Brexit distractions are putting manufacturers at risk

Published 15/03/2019 by Gordon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, Advanced

Digital transformation – it’s a term that most, if not all, businesses are now very familiar with. What’s more, these businesses recognise that it’s a case of when, not if they need to transform digitally. Those that fail to accept this reality will simply fail to survive. This goes for all sizes of British businesses and across industries, including the backbone of UK economy – the manufacturing sector.

It may sound like scare-mongering but companies really do need to embrace technology if they are to succeed in the future. The issue is that another term we’re all familiar with – Brexit – has been distracting many firms from prioritising new technologies like automation and artificial intelligence which, incidentally, boosts productivity, increases business intelligence and accelerates growth.

Manufacturers are especially under pressure. The ambitious ‘Made Smarter’ review into industrial digitalisation sets out the significant opportunities to be gained by the development and adoption of technologies such as robotics, data analytics and additive manufacturing across all UK manufacturing sectors. More recently, the government has launched formal negotiations with the food and drink manufacturing sector, which could support manufacturers in “accelerating the diffusion of productivity enhancing technologies”.

That’s all well and good, but the uncertainty around Brexit puts all of this in jeopardy. The consequences of a potential no-deal places an immense burden on manufacturers.

According to research from Make UK, the manufacturers’ industry organisation, 58% of large organisations believe leaving the EU with ‘no-deal’ would make the UK unattractive as a manufacturing location – 48% of medium sized firms and 43% of small firms agree. To make matters worse, half of those that have adjusted supply chains say their costs have increased while a quarter of companies have stockpiled and a further quarter are considering it.

It’s no wonder the UK is facing a busyness crisis then. Business leaders in the UK are working at a hundred miles an hour and, according to our report, it’s tipping the work-life balance off scale. Almost two-thirds (60%) of manufacturers feel under pressure all or most of the time and, if they could make use of an extra 60 minutes a day, 36% would use it to plan and forecast more effectively or get back in control of the business.

Frankly, if organisations reluctantly continue as they are, things will continue to look bleak and the fact that a large proportion of manufacturers in the UK are SMEs – the cornerstone of British industry – means we could be heading for serious trouble. The food and drink sector is made up of an overwhelming 97% of SMEs and micro businesses.

It’s rather fitting then that Advanced World, the largest annual gathering of the Advanced customer community, is taking place on Monday 18th March – just 10 days before Britain leaves the EU. Over 1,500 customers and senior influencers across the British business community will be coming together to share their concerns and hear how technology can help them during tough times.

Naturally, our products will be on show including our new Making Tax Digital software and our cloud-based ERP software, which is designed with SME manufacturers in mind and to solve many of the challenges around productivity.

The biggest pull, unsurprisingly, is our keynote speaker – Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI. She will share her thoughts at this crucial juncture with a particular focus on the future business, political and economic landscape for British companies post-Brexit. It’s going to be a fascinating day, and that’s not an understatement. If you would like to join us, it’s not too late to register. We’d love to hear how we can help you.