Don’t fall off the production line: How manufacturers can thrive in Post-Brexit Britain
The future holds exciting potential for the manufacturing industry. The government outlined in its industrial strategy that it will be supporting technology adoption across the sector, in a move to make the UK an Industrial Power House. As manufacturers take advantage of the post-Brexit export boom, UK manufacturing output is expanding at its fastest rate since 2008.
All the while digital tools are radically changing each stage of the supply chain. Technologies such as analytics and automation are driving output expectations and causing organisations to feel the heat of market competition. Cloud computing in the industry has sky rocketed; with cloud-based apps helping bolster output and identify ways to squeeze costs.
This continued investment shows no sign of abating either. Our research shows that in the next two years, AI is in the top three priority technologies for the sector, which if utilised correctly could give manufacturing firms an edge in terms of productivity. This is reflected in the EU’s Digitising European Industry Strategy, which identifies Robotics and Artificial intelligence as cornerstone technologies. However, success not only depends on having the right tools for the job; it relies on getting the entire workforce on board, by ensuring they are up-to-date with the organisation’s digital roadmap.
The Manufacturing industry is at a tipping point – on the one hand there is great support to ensure that the sector leads the way in a post-Brexit Britain. That said, a growing skills gap and increasing cyber threats could grind production, and progress, to a halt.
Product line health and safety
Cyber-attacks are increasing in sophistication, with new tactics constantly evolving. The manufacturing industry is one of the most heavily targeted industries, with cybercriminals launching attacks to steal invaluable information and intellectual property. Even more concerning - and arguably more damaging – is the increasing number of attacks on production facilities and critical infrastructure. With increased levels of networking, and technologies such as robotics, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more accessible, hackers are finding new ways to disrupt production, or commit industrial espionage.
Nonetheless, our research showed that 67% of IT Decision Makers (ITDMS) in the manufacturing sector feel confident that they are prepared for a cyber-attack. This makes them the second most confident sector, after financial services. However, while the assertion from ITDMs is positive, leaders in the manufacturing sector cannot afford to get complacent and let their guard down when so much is at stake.
A batch of regulations
In the wake of these ever-growing and evolving threats, businesses across the globe are facing new challenges in the form of changing regulations such as the EU Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The manufacturing industry will not be exempt from this new legislation and failing to comply carries considerable financial and reputational consequences.
But who is actually taking charge within the manufacturing sector? Our research found that the finger of responsibility is being pointed at the Chief Digital Officer when it comes to GDPR compliance, from all lines of the business. Worryingly, only 3% of those polled see it as the responsibility of the entire organisation. It’s crucial that employees and business leaders alike are aware that, whatever your role or stature in an organisation, everybody has a part to play in GDPR compliancy. It should be a company-wide initiative with regular assessment to ensure awareness, participation and compliance from all.
ITDMs in this sector are the most clued up when it comes to compliancy, with 57% stating that they are already fully compliant - compared to the average of 41%. However, employees need reassuring, with 50% of employees saying that their employer has not communicated upcoming GDPR changes with them. This highlights a concerning disconnect between employees and managers on the subject, with many employees feeling like they have been left in the dark.
Ill-equipped line workers
It would appear then, that whilst leaders in this sector are feeling confident when it comes to upcoming challenges, this confidence does not necessarily translate across the business - with wider employees demonstrating a lack of assurance in the face of what lies ahead. A worrying 50% of employees openly admit to having no understanding of upcoming changes to compliance. This apprehension is shown not solely towards new regulations, but their wider capabilities within the business. For example, 35% of employees do not think they have been given the tools they need to navigate future challenges.
The manufacturing sector has a notorious shortage in skills, with it becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain the best talent. It will be unclear how changes such as Brexit will affect the way we recruit and retain this valuable talent.
Leaders in the sector will need to take care not to become too complacent with their staff, or take for granted that they will be able to keep up with the pace of technological change and the resulting implications for skills in the workplace. Such a complacent approach could prove costly to an organisation at a time when Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills are so few and far between. Business leaders in the industry must ensure that they are equipping their teams with every possible advantage to retain their staff and drive the business forward to a digital future.
As their sector booms, manufacturers will need to be at the top of their game. But over confidence in the face of cyber-attacks, data protection and staff well-being could prove costly when so much uncertainty remains on the horizon. To navigate the choppy seas of post-Brexit Britain, manufacturers will need to realise the importance of getting the most out of processes, technology, and their biggest asset – people – in taking their businesses to success. Otherwise, they risk tumbling off the production line.
 IBM, X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, https://www.ibm.com/security/data-breach/threat-intelligence
Tom Holloway, Principal Business Resilience Consultant, Sungard Availability Services.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.