The effects of 20 years of globalisation on UK manufacturing – more competition, increased demand for production, and complex global supply chains – have led the industry down the path of a fourth industrial revolution. To keep pace with the competition, manufacturers are making significant investments in advanced technology to improve operational efficiency. The result is a complete overhaul of the production line, from automating repetitive tasks with robots, to virtually testing production scenarios with data twinning, to tracking information from equipment sensors to predict maintenance needs.
Yet, despite this intense focus on transforming production for the future, the human workforce is often overlooked. This creates significant risk for UK manufacturers, as over half the workforce is nearing retirement age and demand shows no sign of slowing. At the same time, seeing a positive return on investment from adopting advanced technologies requires skills that aren’t well represented in the existing manufacturing workforce, creating a skills gap for the sector to overcome.