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UK Manufacturing Operations Pulse Survey: November 2021 results

Building Agility in Manufacturing

For UK manufacturers, market conditions remain challenging. Volatile dynamics – the causes of which include Brexit and the ongoing impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic – mean industry firms must continue to build resilience into their operations.

As part of our quarterly Global Manufacturing Pulse Survey, we asked over 70 UK-based manufacturing businesses what the future looks like and to identify short- and mid-term priorities.

The latest round of findings indicates that environmental, social and governance (ESG), supply chain management, and digitalisation are still front of mind. Most manufacturers are facing tough competition from adjacent industries when trying to attract and retain the best people. And most face a gap when looking for the technology skills required to develop next-generation products.

Meanwhile, a universal return to the workplace is far from guaranteed as remote working continues to prove a viable option for sections of the industry, at least.

73% of UK responders rank supply chain a high/ very high priority

Pulse Survey key findings

Energy efficiency leading ESG drive

Sustainability does not feature explicitly as a business priority among UK manufacturers. Nevertheless, the vast majority are investing in reducing energy use and measuring energy efficiency (81%). Similarly, the health and safety aspects of products (76%) and the diversity and inclusion (74%) are notable areas of focus.

The UK is prioritising all three to a far greater extent than their global peers.

And while sustainability appears to be a lower priority (24%), demand for sustainability is having an over-sized impact on UK operations – 70% in the UK manufacturers referenced this compared to 53% globally.

Top 3 areas of ESG focus:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Health and safety
  3. Diversity and inclusion

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Supply Chain

Manufacturing leaders – still managing the effects of Brexit – are prioritising supply chain agility as a means of mitigating impact and preparing for the short- to medium-term.

While supply chain risk management and trade barriers/tariffs are viewed as the two biggest challenges, supply chain agility is the top one-to-two year priority by some distance. The UK is one of only two territories where it sits as the primary concern.

The supply chain occupies the minds across the sector with 79% of the UK’s smaller industrial manufacturing and automotive firms identifying it as a priority.

Top 2 challenges

  1. Supply chain risk management
  2. Trade barriers/tariffs

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Data analytics tops spending priorities

When it comes to technology adoption, UK manufacturers identify data analytics tools as the most pressing investment. This is the number one priority among global peers, too. Where the UK is an outlier is its prioritisation of track and trace solutions, ahead of predictive maintenance.

For smaller manufacturers in the UK – those with revenues below $1 billion – cybersecurity remains an ongoing challenge.

Fortunately for the industry’s digitalisation agenda, 81% expect technology budgets to increase in the next 12 months. Technologies on the agenda include the internet of things (IoT), public and private cloud, automation and – as noted above – data.

Top 3 manufacturing technologies and tools

  1. Data analytics
  2. Track and trace solutions
  3. Predictive analytics

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Contact us

Cara Haffey

Cara Haffey

M&A Deals Partner, Private Business leader for PwC Northern Ireland, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7809 551517

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