UK firms lack strategic line to adopting digital: survey

November 28, 2020 - United Kingdom

Manufacturers are risking wasted time, money and effort adopting digital technology without a strategic plan for digital transformation, according to research by the North West programme of Made Smarter, a government-industry initiative that connects UK manufacturers with the digital tools, innovation and skills needed to make a difference to manufacturing.

The survey exploring the awareness, attitudes and approach to digital technologies of 201 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing sector across the country’s north-west found huge appetite and motivation to introduce new digital tools into their operations.

Three quarters of respondents claimed to have adopted new technology in the last three years, compared to 12 per cent who have never made the investment.

But the survey also highlighted the lack of a strategic approach to adopting technology.

More than half (55 peer cent) of manufacturers admitted technology was not part of their future vision and growth plan. This was highest among micro-businesses (60 per cent), according to a press release from Made Smarter.

Further probing found that business leaders were more likely to upgrade existing technologies to maintain continuity rather than to improve productivity.

The research suggests too few are approaching the opportunities and challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in a planned, strategic manner.

“What is clear from our survey is that manufacturers recognise that digital tools and technology are essential to remain competitive, cut costs, increase growth, and enhance the customer experience, and without capitalising on the opportunities digital technology offers, they risk getting left behind,” said Donna Edwards, programme director for the Made Smarter North West pilot.

Despite the clear appetite for technology adoption, barriers remain. The survey found the biggest were insufficient capital (50 per cent) and a need for guidance (44 per cent). Many businesses also cited a lack of time as a reason why they hadn’t obtained business support or funding.