Skip to content Skip to footer

Loading Results

UK Manufacturing Operations Pulse Survey: May 2021 results

Building Agility in Manufacturing

In the UK, business resilience has been tested by dual forces - the global COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. Weaknesses have been exposed and the need for manufacturers to build greater resilience into their operations has been highlighted. 

So what does the future of manufacturing look like? What are the priorities for businesses in both the short and mid-term? 

As part of our Global Manufacturing Pulse Survey, we asked over 60 large-scale UK manufacturing businesses exactly that. Explore the results below.

Pulse Survey key findings


COVID-19 has shifted working patterns and behaviours in manufacturers at a speed not previously thought possible. There’s a focus on remote working with 45% seeing it as a priority. Similarly, 70% see employee health and wellbeing as a priority too. Businesses will have to adapt and understand the balance between the recruitment of new skills, and upskilling and retaining current staff.

As digitalisation accelerates in the years ahead, manufacturers will need to ensure that they have platforms, systems and resources in place that are up to the task. The demand for physical and manual skills in repeatable and predictable tasks is expected to decline, whilst demand or technological and cognitive skills will rise.

Some of the biggest shifts in manufacturing during the pandemic are happening on the factory floor. They’re increasing their activities in digital enablement, next generation talent and flexible working. These trends are not just short-term workarounds - they’re a transition to a new way of working.

Operational Technology

Manufacturers are driving value by revamping production processes. The pandemic placed intense pressure on them to bolster business speed and efficiency while maintaining quality at the same time. To achieve that balance, companies are prioritising process optimisation, quality control, real-time production monitoring, and manufacturing engineering to help remote workers.

Cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the mainstays of manufacturing technology, prioritised by nearly 70% of companies. Around half are also prioritising robotic process automation.

Going forward, manufacturers will keep reinventing processes through shop floor digitalisation, product planning tools, product lifecycle management, just-in-time production, and circular economy practices.  

Cyber Security

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened the focus on cyber security in the sector. A combination of increased remote working and the likelihood of cyber attacks has pushed cyber security up the agenda with 63% of UK respondents singling it out as a priority.

In the heat of the pandemic and over the next six months, response and recovery plans (50%), the coordination of data privacy and security (33%), and improving governance and access (30%) are all priority areas of focus. Over the medium-term, 32% of our respondents will also be increasing their risk assessments, audits and stress and penetration tests.

Cyber security training for staff and cyber attack preparedness appear to be less of a priority, with only 35% of UK manufacturing businesses finding it a priority over the next 1-2 years. Instead, 42% of manufacturers intend to work with external specialists and outsourcing experts to help fill their skills gaps.

Supply Chain

During the pandemic, supply chains ground to a halt and forecasting and risk management capabilities often failed. These challenges placed a premium on network optimisation and demand forecasting capabilities - which will continue to be top priorities for manufacturers.

Other supply chain areas will grow in importance as manufacturers pivot to meet the needs of a high-speed, digital world. In the short-term, manufacturers have emphasised logistics capabilities such as data collection technology to pinpoint trouble spots, and will continue to find new efficiencies and more effective channels to get around them. They’ll also give greater priority to integrating their supply chains, developing them closer to local markets (to protect against the downside of offshoring), and increasing their end-to-end supply chain planning.

Priorities in the UK focus heavily on improving efficiency, with distribution efficiency (75%) and lean inventory management (62%). Over the next two years, logistical excellence will become even more important in a digital-first, post-pandemic world.


Tuesday 18th May 2021 | 9.30–10.30am (BST)

The value of supply chain visibility in building resilience

We will again showcase the findings from our recent Manufacturing Operations Pulse Survey, providing insights from UK manufacturing, aerospace, engineering and construction businesses on their perspectives, plans and priorities.

Our sector and subject matter experts will offer practical examples of steps you can take to have greater visibility, make better decisions and manage the risks to your overall supply chain - so that your business can emerge stronger and more prepared for challenges ahead.


Wednesday 24th March 2021 | 9:30–10:30am (GMT)

Cyber Security Excellence in Manufacturing Operations

We showcased the findings from our recent Manufacturing Operations Pulse Survey, providing insights from UK manufacturing businesses on their perspectives, plans and priorities in the short to mid-term.

We also shared what systems and solutions manufacturers are prioritising to improve effectiveness and why this has an impact on cyber threats for a business and their wider supply chain. Our sector and subject matter experts will talk through our findings and provide practical examples of steps you can take to continue to build cyber security excellence and protect your manufacturing operations.

See highlights from the webinar

If you are interested in signing up to any of our events and would like to find out more, please fill out this form.

Required fields are marked with an asterisk(*)

By submitting your information, you acknowledge that we may send you business insights that we consider relevant to your interests. Please see our privacy statement for details of why and how we use personal data and your rights (including your right to object and to stop receiving marketing communications from us). To stop receiving marketing communications from us, click on the unsubscribe link in the relevant email received from us or send an email to

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

Follow us