Pete Flockhart: Manufacturing set for digital revolution

Conversations around the fourth industrial revolution are dominating the manufacturing industry as firms explore the new opportunities presented by digitalising the production process.

Pete Flockart says manufacturers stand to benefit from embracing emerging technologies. Picture: Fraser Band

“Industry 4.0” is affecting companies worldwide, with Germany at the forefront of the revolution and pledging to invest more than $140 billion (£112m) in autonomous technology by 2020.

Manufacturing is a key industry of the Scottish economy, and the country’s heritage in this sector puts Scottish firms in a good position to capitalise on emerging techniques and equipment in engineering.

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How can firms benefit?

New technologies can help to streamline the manufacturing process by increasing productivity, whilst complementing the skills of the workforce to maximise levels of output.

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As well as helping to achieve gains in terms of production, many automated technologies can produce detailed analytical reports, actively helping to identify flaws in the production line, and quickly addressing them to ensure optimum efficiency.

Where the automotive industry is concerned, this even extends to a built-in self-diagnostic system, which allows technicians to manage any technical glitches remotely.

As these enhancements demonstrate, automation has the potential to benefit everybody, effectively building on the talents of highly skilled engineers on the factory floor to create a better product for consumers.

Importantly, though, where management teams are concerned, new technologies can provide a huge return on investment by generating huge gains in efficiency and productivity.

Securing suitable funding

One of the main barriers for firms considering automation is a lack of knowledge of the options available, and it’s for this reason that it’s always advisable to seek help before committing to any investment.

We regularly work with businesses to identify ways to achieve growth whilst navigating these challenges, with products such as asset finance trade and trade finance proving to be effective ways of helping firms to invest in technology.

Organisations such as the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service exist to support businesses on the manufacturing journey by offering guidance on automation, as well as ways to access skills, insights and trading opportunities.

Our experience of working with traditional manufacturers has shown that the growth generated by investing in robotics can create opportunities for firms to expand their workforce, rather than cutting it back.

At Bank of Scotland, we are focused on understanding our client’s businesses so we can help them identify solutions which use their capital effectively and provide liquidity to support investment. This in turn ensures that the production process becomes more efficient providing capacity to focus on other areas of the business, such as expansion into new markets, and leading to the creation of jobs, products and services. Through this philosophy, we’re aiming to do our bit to help Scotland lead the way in creating quality jobs for skilled workers, ensuring the country can lead the way as Industry 4.0 helps to create a renaissance for the manufacturing sector.

• Pete Flockhart is regional relationship director for mid markets banking at Bank of Scotland