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Britain’s manufacturers finished 2017 with the strongest three months of growth since 2014, according to the most recent figures from The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing PMI barometer, as resurgent Eurozone growth lifted demand for goods. Reflecting this recent uplift, research commissioned by Interoute, the global cloud and network provider, found that 68 per cent of manufacturing and engineering firms are confident about driving change. This is more than any other industry surveyed and above the European average of 61 per cent.

Improving the customer experience is at the heart of manufacturers’ ambitions to transform. Nearly half (49 per cent) of manufacturers rank improving the customer experience as the top objective for digital transformation programmes. Manufacturers and engineers rated this more highly than other industries such as legal services (32 per cent) and travel and transportation (38 per cent).

Increasingly, manufacturers need a digital backbone that provides the connectivity and networking which supports greater collaboration within the supply chain and also helps deliver a more pleasurable buying experience for consumers.

Interoute’s research found that the top manufacturing must haves for digital transformation are:

  • The automated scaling of IT platforms (66 per cent)
  • Securing the architecture (63 per cent)
  • Continual process evolution (59 per cent)
  • Digital platforms that can connect legacy technology with cloud applications (52 per cent)

Industry 4.0 is advancing manufacturers’ ability to automate the supply chain and embrace smart factories based on the exchange of data in real-time. At the same time, the rise of high-tech and personalised features for delivering consumer experiences is also driving the need for greater collaboration with partners and suppliers. To keep new ideas flowing and speed-up product development, manufacturers and engineers will need to co-innovate and outsource certain areas. Currently, over half (56 per cent) of manufacturers – more than any other industry – recognise their inability to flex organisational structures to enable change as one of their biggest challenges for digital transformation.

An example of this in action is Danieli. As one of the world’s top three suppliers of equipment and plants to the metal industry, Danieli is at the forefront of innovation. Interoute has provided it with a high capacity virtual private network (VPN) to connect over forty of Danieli’s global sites, allowing seamless communication between all of the company’s sites, and moving data and applications closer to its customers. Alexander Stewart, Executive Vice President ICT, Danieli said, “Danieli optimises its customer experience by moving data and applications closer to its customers using Interoute’s network. Interoute provides us with a backbone that allows our users to have a positive user experience and our services to work accordingly.”

Lee Myall, SVP UK Sales at Interoute, commented, “Manufacturers are looking for ways to respond to customers with an ‘on-demand’ mentality and deliver next generation customer support. Digital transformation enables manufacturing and engineering firms that want to provide the exceptional and fast services that customers are now expecting. For example, in our lifetimes, we will see a supply chain revolution where spares and parts are ‘printed’ locally and shipped short distances, in a fraction of the time, improving customers’ experience as demands are met quickly. To be prepared for this change, manufacturers need a digital infrastructure that can connect legacy and digital networks together so they have the agility to embrace the latest developments and quickly respond to change.”

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