IT still needs sorting

Only 18% of UK manufacturing companies are certified Euro-ready, according to the 1998 Computers in UK Manufacturing Survey released at the Computers in Manufacturing ’98, IT exhibition. Yet manufacturing companies are forecast to spend a record £3.5 billion in 1998/99.

The research, just completed by independent research organisation Benchmark Research, is based on over 1700 telephone interviews with IT managers in the manufacturing sector. It shows that over 80% of manufacturing companies have no written guarantees that their IT Systems are Euro compliant. While a third of the companies surveyed are planning to replace non-compliant systems, one quarter have taken no action at all.

‘The survey findings on Euro compliance are a major challenge a more urgent problem than that posed by the Year 2000,’ says Mark Napier, show director of CIM ’98. ‘A significant number of companies will have to start working with the Euro at the end of next month. This is worrying as a third of UK manufacturing companies depend on Europe for over 25% of their business.’

The survey also shows that in manufacturing: investment in IT is set to climb again to £3.5 billion in 1998/1999 from £3.4 billion in 1997/1998 and £3.1 billion in 1996/1997; Internet use has expanded rapidly nearly 75% of factories are connected but, as yet, fewer than 10% of staff can access the Internet in most cases; NT take up has more than doubled since 1997, while UNIX and AS 400 take up has also continued to grow.

‘It’s encouraging to see that despite problems with Sterling exchange rates and interest rates, manufacturers are keeping their nerve and continuing to invest in IT business improvement tools that aid productivity and competitiveness,’ Napier adds.

‘Within the sector, we are beginning to see a significant trend in Internet connectivity. We anticipate that real commercial use of the Internet will really take off in manufacturing once the immediate issues of the Euro and Year 2000 have been tackled,’ says Guy Washer, managing director, Benchmark Research. ‘Up to now, take up has been mainly limited to IT departments and email applications. Soon we will be seeing its increased use between company sites and between companies and their trading partners.

‘Indeed, the advanced guard in manufacturing are already using the latest web-enabled technology to get products to market faster, more efficiently and more profitably while allowing them to be more responsive to their customers’ needs,’ Washer says.