Is your leadership team equipped to navigate Brexit?
The UK’s uncoupling with the EU presents a complex set of challenges, opportunities and threats for UK businesses. With Theresa May’s credentials, and her ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain increasingly under the spotlight, manufacturing firms should be asking the same of their leadership teams – do senior staff have the skills to navigate the economic turbulence likely to accompany Brexit? As the need for robust supply chain management, strategic business development and market diversification increases, businesses must be braver in their hiring decisions, respect the importance of soft skills and look outside their sector for the best talent.
One of the biggest concerns for UK manufacturers is, unsurprisingly, our exit from the single market. The ongoing uncertainty surrounding EU trade agreements is driving businesses to explore export opportunities in the likes of Asia, Africa and the Americas. This approach demands a renewed focus on strategic business development and ideally, a leadership team with experience of entering new markets outside of the EU. Candidates with this international background will be ideally positioned to navigate the operational and cultural hurdles needed to facilitate growth, as well as possessing the relationship-building skills required to expand the firm’s customer base.
Procurement and supply chain
For most businesses, especially those with EU-based suppliers, supply chain management and procurement is a vital function. Currency fluctuations and the rising cost of imports, a phenomenon set to intensify with the abolishing of zero-tariff trading, means that businesses must either renegotiate contracts, seek supply elsewhere, or absorb the expense themselves. Manufacturing businesses must give procurement experts a seat at the table, and the managing of risk should be discussed at an operational and board level. The race is now on for manufacturers to source talented individuals able to build strong supplier relationships, explore dual-sourcing strategies and manage cost to preserve margins and prevent any breaks in production.
Although manufacturers are understandably cautious about the market outlook following Brexit, the industry has changed immeasurably over the past 30 years – this innovation and ability to evolve must be a source of optimism. As commodity manufacturing was widely re-shored to China, Eastern Europe and South East Asia, the UK positioned itself as a centre for value added manufacturing. This customer-oriented approach, which focuses on quality, and design to a specific product specification must now be supplemented by a renewed focus on technological advancement and innovation – an area which was highlighted in the Government’s recent industrial strategy.
When evaluating the demands of Brexit on the senior team, manufacturers should take stock of the business’ research and development capability. Job titles such as ‘head of innovation’ have become increasingly popular in recent years and firms must continue to focus on process development and improving their offering in order to attract new customers and maximise productivity.
Widen the search
To source individuals with these skills, manufacturers must be brave and look across industry sectors to drive genuine advancement. For example, in catalysing research and development to become a world leader in creating the first truly ‘connected kitchen’, an interiors manufacturer may find the best candidate is an internet of things (IoT) specialist currently working in the tech sector. Similarly, in striving for market-leading supply chain management, an automotive manufacturer may find it best to turn to an expert who has navigated the hugely complex and fast-moving supply chains existent in the retail or FMCG arenas.
Once businesses have supplemented their leadership teams to guard against the risks posed by Brexit, the focus should turn to talent retention. During the recruitment process, efforts must be made to understand the motivations of each individual hire, outlining a potential path for progression. Whether it be the promise of managing a larger team, responsibility for a higher-end product or an international role, integrating leaders into the long-term goals of the organisation is instrumental in promoting loyalty and mutual buy in.
There is no denying that Brexit, and the associated economic uncertainty, poses a number of challenges for UK manufacturers. However, in acting to bolster their leadership teams now, especially in the strengthening of business development, innovation and procurement functions, firms can adapt to changing conditions and seize market opportunity. The best talent could be present in unconventional places, keeping an open mind and seeking sector-leading excellence holds the key to a prosperous future.
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
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’.