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2020: a year to remember or one to forget?

Normally around this time of year people make New Year’s resolutions. Typically, some of these good intentions will be personal (e.g., lose weight, quit smoking, cut alcohol consumption) while others will be business-related and less flippant. Well, as we now know, 2020 turned out to be a year like no other; plans of every kind had to be scrapped or drastically modified because of the arrival of COVID.

Many of the lessons we were forced to learn last year will probably not have featured on any original list of New Year intentions. Nevertheless, they will probably stay with us for the rest of our lives. New technologies, in particular, have received a major boost simply because companies have been compelled to fall in line with digital transition or face possible extinction.

Published before the pandemic struck, The Manufacturer’s Annual Manufacturing Report 2020 is a useful (if slightly uncomfortable) reminder of where UK companies thought they were. 87% of manufacturers had already accepted then that the adoption of digital technologies was important for future prosperity. Similarly, nearly 90% said that digital technologies would improve their inbound and outbound supply chain relationships, up from 79% a year earlier. The majority (91%) recognised that digital technologies would enable their workforce to become more productive and innovative (87%).

So, although they could not possibly have foreseen the events of 2020, companies were already aware of the general direction in which they should be heading. Whether they would have actioned those plans in the absence of COVID we will never know.

However, less impressive was the percentage of manufacturers who did not see or understand the value of automation (37%). More than half (52%) had no cyber strategy in place and almost a third (29%) said that data-driven insights were not part of their short-to-medium-term strategies. 2020 will have seen many of those shortcomings addressed, and in a hurry.

Fortunately, UnitBirwelco had already put in place some cyber and digital essentials prior to the pandemic so that the group was in good shape to weather the 2020 storms. But it would be a mistake to believe that the job is anywhere near done. The process is a continuous one, meaning that our digitalisation strategy and implementation must remain under constant review. This is just the start of a new industrial revolution, and we intend to remain ahead of the game.

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