5 issues UK manufacturers continue to face in 2018

2018 is rushing by. We’re well into the third quarter, and for all UK manufacturers this year has seen big changes in the way they must handle data, as well as ongoing uncertainty around the economy, but also a tangible opportunity to innovate.
And for many, these challenges are still on the agenda. Here are the five key issues that UK manufacturers continue to face in 2018.

1. Inefficiencies and outdated systems

Industry 4.0 is happening. For manufacturers in the UK, there’s a huge opportunity to increase revenue and grow profit margins by adopting connected devices and digitally enabled services. Inefficiencies can be greatly reduced by harnessing technologies like machine learning and cognitive AI. The factory of the future can directly respond to consumer demand.

But manufacturers need to look within to elicit this change – this can only be achieved by transforming how they run from the bottom up. The way the business operates, and the core makeup of the business needs to be evaluated. And must evolve.

For example, transformation and change will only occur through the creation of bespoke technology to fit a unique business purpose. Off-the-shelf software needs to go, to be replaced with those that cater to business needs and add strategic value.

This requires a step change in everything a business does. A huge task for traditional manufacturers operating with antiquated software, technology and processes. 

2. Consumer demand

The UK is a fairly unstable place. Inflation is rising and not matched by wages, and consumer debt continues to grow.

With many adults in the UK seen as financially vulnerable and struggling to make ends meet, the potential consumer base for manufacturers continues to shrink. For those consumers who are in market, demand is increasing around bespoke products that meet their requirements.

Again, the right collaborative technology is key to ensure what consumer demand there is, is met.


The regulation may now be in place, coming into force in May of this year, but the use of data still represents a big challenge for manufacturers.

The obligations under the EU Regulation are very tight – every company needs to know specifically what data they have, where it’s stored, the reason why they have it, and exactly how it will be used. For manufactures this could be data on customers, employees and trading partners.

Non-compliance can result in a fine of €20million or 4% of annual turnover – whichever is greater. According to a poll of 300 UK manufacturing businesses run by YouGov, 20% of those businesses surveyed said the maximum fine would put them out of business.

The challenge is real.

4. Brexit

The cut off-point is fast approaching – 29th March 2019 to be exact, and currently we have little idea of the deal that will be brokered with the EU, if there will be a deal at all.

The eventual outcome and potential trading partners will have a significant impact on UK manufacturing (manufactured goods currently equate to 50% of UK exports), but at the moment it’s the lack of info and limbo effect that’s hurting businesses. We’ve already seen major international manufacturers hinting at leaving the country due to the ongoing uncertainty. Businesses need answers soon.

5. The lack of skilled workers

The skills gap is a continuing issue faced by the UK manufacturing industry. Science, engineering and technology underpin the whole economy, not just manufacturing – and currently we’re not seeing the talent come through. This is especially critical considering the lack of EU workers arriving following Brexit.

Key to tackle this skills shortage with be the government’s ongoing commitment to STEM strategy and education initiatives as well as the collaboration of manufacturers with schools and universities.

At J B Cole, we work with manufacturing and complex organisations to understand operational inefficiencies and customer requirements to identify the right tech to respond to the individual challenges of the specific sector and client.