Business guides listing

Manufacturing success: five things to consider

Manufacturing success: five things to consider

Learn from Nick Shields, Head of Business Services and Advice at Scottish Enterprise, who discusses five factors crucial to sustained success in manufacturing - from focussing internal ambition to building supply chain resilience.

Scotland has an impressive heritage in energy and engineering. As the world adapts and consumer choices change, we need to make sure we stay the forefront of exciting opportunities that will revolutionise manufacturing forever.

Nick Shields

What to focus on to achieve manufacturing success

Scotland has a thriving, innovative and diverse manufacturing sector. Manufacturing is the country’s productivity engine, responsible for over 50% of exports and 54% of research and development (R&D). This ever-changing sector brings potential for investment in many areas but Scottish businesses, like in many evolved economies, are only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible.

The purpose of the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) is to inspire and support Scottish manufacturers to maximise productivity through up-to-date industrial practices.

We review your existing business processes and identify the short-and-medium-term gains you can achieve using business improvement techniques. We also help review your equipment and technology to make sure your systems are as productive as possible. Scotland now has a wide range of support resources and SMAS is a gateway to unlocking opportunities.

An important example of today's evolving landscape is Industry 4.0 (i4.0). The relentless pace of digitisation in the manufacturing environment led SMAS to launch its Industry 4.0 Review to raise awareness of these concepts, increase investment into digital manufacturing. As a result, this project helped 180 businesses create their digital roadmap for the future.

Adopting i4.0 technologies is just one of the five areas we’ve identified that will stimulate ambition and growth in manufacturing — the others are supply chain resilience, leadership and culture, operational excellence, sustainability, and productivity.

1. Supply chain resilience

The traditional method of moving production to low-cost economies to boost productivity is becoming outdated. The price of labour, increased inventories, unresponsive lead times — not to mention the environmental impacts from transportation emissions — undermine the notion that ‘offshoring’ is always beneficial.

By using adaptable, affordable, and automated solutions, Scottish manufacturers are reversing years of supply chain offshoring.

To increase your supply chain resilience, it’s important to identify your company’s weak spots. Ask yourself:

  • Is there anything we can in-source?
  • Are my suppliers weakened thanks the pressures of increasing inflation?
  • Am I facing pressure from downstream customers?

By innovating and collaborating with supply chain partners, you can take advantage of the industry’s future — especially in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19.

Indeed, evidence suggests that businesses which, prior to the pandemic, adopted digital technology, invested in new machinery or in their people, coped with the challenges of those years better than those that didn’t.

And if you’re yet to make the leap into new technology or investments, it’s a great time to start. Scotland has a network of technology and innovation centres, including the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), that can support your investment in productive technology.

Our experts can also help advise you on networking and industry developments and reassess your supply chain proposition. This can help you plan to become more resilient and dynamic in the future.

Learn about the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland on NMIS.SCOT

2. Industry 4.0 technologies

To increase your company’s productivity and savings, it’s vital to be aware of emerging technologies in your industry.

‘Industry 4.0’ – the use of automated processes – is revolutionising the sector. Manufacturing has become a strong contributor to sustainable growth. It’s now considered an area of high economic value that uses cutting-edge technical knowledge and expertise to create products, production processes and associated services.

Since its launch in May 2018, the SMAS i4.0 Review has raised awareness of important concepts among Scottish companies that have driven ambitious teams to invest in digital manufacturing. So far, it's helped 180 businesses create a future-proof digital plan.

The review highlighted the importance of integrating traditional manufacturing processes with digital technologies to connect products, people, businesses, and supply chains. At the time of publishing, only 1% of businesses saw a significant benefit from their software and over 60% struggled to analyse or share data internally.

We can offer a comprehensive assessment of your business to identify where you are now and where you need to be. We can guide you to decide which digital technologies will work best for your business.

Technology concepts associated with i4 include:

  • Manufacturing process management software
  • Connected devices
  • Process management
  • Automation
  • Robotics
  • Digital factory and product prototyping
  • Computer-aided manufacturing and programming
  • Product lifecycle and information management software
  • Additive manufacturing and advanced technologies
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence

Scotland has a range of resources to help inform your next technology investment — our SMAS experts can support you to make the right choices for your business.

