Made (Smarter) in the UK
Despite being the eighth biggest ‘maker’ globally, here in the UK we are only just beginning to get to grips with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The real cynics say we still haven’t realised many benefits of the 3rd!
The mighty UK has fallen behind Germany, France and Italy’s productivity levels (where productivity = value created ÷ hours worked).
In fact, the latest data from April to June 2017, shows that productivity in manufacturing fell by 1.3% over the quarter, much greater than the average labour productivity decline of 0.1 %. Every Chancellor’s Budget and Autumn Statement remarks on low productivity, nevermind the daily news coverage. Productivity must be 2nd only to Brexit when it comes to news air-time, and rightly so. It is a large problem that is holding back our economy and quality of life and unfortunately, the trend is very well set in now.
This is not a doom and gloom blog though! At Cisco, we are solution focused and we do not shy away from any problem, in fact, we have Country Digital Acceleration, a pioneering investment strategy and partnership with government, business and academia.
Its bold objective: to harness digital technologies to make the UK more productive and innovative. So we’re comfortable tackling nationwide issues. We believe that the key to improved productivity in every sector, especially manufacturing, is digitisation. Simply put; connecting the unconnected.
Cisco is Connecting Manufacturing in the UK and Ireland
Recently Cisco appeared at Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool on a mission to connect UK manufacturing. Technology is already shaping the national agenda and we want to help the UK and Ireland become global leaders in industrial digitalisation by 2030.
Made Smarter aims to improve UK manufacturing productivity through faster adoption of industrial digital technologies. It could add an estimated £455bn to the economy over ten years and is now being considered by UK government and industrial sector businesses, from large multinationals to homegrown startups, as a means to help steer the UK into a more productive digital future.
Industrial Digital Technologies
The review considers a broad spectrum of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) and a broad view of the industrial sector, including low, medium and high-tech manufacturing and construction. The IDTs considered have been grouped into the following families:
- Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics,
- Additive manufacturing,
- Robotics and automation,
- Virtual and augmented reality,
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Digitalisation and Job Growth
As of 2016, UK manufacturing is worth £168bn and contributes 50% to UK exports. The sector employs 2.6 million people and comprises a massive 70% of all business R&D. If you didn’t understand the importance of this work, just read those 2 sentences again and let them marinate for a while…
One of the mental blocks people have surrounds technology and job security. Something akin to Disney’s Toy Story line “Are we being replaced?“. However, take artificial intelligence.
This does not mean replacing humans and taking jobs away. It merely means giving or sharing some of the more laborious tasks with technology and leaving people to do what computers cannot. This usually means people carrying out higher value work which will boost productivity and for the individual, while this transition may not be smooth, with higher value work, comes higher pay and this can improve quality of life.
Productivity, therefore, is not only a Government, economic or business manager’s concern. Oh no, it’s the concern of each and every one of us in employment. We all want to see the businesses we work for thrive and we all want to maintain or improve our quality of life and therefore we are united to improve productivity. And in this crusade technology is our partner. Let’s not allow competing countries to win just because they acted on this before we did.
New digitally skilled jobs that did not previously exist are created based on the introduction of new technology and techniques. Technology has driven this job creation model for centuries and as the Made Smarter review argues this must be supported by giving employees access to education and training so they can move into higher value work.
Being more productive and competitive, and winning additional business protects jobs and can lead to needing more people to meet the increased demand.
This makes manufacturing a vitally important sector to connect. And when everything is securely connected, anything is possible.