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Manufacturing has long been a source of pride for the United Kingdom and is a sector in dire need of a revival. As Sky News highlights, a further downturn at the start of June marked an overall decline in an industry that had fought back against deindustrialisation only to be derailed by the pandemic. While this challenge is being considered, Britain is also playing host to some of the most enterprising and innovative minds in science and data technology. If the two can be combined, and high-tech data-driven automation brought to manufacturing, there’s a bright future – and there are some good examples already.
Driving data into processes
A huge amount of benefit can be already introduced into manufacturing through the use of data. It’s important to note the good work that already is produced by the interface of data and production; for example, the just-in-time production systems, that rely on the precise operation of factory and warehouse machinery, operate on fine data sets. That being said, there is more that can be done. Consider the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, who are providing data to manufacturers small and large to help finetune processes further.
To really embrace the power of data, automation is a necessary factor in manufacturing. Once again, manufacturing was once ahead of its time – the use of robotics has always been at the forefront in factories. Key to creating a greater degree of automation in the traditionally rooted UK sector is through gentle adoption, according to The Manufacturer. Looking to work with the skills of the workforce, and using data points to identify mistakes and waste points, will be important.
An AI factory?
AI, of course, is data reliant. While the most up-to-date models don’t use search engines, that means they’re even more dependent on their data sets. A great example of where AI is already being deployed is in the chemical industry; according to the University of Surrey, integration within supply chains will potentially improve yields and will certainly improve sustainability. As a key goal of high-tech UK manufacturing, the data potential in fostering sustainability is significant.
It’s clear that data must run at the heart of the new British industrial revolution. Putting that into operation is essential, through automation and AI. While manufacturing has always been at the forefront of innovation, a new push is needed now, while embracing the technical qualities of workers.
Deeper into the data matrix
The application of data science to the manufacturing sector extends far beyond production control. Companies are now leveraging data to gain better insights into the whole life cycle of a product, from design to distribution, thereby enabling more strategic decision-making. In 2022, according to a study by Deloitte, UK firms using data analytics in their operations reported a 30% increase in productivity, highlighting the immense potential data holds for the revival of British manufacturing.
Data-driven quality control
Data science is especially revolutionising the field of quality control. Statistical process control (SPC), which uses statistical methods to monitor and control processes, has become an industry standard. For instance, automotive manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, uses real-time data analytics to monitor their production lines and rapidly identify anomalies that could lead to defects, resulting in a reported 10% reduction in waste and rework.
Another game-changing application of data is in the realm of predictive maintenance. Leveraging machine learning algorithms, manufacturers can analyse historical data on equipment breakdowns to predict future failures and proactively schedule repairs, thus minimizing downtime. A 2023 study by PwC revealed that predictive maintenance could reduce maintenance costs by up to 30%, and unplanned outages by 45%, presenting an immense economic advantage for the industry.
Data for sustainability
Indeed, data science is also unlocking new avenues for sustainability in manufacturing. The Carbon Trust reported in 2022 that the use of big data analytics in manufacturing can result in a 4% to 12% reduction in energy consumption. British ceramic tile manufacturer, British Ceramic Tile, used data analytics to optimise energy consumption in its production process, leading to a 15% reduction in its carbon footprint.
Embracing this data-driven future in manufacturing will also necessitate a shift in the sector’s workforce skills. The need for data literacy has grown significantly. A 2023 report by McKinsey estimated that the demand for data scientists in the UK manufacturing sector would increase by 50% in the next five years. In response, UK universities and technical colleges have been ramping up their data science programmes, and apprenticeships and vocational training in advanced digital skills have proliferated.
AI, powered by Big Data, is set to catalyse further advancements in manufacturing. Notably, the use of AI in the pharmaceutical sector, where precise control of production conditions is vital, has seen tremendous success. AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, has incorporated AI and machine learning to increase the speed and efficiency of drug discovery and development processes.
the integration of data science, AI and automation in manufacturing can potentially reignite the UK’s industrial sector. The key is to recognise the critical role of data and foster the necessary digital skill set in the workforce. Embracing this change could usher in a new era of British manufacturing – one that is not only more productive and efficient, but also more sustainable.
The Time to Act is Now
The revitalisation of the British manufacturing sector is within reach, but it won’t happen without effort, commitment, and a forward-thinking approach. The harnessing of AI and data science could bring about an industrial revolution like no other, fostering innovation and sustainable growth. However, we must ensure that our workforce is equipped with the right skills and tools to take full advantage of this potential.
To stay competitive in this new era, businesses need to invest in AI and data science courses. Building a solid foundation of data literacy and AI knowledge will enable organisations to adapt to the rapidly changing technological landscape and ensure a future-proof workforce. It’s not just about learning new skills, but also about fostering a data-driven culture that embraces change and innovation.
Moreover, leveraging AI and data science services can provide invaluable insights and boost the efficiency of production processes. Whether you’re a start-up trying to make your mark or an established enterprise looking to innovate, these services can help you optimise your operations, drive growth, and stay ahead of the competition.
The future of British manufacturing hinges on our ability to adapt, innovate, and learn. The convergence of AI and data science with manufacturing presents an unprecedented opportunity. Don’t let it pass. Embrace the data revolution now to ignite a new era of prosperity in the UK manufacturing sector.