UK manufacturers not investing enough, warns report
<p>Growth and investment in the UK are “at risk” because of manufacturers remaining disengaged from the banking sector, a new report warns.</p>
<p>It’s been nearly a decade since the start of the credit crunch, and the relationship between manufacturers and the banking sector is still “yet to recover". This is according to a new report from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.</p>
<p>Many more businesses (55 percent) are holding more cash on their balance sheets compared to before the recession. More than 85 percent of manufacturers are confident in securing finance; however, only 35 percent are more likely to use finance than they were two years ago. It has also been made clear that just over half of companies would postpone or even cancel investment opportunities if they felt they couldn’t supply the money for it themselves.</p>
<p>“Competition and Markets Authority must provide swift and firm remedies that pack enough punch to stop the rot,” a spokesperson from EEF said.</p>
<p>Nevertheless, worries about the decline in bank stock prices could bring competition shortfalls back to the way it has been in previous years. Issues (such as the absence of product diversity, little transparency and poor banking relationships) have been discouraging factors. This absence of a diversified base for finance could lead to tighter credit conditions which would be detrimental for the real economy.</p>
<p>The final recommendations are due on the 9th August from the CMA and have been described as ‘critical’ with manufacturers still being more likely to use ‘traditional’ products with medium-term debt (64 percent), asset finance (56 percent) and overdrafts (50 percent) the most common types of finance they would contemplate.</p>
<p>Lower costs (59 percent) and the ability to demonstrate manufacturing-specific expertise (53 percent) would encourage them to consider increasing their use of external finance. At the same time, 60 percent of companies would consider switching banks if the process was simpler. This means additional measures to boost competition in the banking market will be key.</p>
<p>The Chief Economist at EEF (Ms Lee Hopley) says: “Manufacturers’ reluctance to rely on external finance is a persistent hangover from the credit crunch, where trust and confidence in the banks stalled and never quite recovered. But with the Brexit vote dampening investment intentions and adding to uncertainty, this pre-existing condition could now become further aggravated, posing a risk for growth.”</p>
<p>To read the full report by EEF, click <a href="//www.eef.org.uk/resources-and-knowledge/research-and-intelligence/indust…;
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Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.