What’s the biggest barrier to production: access to technology, access to skills, appetite for investment or supply chain fragility?
In early March, 2021 The Engineer, in partnership with Ricardo, looked at the process of bringing a new product into production and heard from a range of experts about the technologies and methods that organisations can use to accelerate this process. For our last poll, we asked readers of The Engineer for what they believe is biggest barrier to production.
The path from concept to volume production is complex and multi-faceted, but these challenges can perhaps be distilled down into a number of key areas, starting with technology.
Access to technology is one thing, but if you don’t have the skills onboard to fully exploit these emerging capabilities then the technology is useless
As we regularly report, a revolution is underway in manufacturing technologies: from the rise of digital tools that help align design and manufacturing, to advances in 3D printing that can negate the need for investment in tooling etc and the emergence of technologies such as Cobots that bring the benefits of automation to organisations on tighter budgets. Deploying these technologies can be key to enhancing productivity and accelerating production, but for many organisations – particularly in the UK’s SME community – there is often a reluctance to invest in new production technology. Does, therefore, access to technology represent the biggest barrier to production?
Related to this is manufacturing’s often reported skills challenge. Access to technology is one thing, but if you don’t have the skills onboard to fully exploit these emerging capabilities then the technology is useless. Indeed, as Ricardo’s Rob Capaldi writes here, a very specific set of skills are required to ensure that manufacturing is planned effectively, risks are reduced, and investments are made in the right places.
Perhaps you feel that the biggest challenge of all is persuading an organisation that any of this is important in the first place. We live in an increasingly competitive climate, and there are strong indications that the challenges imposed by the pandemic have – in many sectors – accelerated the desire to jump ahead and fast track the next generation of products (check out our interview with Millbrook’s John Proctor for more on this). But is this borne out by your experience? Are you detecting a renewed enthusiasm for investing in new products? Or is a risk-averse company culture standing in the way of progress?
Finally, as the pandemic-induced supply chain challenges of the past 12 months have illustrated, manufacturing, like every other area of the economy, is often subject to forces that are simply beyond its control. Given this, perhaps you feel that the biggest obstacle to production is the fragility of the supply chains upon which industry depends to operate smoothly.
Join the debate by submitting your comments below.