Manufacturing and technology the themes at regional business event

Business leaders from around the North East came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the manufacturing and technology sectors.

Tait Walker’s annual round table brought together the North East’s manufacturing and technology leaders to debate matters affecting the industry, with a spotlight on how businesses in the region can prosper from Industry 4.0.

The event, chaired by Tait Walker’s managing partner Andrew Moorby, took place at Ramside Hall in County Durham. Amongst those participating were representatives from Lloyds Banking, CPI, TSEC, Durham University Business School and County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network.

They debated Industry 4.0, which has been heralded as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and is the name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. This includes developments such as 3D printing, horizontal and vertical system integration and cloud solutions. So far, Industry 4.0 has introduced robotic warehouse picking, automated assembly for automotive manufacturing, and augmented reality in training and sales.

The recent MHA Manufacturing and Engineering Survey found that 92% of businesses see Industry 4.0 as an opportunity. According to the IT and technology specialists participating in the discussion, North East businesses must adopt this new technology in order to remain competitive and succeed on a national and global scale. What transpired throughout the debate, however, was that manufacturers in the region are not fully aware of what Industry 4.0 entails, how they can implement it into their business and how it will benefit them.

A general concern amongst manufacturers participating in the round table was lack of funding and they did see this as a barrier to embracing Industry 4.0.

Another prevalent area of debate was the skills shortage in the region, with a consensus that lower-skilled workers must be trained to keep up with technological advancements. In addition, it was agreed that an infrastructure must be put in place within the region’s educational facilities to train graduates to enter higher level jobs, in order to facilitate an increase in the ‘middle management’ of the North East’s manufacturing businesses and ensure the region remains ambitious and competitive.

Agile leadership and staff engagement was seen as important and key to making the most of the changes ahead – including using the talent and tech savvy millennials to continue to grow.

Tait Walker’s Andrew Moorby said: “Our annual round table offers business leaders in the region’s manufacturing and engineering sector the opportunity to debate matters most relevant to the industry and their businesses.

“This debate focused primarily on Industry 4.0, and how North East businesses can adapt and prosper. There was a general consensus that there is a gap between the ambition of the tech sector and the understanding of the manufacturing industry, acting as a barrier for implementation.

“Although business leaders were optimistic at conclusion of the discussion, it is clear that more needs to be done to make this new technology accessible to the region’s manufacturing leaders. It is a challenge for tech specialists in the region, therefore, to create a roadmap and help to steer the process.”

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