Unlike some industries, UK manufacturing has grown to new heights throughout November and has defied all odds. Industries performing particularly well include the automotive sector, the steel industry and shipbuilding.

Overall, production is on the rise to the highest it’s been in four years; new territories with a significant increase in exports along with the highest employment growth in over three years. And according to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s industrial sector has increased by 1.4% overall each year since 1948. Who would have thought last year we would be at this point?

UK Manufacturing Leading the Way

UK manufacturing has been perceived as gloomy but a survey by Santander and EEF offers some positive data. Strong domestic and international demand has led to increased flow of new orders with a solid forecast. Despite the Brexit uncertainty, overall sales to Europe, the United States and South America are higher. British manufacturing is also responsible for millions of skilled jobs in every part of the UK. None more so than R&D, investment, innovation and driving the UK’s export market which is a growing sector. It has an impressive global presence contributing £6.7 trillion to the global economy.

Here are a few statistics on the current contributions made by the UK manufacturing sector:

  • Responsible for employing 2.7 million people
  • It contributes 10% of Gross Value Added (GVA)
  • UK manufacturing accounts for 45% of total exports
  • Represents 68% of business R&D and provides 13% of business investment

The Santander/EEF survey also shows that sub-sectors such as chemicals and transport are investing large amounts on innovation which will ultimately deliver the products and services of the future. It also indicated that British companies are confident in their ability to grow over the next 12 months. That said, it’s probably more promising for businesses with international sales compared to those only with domestic concerns.

Investing In Manufacturing and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution after mechanisation, industrialisation and automation. It all started in Britain in the mid-18th century as British manufacturers made the transition to new manufacturing processes. It earmarked a major turning point in history as almost every aspect of daily life was affected. What about modern day manufacturing?

The fourth industrial revolution of today sees companies strive for greater productivity and functionality from technological advances. Prominent examples include artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, 3D printing, nanotechnology, autonomous vehicles (cars, planes, drones, submarines), quantum computing and advanced energy storage.

UK manufacturing companies are at the forefront of development within each of these fields. They often use cutting-edge technology, have highly trained staff ensuring that the sector can exploit the plethora of opportunities Industry 4.0 is already creating. Certainly a far cry from the traditional low-tech and manual manufacturing stereotypes of yesteryear.

In 2015 Infosys and the Institute for Industrial Management (FIR) conducted global research which contributed to the creation of the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index. Although it only focused on five countries, the UK ranked third in terms of Industry 4.0 implementation (26%). China and the United States are first and second respectively with 57% and 32%.

All things considered, there are still challenges to overcome for successfully implementing Industry 4.0. We’ve listed a few below.

  • Unclear economic benefits and extravagant investments
  • Inadequately qualified employees
  • Lack of standards, regulations and certification
  • Unclear legal concerns surrounding the use of external data
  • Low maturity level of required technologies
  • Unresolved data security questions
  • Lack of support from top management
  • Slow expansion of basic technologies
  • Insufficient network stability or data back-up

Modern Day Manufacturing and Engineering

These may not be made in the UK but as far as technology goes and how far we’ve come, just look at Elon Musk’s ‘Tesla big battery’ project in Australia. Not to mention other big ideas like the Boeing Echo Voyager autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle, Hyperloop One or the Electric Hoverbikes making up part of Dubai’s police force.

A study by PwC & Strategy suggested that by 2020, four out of five European companies will see their industries digitised. Sectors that are likely to invest the most include production, engineering and technology. More statistics can be found in this article on The Manufacturer website.

What are your thoughts on the state of UK manufacturing and Industry 4.0? Please leave your comments in the section below or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. If you need assistance with your manufacturing project get in touch today as our expertise extend into a number of industries including automotive, rail, construction, aerospace and defence.

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