Overcoming the challenges of digitisation in Manufacturing


In a continually unpredictable climate, it is refreshing to see recent statistics which seem to demonstrate growth of the UK Manufacturing sector. At the end of April 2017, for example, the UK’s Manufacturing PMI rose to a three year high.

Without a doubt, this can be attributed to what some are calling the “fourth Industrial Revolution” – digitisation in Manufacturing. While digitisation takes many forms, in the Manufacturing arena, this primarily concerns Big Data, cyber physical systems and the Internet of Things – all of which can be used to extract large amounts of data in real time, enabling manufacturers to deliver better service for their customers and increase outputs.

Unfortunately, however, the reality is that while output is increasing, employment in Manufacturing is on the decline. The industry now faces a series of challenges if it is to ensure continuing success for the future, and it is down to recruiters to find the best talent to overcome these.

The challenges

With a deepening manufacturing skills shortage, and a growing investment in digital technology across other industries, manufacturers must plan to cross the divide. Rather than distrusting technological investment, or at the least not believing in the commercial benefits, manufacturers must embrace or examine it by seeking out individuals who can create opportunities and challenge the status quo. Manufacturers, therefore, must be assured that they can rely upon the guidance of dedicated industry recruiters who are finding talent for roles specific to digitisation.

Increasing outputs, decreasing employment

In order to better balance production to employment ratios, TS Grale are advising current and future clients to offer better “non-financial” incentives for prospective talent. The digitised supply chain is a perfect example of this incentive: “smart” supply chains are now offering potential employees the chance to view real-time data and streamline the decision making process, effectively making the working day easier. A Supply Chain Director role, for example, whilst still encompassing the former duties of managing a team, would now give the candidate the chance to work with state-of-the-art, inter-connected machines. It is down to experienced executive recruiters, like TS Grale, to find an applicant who is not only capable of leading a team, but also willing to learn and embrace the advantages of smart technology.

An ageing workforce

A recent article by the Business Desk Yorkshire presented a concerning skills shortage. It explained that UK Manufacturing is predominantly carried by the skills and experience of an older workforce, whilst newer applicants, more commonly embedded in “new” technology use, don’t have the depth of manufacturing expertise. This poses a tricky challenge for our customers in answering the question of “how can senior management roles be filled by people in their late 20s and early 30s?” Digitisation, and the skills contained within, could therefore be an excellent way of bringing these seemingly different communities together in the pursuit of ‘future-proofing’ manufacturing. TS Grale, who are committed solely to the Manufacturing industry, see pro-active talent introduction as a critical part of their executive support strategy.

The New Government

Brexit certainly struck fear into the hearts of many of us who work within or support the manufacturing industry, with some companies fearing their workforces would be moved overseas. Others, however, have noted the positive effects of Brexit – approximately half of Britain’s Manufacturing exports are sold on markets outside of the EU, and the weak pound has reportedly boosted these. The continual challenge for TS Grale is predicting the moves of the new Government – will a hard/soft Brexit make or break UK Manufacturing? Will they be as keen to invest in digitisation as we need them to be, to ensure on-going recruitment? The Conservative Manifesto pledges to “establish new institutes of technology” and replace current qualifications in Manufacturing, while Labour claim that renewable energy projects will help to create Manufacturing jobs. TS Grale, amongst others, need to take these policies and turn them into incentives for prospective employees and ultimately employers.

While digitisation may be revolutionising the UK Manufacturing industry, truly, it is only as strong as its workforce, and recruiters are a key catalyst for ensuring the UK has the strongest workforce available. By recognising the job roles that are complemented by digitisation, as well as spotting talent early and creating incentives, recruiters can help UK Manufacturing through this daunting but exciting period of digital transition.

Find the right talent with TS Grale today >

Jason Saunders – Partner

“In Support of UK Manufacturing

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