Given Brexit uncertainties and reports of Britain’s economy as the slowest performing against its G7 counterparts, it remains a tough climate in which to be operating successfully. However, there’s a host of opportunities within the control of those UK manufacturers ready to embrace technology. In fact, digital could be the silver bullet helping to drive increased productivity and underpin significant improvements in the often competing dimensions of cost, time to market, and quality.

We believe that British manufacturers are well placed to reimagine their business and transform into digitally enabled enterprises. Adopting Cloud technology is an integral part of this strategy, and takes manufacturers on the journey to drive Industry 4.0 forward.

The reality is that Cloud technology is able to transform virtually every facet of the modern manufacturing process. It is refining how organisations manage their operations, from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial management, to data analytics and workforce training. Manufacturers are turning to Cloud ERP software to drive down costs, enhance production and quality of products while storing data that includes equipment history and inventory records. In addition, the ability to have integrated, real-time information to accurately anticipate, plan and respond to demand makes informed decision-making easier and faster.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of Industry 4.0, but we are often led to believe that businesses are well on their way in digital transformation. The reality is that there is a growing gap between executive ambition and transformative action. In fact, according to a recent KPMG report, just 43% have a coherent Industry 4.0 strategy. This tells us there’s a job to be done in increasing confidence among late digital adopters.

For whilst it’s true that the Cloud is already helping manufacturers to innovate and increase their competitiveness, there are still many organisations that are yet to make the leap. Just 33% admit to being experienced in the Cloud and 37% have only recently launched Cloud computing projects for the first time.

We’re also seeing a slower rate of adoption in smaller manufacturing firms, who have been put off by the upfront costs traditionally associated with on-premise ERP software. However, we’re aiming to dissolve these barriers with our Advanced Business Cloud Essentials, an award-winning cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) ERP system, as part of our new Cloud-first strategy. Combining sales, purchasing, operations, accounts and payroll into one system offering long term flexibility and scalability, it’s designed for SME manufacturers.

What else does 2018 hold? One of the biggest questions is how manufacturers can ensure products remain compliant with EU standards post-Brexit. While much of the current thinking seems rather fluid, adopting a cloud system would provide the flexibility and ongoing updates to help steer SMEs through the process.

In addition to Brexit, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents a huge challenge. Research shows that (71%) of UK manufacturers are unaware of the new wide-ranging data protection rules that will come into force under GDPR next May. And that’s despite almost one in five (18%) admitting the maximum fine for non-compliance would force them out of business and 14% saying it would lead to large scale redundancies.

Other technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation will also make strides forward in the coming year, representing a host of opportunities for manufacturers ready to innovate with digital technologies. Just as IoT has transformed the traditional face of the factory through automating processes and maximising production yields, it has infinite possibilities for the manufacturing industry, from providing greater visibility of production performance, supporting early detection of delays to minimise downtime and maximise productivity. Finally, it will be essential for business growth, ensuring the best and brightest millennial talent is attracted and retained within such forward-thinking manufacturers.

It’s an exciting time for manufacturers ready to transform digitally. And at Advanced we believe the Cloud is integral to helping drive Industry 4.0 forward and ensure each business is fit for future success.