Welsh Manufacturing businesses embracing the fourth industrial revolution

Wales has a long-standing manufacturing history, and many manufacturing firms still operate from Wales, having chosen to buck the trend of outsourcing manufacturing operations to Eastern Europe or Asia.

The impact of technology

Barclays Corporate Banking have released research¹ on the manufacturing sector and its relationship with smart technologies, which details the attitudes held by the manufacturing sector and their plans for further adoption of these technologies in the coming years.

The report has shown that 78% of Welsh manufacturers are confident in Britain’s ability to compete in the global marketplace through the next five years. The same conclusion was reached by the Government’s Made Smarter Review², which also found that 54% of Welsh businesses attribute their confidence in this area to their adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. These include cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, the adoption of which can revolutionise manufacturing processes and daily operations.

4IR technologies are proven to improve employee productivity, reducing production time, and using robotics and software to manage menial tasks, freeing the workforce to concentrate on more important activities. However, 34% of Welsh businesses are yet to adopt 4IR technologies.

What does 4IR mean for Welsh manufacturers?

Whilst there is no denying that the latest technologies come at a premium and their adoption is not a decision to be taken lightly, there is already a high rate of adoption of some smart tech, for example robotics, which has seen a 76% adoption rate. The return on investment from such technologies usually far outweighs the costs. The Barclays Corporate Banking report shows that 34% of businesses embracing digital transformation have already seen a significant ROI.

What should Welsh manufacturers do about 4IR?

The power of digital transformation in manufacturing is evident. Managers and CXOs across the manufacturing sector have seen evidence of the positive effects that digital transformation and 4IR tech are bringing to the workforce. The statistics released in the Barclays report speak for themselves.

The future for 4IR technologies in Welsh manufacturing looks positive with 78% of manufacturers stating their intention to invest in 4IR technologies over the next five years.

Most interestingly, the report claims that with widespread adoption of 4IR technologies, the UK manufacturing sector could be boosted by as much as £102bn by as soon as 2026, with an additional 6,000 jobs being created in Wales alone.

¹ Barclays Corporate banking, Intelligent manufacturing: an industrial revolution for the digital age 2017

² Gov.co.uk, Made Smarter Review 2017