017, the Office for National Statistics did point out that this increase could be largely attributed a reduction in the number of hours actually worked. So, the picture isn’t quite as rosy.
Increasing productivity is the cornerstone of the government’s Industrial Strategy, unveiled in November 2017, with ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places the five foundations all focused on ensuring increased productivity.
This has been backed up by a raft of multi-million pound initiatives but how does work its way down to those individual manufacturing businesses that are looking to capitalise now and increase productivity?
Let’s be clear, there is no magic answer.
But there are two significant ways to increase productivity:
1: motivated skilled employees
2: adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies
The entire manufacturing industry is aware there is a glaring shortage of skilled workers coming into the industry and that the most talented are in demand. For businesses that can’t recruit, upskilling their existing – but ageing – workforce is the next best option here, but this is only a short-term solution.
So, what about the technology angle?
Industry 4.0 is here but for many businesses, especially SMEs, knowing what technologies to adopt to improve productivity is a major issue. And then there is the question of how much will it cost.
There is an answer to this – in the shape of the government-backed Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC); a purpose-built R&D centre leading the way in Industry 4.0 technology.
Amongst its many offerings is a free ‘line walk’ from its Operation Efficiency team, whose specific purpose is to advance and improve the technological capability of the UK’s SMEs to make them as productive and competitive as they can be.
One of the added benefits of the MTC, one of seven High Value Manufacturing catapult centres in the UK, is its ability to access SME Reach funding, which specifically supports SMEs looking to improve productivity; reduce costs; embed innovation and de-risk the use of technology.
Nigel Knapp, a consultant at the MTC, has undertaken hundreds of line walks, which have resulted in a significant number of SMEs embracing the opportunity to work with the MTC. Knapp explained how SMEs should assess their technology capabilities and how the MTC supports SMEs in making the right decisions
He said: “A line walk is an independent assessment and the key questions we ask when we start is where is the business looking to go and what is its strategy to achieve that.
“There are four key questions to consider:
- Are you doing everything you can to be productive with what you have got?
- Look at the technology in your sector… is your business ready to embrace that technology?
- Look at the technology you do have and is it appropriate?
- Are you looking to bring a new product to market?
“Technology is very important and choosing the right equipment at the right time is not that simple. We can de-risk that. We offer businesses the chance to look at what technology is available and a ‘try before you buy’ opportunity, which will help them to assess what equipment is right for them.
“Businesses are looking at today’s problems when they should be looking at the future steps to get there. On the line walk we’re looking to see what we can do to improve productivity and how they can use technology to fit the business or they risk becoming obsolete.”
At Clarico we want to see manufacturing businesses embracing the digital era. We are, as we know it’s vitally important for us to succeed in our field and we want our manufacturing clients to be doing likewise by exploring what opportunities Industry 4.0 can offer.