Learn more about SMAS and the Industry 4.0 Review

3. Leadership and culture

The importance of strong business leadership and culture is fundamental. By engaging staff and making them part of a company’s development, you set the tone for success.

It’s important that your leadership team develops a strategy to drive business resilience and competitiveness. With that comes a need to inspire your workforce to build the mindset, skills, and behaviours to develop as an efficient modern company. This is especially important in a manufacturing environment where we know many of the best ideas come from the ground up.

We have a variety of programmes designed to help you set out a continuous improvement process. Our experts can provide tools that maximise your workforce and cultivate the next generation of talent as a safeguard against pressures in the current labour market. These are:

Learning Journeys

SMAS provides Learning Journey visits to companies willing to share areas of best practice and their journey towards investment and deployment.

Learning Journeys take the form of individual and multi-site visits with examples in Scotland, UK, and Europe. Seeing technology in context helps increase the engagement and understanding of the potential benefits.

Business Improvement Academy (BIA)

SMAS has delivered BIAs for several years to support change-leading businesses to become more productive.

The programme combines the use of traditional problem-solving methods with an introduction to soft skills learning around change, behaviour, and effective leadership. The course is a mix of workshop-based learning, best-practice visits, and one-to-one practical project support.

Leadership Network

Leadership Network days focus on engaging with changes identified in the i.4 Review.

The days offer an opportunity to discuss plans with other teams and share challenges and progress. They're a great way for business leaders to brainstorm ideas to achieve sustained success in manufacturing.

Learn about workplace innovation support

4. Operational excellence

With sharp price increases in raw materials and energy, it’s important to get the most out of your resources.

Traditional business improvements usually generate up to 20% in productivity savings. However, the best run and most productive businesses attract greater investment – you need to be part of that win-win cycle.

To optimise any investment, you need sound operational and organisational foundations in place. This will make sure you unlock the full potential of any investment made while preventing unnecessary waste.

Most companies that need improvement highlight problems areas associated with smooth running and progressive performance. These are:

  • Productivity
  • Optimising performance
  • Embedding a performance culture
  • Asset strategy

We can help you improve through SMAS and our Workplace Innovation and Digital Transformation teams.

Talk to us about improving your operational excellence

5. Sustainability

The net zero journey is now built into the essence of many large businesses. It’s essential to be on board – consumers are demanding it.

Adapting to a net zero world brings challanges but also opportunities. Cutting carbon and adopting sustainable business practices will not only reduce business costs but can also drive innovation, competitiveness, and new ways of working.

Going low-carbon can give you a marketing and commercial edge by reducing costs and winning customers. We can help you embed new sustainable practices and highlight the steps you’re already taking to prospective clients.

Our sustainability specialists can provide a tailored plan to help you:

  • Improve the efficiency of your premises, products, or processes
  • Cut costs
  • Investigate renewable energy options
  • Respond to future challenges
  • Take advantage of climate change and net zero opportunities

Find out more about our sustainability support

How capital investment can drive productivity

If you can deliver high-quality, high-value products and services, you can secure your market share and drive business resilience.

Along with ambition and clear focus, capital investment is a major driver of productivity. There’s room for Scotland to improve and become more competitive in this area. We know that investment builds capacity and capability and drives output. It demonstrates to customers that the business has the ambition to be a leader in its marketplace. As well as this, driving product and process performance retains customer loyalty and secures market share.

In addition, the high cost of energy and materials coupled with challenge of labour availability means that capital investment will be vital to maintain business advantage and sustainability targets.

From an overarching economic perspective, productivity is also so important because it's what drives business profitability and sustains high-skill employment.

Learn how we can help you secure capital investment

Stay informed about manufacturing

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about manufacturing updates, funding opportunities, events and webinars.

Get in touch

If you’re looking to improve your manufacturing process and plan for a sustainable future, get in touch. Our specialist in your area is ready to help.