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How Digitalisation Helps Manufacturing SMEs Improve Productivity and Resilience

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It was great to join Rockwell Automation CTO, Mike Loughran, recently for an episode of the Management Perspectives podcast.

We discussed the recent policy paper from Make UK, about how we can improve the resilience and productivity of our manufacturing base through digitalisation. You can hear my detailed thoughts on how we answer this question by listening to the podcast. But I wanted to blog about a couple of the key points that Mike and I discussed.

The Right Approach

Firstly, I was pleased to be discussing this topic on a management rather than a technology podcast. That’s because – in our experience at Make UK – digitalisation is as much a change management issue as it is a technology one. Taking full advantage of the productivity and resilience gains that are on offer requires a fundamental reworking of production processes and systems – and the confidence and management skills to drive through that change. So, it’s great to see companies like Rockwell Automation place a particular focus on the management aspect of digital transformation, and acknowledging this is part of the broader challenge.

It’s also what makes digitalisation a huge challenge for a large part of the UK industrial sector. Most especially SMEs, where leaders will have many pulls on their time and energy from the plant floor. In many ways, I believe that SMEs actually hold the key for the future of UK industry, and the policy paper goes a long way to offering insight into how we can enable this vital group of companies to level up in terms of digitalisation. The opportunity is huge.

The point is often made about the opportunity for industry as a whole, but seldom made that SMEs have a particular advantage in adopting digital approaches. This is due to more agile decision-making and greater levels of flexibility. Given the right circumstances, they will thrive in this era, despite the economic outlook and impact of coronavirus.

The Next Step

For Make UK, the policy paper is not an end point, but rather a start point. In the coming days, weeks and months, we will be working closely with our membership to further improve our understanding of the challenges they face, and to explain the opportunities in ever more detail.

To that end, we have undertaken our Innovation Monitor 2020 survey, Bouncing Back Smarter. This is now open, and will run until 8th July 2020, and we are inviting all industrial managers to complete it. If you are reading this blog after the closing date, look out for the report in the autumn for the results and analysis.

Finally, I’d like to pick up on the call for case studies about the benefits of digital transformation. We know that they are a powerful way of expounding the benefits to companies of all sizes. It is gratifying to see many such case studies on the Rockwell Automation site.

Listen to my full conversation on this topic, with Rockwell Automation’s Mike Loughran, on the Management Perspectives podcast.

Tim Figures
Tim Figures
Director, Technology, Sustainability and Innovation & UK-EU lead, Make UK

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