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The coronavirus pandemic has seen some businesses put their growth plans on hold until the uncertainty subsides.

However, this hasn’t been the case for all in the manufacturing sector. In fact, according to Made Smarter Industrial Digital Technology Adviser Iwona Kandpal, countless makers are instead moving forward with their strategies – especially those related to digitalisation.

Iwona's Blog
  • Continuous revenue streams

    I’ve seen numerous manufacturers face increased demand during the pandemic, depending on the industry they’re in. Makers of medical bags for the NHS are just one example of those who have required technology to fulfil a surge in sales. Others have adapted their manufacturing to produce goods for essential businesses, and so needed to improve their systems integration.

    Digital tools have been essential to meeting demand, making steaming ahead with digitalisation more of a necessity. It allows a degree of certainty when it comes to a constant revenue stream, and certainty is so hard to find right now. These makers now have the confidence to invest in technical projects and remain financially stable.

  • Recovery

    On the other side of the coin, I’ve noticed that some businesses are thinking about implementing technology as part of their recovery strategy. Many have suffered a loss of growth and sales over the last few months and want to give their firm the best chance of bouncing back. Through emerging technologies, they’ll be able to fulfil new orders that they don’t currently have the capability or capacity for.

    We work with a lot of makers who recognise that using digital tools will help them to come out of the other side of the pandemic stronger. These include those in the Tier II automotive and transportation, construction, chemical, and hospitality industries, as well as smaller or creative makers.

    They’re specifically focusing on upgrading systems and providing a superior quality of product or service to their customers, ultimately achieving a competitive advantage. Some are looking to introduce new SaaS so they have ‘sticking points’, helping to future-proof their business by establishing recurring revenue streams.

  • Timing

    On a similar note, those who are not experiencing an uptick in demand are using the downtime and available capacity to work on projects that have previously been put on the backburner. One particular SME is preparing their project application with Made Smarter now. When they’re in a better position financially, their project will be able to go to a panel to assess funding.

    We’ve also seen a maker use an empty unit to test out new processes and machinery, which will enable them to begin their application for support earlier.

  • Remote working

    Another motivation I’ve observed is the requirement for successful virtual working, with social distancing looking to be necessary for the foreseeable. Without the luxury of being able to explain something face to face, digital transformation is essential for clear communication – both internally and externally. For instance, one SME has implemented an online ordering portal system so that their Area Sales Managers don’t need to visit manufacturing sites.

    Likewise, manufacturing processes can go remote too. Storth Limited has brought a robot welder on board, which has tackled delays and proven essential when staff shortages have occurred due to self-isolation. Makers are truly realising that they need to be able to monitor production processes and manage facilities more effectively.

  • Problem-solving

    Regular delays to strict schedules is just one of many manufacturing line issues that digitalisation can help solve. SMEs are also seeking to accelerate their digital plans in order to achieve consistent quality, reduce their dependency on manual labour, and automate processes so that they can be more effectively controlled. They can also successfully monitor machine performance to move towards predictive maintenance, which will help to avoid further problems in the future.

    To achieve these outcomes, some need to upgrade or modernise their IT/OT network and infrastructure, as well as enhance their reliability and robustness. For others, their focus is on cybersecurity, or identifying new supply chains or markets. Made Smarter is supporting them all in determining the right route for their particular organisation and its long-term goals.

  • Increased financial support

    As the government is providing financial support in the form of furlough schemes, grants and loans, I’ve noticed that businesses feel more confident asking for monetary help from elsewhere. A number of businesses have contacted Made Smarter, for example, to assist with their digital transformation plans – particularly those in sectors like food and drink and pharma, as well as makers of medical devices, medical components and chemicals.

    Made Smarter support gives these firms the ability to work on their digital roadmap, employ a digital technology intern, and fund the implementation of technology through up to 50% match-funding.

    Get in touch today to find out how we could help you. A specialist adviser can then discuss the particular technologies that will help your manufacturing SME move forward. Steam ahead with your digital journey now.

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