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The UK manufacturing industry: cashing in with Big Data?

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The UK manufacturing industry is slowly making its comeback, and it has been reported just this week to be enjoying one of its strongest growth periods in 22 years.

An article published on the BBC noted, “manufacturers have raised production in May to meet strong demand and growth continued at almost the same rate seen in April, matching economists’ expectations.” This sparked some interest amongst Chris, Ollie and I as we all pondered yesterday afternoon what had made the change all of a sudden?

Historically, the UK manufacturing industry doesn’t have the best rep of late, but this news is not something to be sniffed at. Yesterday morning’s industry report was published alongside the Eurozone figures, indicating a slowdown in manufacturing output growth in the rest of the Eurozone, so I’d say we aren’t doing too badly in little ol’ Blighty and we can still bash out a quality vehicle, a top spec aeroplane and some of the best military defence systems in the world when we put our minds to it.

So, do we think the industry has just cashed in somewhere along the lines and struck gold? I think that a lot of it is simply down to hard work but when you start to peel back the layers, technology must have played a massive contributing role in this growth.

Manufacturers are entirely process driven; there is little doubt about that. Everything has its place, every component is tested in a certain way and nothing is left to chance. But that begs the question: “How can we improve our processes? How can we overtake our competitors? How can we work smarter?”

We reckon a lot of the UK’s recent success is down to Big Data. It can be one of only very few explanations for such a growth in the industry. There are millions of bytes of data floating around every manufacturing business across the globe and up until recently, it was an untapped source of competitive advantage and efficiencies.

Business Intelligence (BI) tools are like gold dust for this type of business. Think about it, manufacturers must produce hundreds of thousands of products every year from a couple of factories and I’d be mighty impressed if any manufacturer without a BI tool could tell me in less than a minute where their next sales opportunity lies or how their London factory is performing this month compared to last month without having to pull up a spreadsheet (or three).

As technology has progressed and competition has steadily increased in the industry, having access to a tool that will crunch your data into something actionable will improve the overall performance and power of any manufacturing business in the market.

With such tools, global manufacturers are now holistically managing operations across a global network without relying on inefficient, disparate reporting and management processes across factories or divisions. Standardised procedures are to manufacturers what a big meaty bone is to your pet dog.

BI can help with monitoring processes, staying on top of customer accounts, making sure that every sales opportunity is captured and remaining competitive in a global marketplace.

Now is not a time for the manufacturing industry to fall back into old habits, but to embrace the future of Big Data analytics and Business Intelligence tools. I’m sure they have both played a big part in the recent growth in the UK manufacturing industry and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that the upward trend continues for the foreseeable.

What are your thoughts? Is this growth down to Big Data making big waves? Or simply hard work and a quality product? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!

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