UK manufacturing output rose, but less than expected report reinforces the need for advanced IT solutions to help navigate waves of change

October 13, 2016
It seems even the news analysts are having trouble predicting the course of manufacturing in the UK. According to a report released Friday (Bloomberg News (10/7, Hamilton) UK factory output rose 0.2 percent in August. But, this was less than expected by economic analysts who were anticipating a larger rebound from the initial shock over the Brexit vote, according to Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg News characterized UK manufacturers as staging “a modest rebound from the initial shock of the Brexit vote” yet bracing for an uncertain future outside the EU, the destination for more than 40 percent of U.K. exports. Formal withdrawal negotiations are due to begin by April. Fears of a so-called hard Brexit recently sent the pound to its lowest level against the dollar in 31 years.

“While some sectors continue to perform well, there is still some way to go to ensure that we are exporting as much as we could and should do, so the government will continue to encourage and support the wider range of exporting we require to boost our national prosperity,” International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in statement last week.

News impacts manufacturers and their IT decisions

European manufacturers following news about Brexit and the impact on global trade likely wonder how the news impacts their financial security. The pace of change has certainly stepped up following Brexit, with government announcements and reports creating weekly waves of response. Manufacturers have become accustomed to this break-neck rate of change, yet still struggle to keep up. Now more than ever, manufacturers must take responsibility for boosting their ability to remain competitive and profitable. In this confusing time, setting IT strategies can be difficult.

Understand of your ultimate objectives

Choosing the right direction for your IT investments can be overwhelming. The options are diverse. A multitude of technology options all offer value and promise meaningful benefits. Yet, available funds have to be stretched, accommodating as many must-have projects and critical initiatives as possible. The negotiation between teams on who has the greatest need can become intense, we know.

Set priorities

How do you choose which route is the one that will offer the greatest value today—and in the future. This tumultuous time of operational and technology innovation in manufacturing offers a vast world of IT solutions, advanced applications, and innovative concepts, many considered game-changing or disruptive to operations as we know them today. Digitalization, Internet of things, Cloud Computing and Data Science are among the big topics with big shiny promises.

Too many choices can be perplexing. Careful consideration of each of the many options is extremely time consuming, requiring research and evaluation cycles that may include multi-page Request for Information (RFIs), long meetings with vendors, and tedious demos. Determining solution strategies that are smart for today, plus support future needs requires understanding of the issues—plus foresight into the future technology trends as well as upcoming company directives.

What can you do to steer the company in the right direction?

First of all, turn to experts you can trust to help guide you. At Infor, we have worked over 30 years with manufacturers and distributors, over 25,000 worldwide, and have earned their trust with our purpose built, comprehensive software solutions designed to support progress. Because of our role as both software provider and strategic technology partner, we have observed countless success stories of manufacturers who have created a strategic IT plan that provided sound results. From our years of expertise, we created these tips to help you get started on your journey.

Tie your vision to company business objectives

Know your goals. Tie the technology vision you have to company business objectives. How do these technology choices help the business be more cost effective? Or provide improved products and services? Would they help you reach customers and partners in value-added ways? What about securing the “right-skilled” workforce? Once you are certain the technology strategy aligns with the company’s overall growth and go-to-market plan, you can take the next step.

Understand value of the technology to remaining competitive

What’s truly important as a competitive differentiator? What is unique to your company, product, or services that will help you stand out from a sea of competitors who, quite likely, can outbid you and beat you on price. Is it product innovation, an enhanced customer experience, responsive service or faster delivery of goods? When you understand your true value to customers and the value of your distinguishing features, you can prioritize the order in which you wish to work to strengthen these features.

Scoping and identifying the ease of implementation

Looking at your list of technology projects, the next step is to get a sense of execution difficulty – meaning a view of cost, challenges and time to implement. Simply put, the highest value opportunity may not be the best one to pursue first as it may be extremely complex with an uncertain timeframe to achieving a Return on Investment (ROI). The key here is to look for impactful, fast successes with proven deployment tactics. This will whet the appetite of management for more and more technology-based projects.

Pull it all together with a roadmap

Now that you have identified which opportunities to pursue, create a visual playbook together of just how you will execute over time. Include key milestones – like interdependencies, internal resources and budgets. Plan for interconnectivity of solutions, visibility, data sharing, and data storage. Consider remote access with mobile devices, agility of systems, and important industry issues you likely face, like regulatory compliance and reporting needs. Be sure to address how you will engage with your supply chain partners, your partners, colleagues and customers. You’ll see the big picture and share this broadly to reconcile potential conflicts.

It’s not easy, but it is do-able

This exercise can be difficult and challenging, particularly for manufacturers who are accustomed to making IT investments in response to a specific need, rather than as part of a strategic plan for long-term growth. Many organizations work with outside consultants for the implementation stage. Unfortunately, companies that specialize in deployment may lack the necessary software insight to help strategize a plan. Be sure to work with experts with industry-specific insights to make sound recommendations. Work with companies that are willing to listen.

Infor Services

Infor Services is a global organization with end-to-end accountability for optimizing the value customers see from their investment in Infor solutions. More than 5,300 professionals currently support customers in 168 countries. The Services team brings deep product and technical expertise, extensive industry experience, and the full force of Infor's resources to the task of making manufacturers successful. From initial deployment and day-to-day optimization to big picture thinking and proactive strategizing, manufacturers can rely on Infor experts to provide the depth and breadth of experience needed turn vision into reality. These individuals—passionate about what they do--are committed to helping manufacturers set priorities and find the right routes to the future. Learn more
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