Two thirds of manufacturing bosses will strengthen supply chains in 2022 - with manufacturers listing supply crises as top reason to innovate

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​Strengthening supply chains is a priority for nearly two thirds (64%) of manufacturing pros, according to research from the UK authority on advanced digital technology, Digital Catapult.

Manufacturers also set out their digital ambitions for the new year, as advanced digital technology quickly emerges as an answer to supply chain afflictions - including businesses grappling with parts and materials shortages, sudden factory shutdowns and unfinished products, and consumers facing long queues, late deliveries and even empty shelves.

Manufacturing leaders selected supply chain crises as the top reason why manufacturers need to innovate their business models in 2022, while over half (51%) said that building more data-driven supply chains was the greatest opportunity to make their organisation more resilient and sustainable over the next 12 months.

The results were collated as 2021 came to a close – a year which exposed shortcomings in global supply chains and the wide-reaching impact of continuous supply disruption rose to the fore.

Tim Lawrence, director of digital supply chains at Digital Catapult said: “Amongst other factors, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made both industry and consumers keenly aware of global supply chain inadequacies.

"From empty shelves to petrol queues and driver shortages, bosses from across all industries are taking note that our brittle supply chains are longer fit for purpose.

“It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that UK industrial pros have highlighted overhauling supply chains as a top strategic priority in 2022.

“Exploring how advanced digital technologies can facilitate the smooth flow of goods and services will need to be top of the list in 2022, as manufacturers large and small make data transparency, sharing vital insights and predicting shocks their goal.”

Elsewhere, manufacturing leaders said their primary motivating factors for manufacturing to implement digital innovation initiatives across their organisation are the prospect of reducing operational costs (57%), growing their business (54%), or becoming more competitive (51%).

The cloud, predictive analytics and Internet of Things came out on top as priority technologies for investment in 2022, while emerging industrial technology applications such as immersive (augmented/virtual reality) and Digital Twins sit in the top 10:

Top 2022 investment priorities for manufacturers:

  1. Cloud – 67%
  2. IoT – 61%
  3. Predictive Analytics - 61%
  4. Robotics - 56%
  5. AI – 54%
  6. 5G – 54%
  7. Blockchain – 51%
  8. Digital Twins - 48 %
  9. Additive Manufacturing – 46%
  10. VR/AR – 44%

The findings are from a Digital Catapult survey carried out amongst 100 UK manufacturing leaders - director level and above - in November 2021.

In 2021, through its programmes Digital Catapult collaborated with organisations to help them share manage and share data more effectively with technology - including work with industrial giant Safran Landing Systems to develop a dynamic scheduling system, which can provide an intelligent rules based system capable of reacting to changing customer demand - one of the main drivers of supply issues.

The survey results come as Digital Catapult prioritises stimulating advanced digital technology innovation to help organisations better manage their supply chains in 2022.

This includes:

  • publishing its report summarising its contributions to KnowRisk - a programme utilising advanced technologies to protect against supply chain risks and disruption across multiple industries
  • continuing to develop its Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hubs initiative – a £20 million Made Smarter funded programme to tackle challenges faced by the UK’s manufacturing supply chains in the wake of the pandemic
  • participating in the Digital Sandwich – a programme creating a major new piece of software allowing food and drinks businesses to connect online to share valuable data

Lawrence added: “Manufacturing leaders must absolutely look to digital to revamp their supply chains as a priority this year. If they don’t, the consequences are clear: they will miss out on opportunities to address underlying risks, avoid financial losses, and make strides in resilience, sustainability, and efficiency.”