Staying ahead in a changing world

Our forthcoming departure from the EU may throw us some challenges. However, Simon Lewington managing director of Systems Assurance, isn't worried. He argues that with the right investment in IT there is plenty of opportunity for UK manufacturing to flourish.

Simon Lewington: "By developing a digital transformation strategy now, not only will manufacturers be laying the right foundations for resiliency, but they could also be creating a real catalyst for growth over the next few years."

Over the past 25 years we've certainly seen technology come a long way. Back in 1992 when I founded Systems Assurance we were wholly dependent on phone and fax for communication. Our invoices were sent by post and our CRM was a simple Rolodex. In fact, one of our first digital transformation projects was transferring all our contacts into a simple database.

Fast forward to today and everything we do is automated. Our office has become paper free and our processes have been streamlined so that they're as efficient as possible. As a technology company we've always been ahead of the curve, but as a key supplier of IT to some of the UK's largest manufacturers we are also acutely aware of how the manufacturing sector as a whole has lagged behind. In 2016, a report from the Confederation of British Industry warned that the UK may be facing a digital divide with only half (55%) of 'pioneer' firms adopting digital technologies and processes. And whilst 70% of the technology sector classify themselves as pioneers, sadly only 17% of manufacturers say the same. i

Over the years, we've been closely involved in the IT decision making process of many of our manufacturing clients and understand the pressures the sector is under to maximise output and reduce costs. The short-term value of investing in IT infrastructure and software upgrades can be hard to measure, which is why they have frequently been pushed to the bottom of the pile.

With the advent of Industrie 4.0, things could be about to change dramatically. UK Manufacturers will need to reassess their investment plans if they are to stay competitive in a marketplace which is not just going to be shifting because of smart technologies, but also because of our changing status in the EU.

Companies that continually invest in IT not only attract more talented employees, but by giving workers access to tools that improve productivity, collaboration and decision making they also stand to eliminate wasted time and unnecessary resource.

Digital Transformation will be the key to success

Despite the nervousness over Brexit, things have been looking positive. The UK economy grew more strongly than expected in the final quarter of 2017, putting the estimated calendar year growth at 1.8%. ii Official figures also show that British factories notched up the longest run of expansion for at least two decades, with December seeing producers of investment goods experience the sharpest increase in orders since 1994. iii

By developing a digital transformation strategy now, not only will manufacturers be laying the right foundations for resiliency, but they could also be creating a real catalyst for growth over the next few years. Technologies will open up a whole new opportunity to broaden product offerings, find new routes to market and even expand geographical sales reach.

Companies that continually invest in IT not only attract more talented employees, but by giving workers access to tools that improve productivity, collaboration and decision making they also stand to eliminate wasted time and unnecessary resource. Technology can also change the perception of everyone in the supply chain from distributor to end user, creating much better experience for the partner and the buyer alike. This in turn creates trust, loyalty and the likelihood of repeat purchase and recommendation.

Official figures also show that British factories notched up the longest run of expansion for at least two decades, with December seeing producers of investment goods experience the sharpest increase in orders since 1994.

Recent Projects

Microsoft SharePoint Development
One of our client solution projects was to deliver an Intranet Communications Portal for a large engineering company in South Yorkshire. The company had specific ideas about how it wanted the portal to function which fell outside the remit of any standard document sharing and management application. Systems Assurance undertook the project to develop and customize the company's Microsoft SharePoint application and later further developed the bespoke SharePoint platform to deliver a global digital signage solution in multiple languages to its 25 offices across the world.

E-Commerce Development
After virtualising a client's ecommerce platform, it was found that many of their suppliers were using their own APIs to communicate events such as dispatch notifications. Systems Assurance decided that an ultra 'lightweight' fast HTTP browser was needed that would be capable of processing multiple supplier API requests and so built an API abstraction layer. After testing several browsers, it was found that each carried issues with frequent execution failures, speed issues and browser crashes. Systems Assurance created its own browser that could handle these API requests using Microsoft technologies. Ultimately, Systems Assurance was able to meet the required benchmarks and ensure the process would start up quickly and shut down cleanly. This greatly improved the speed and handling of supplier API calls, leading to efficiency improvements and a better customer experience.

Certified Silver Microsoft partner

Systems Assurance is a certified Silver Microsoft partner. As well as offering the entire suite of Microsoft products (including Office 365 migrations) the company also develops bespoke solutions and undertakes complex projects for third parties where other providers are unable to create the appropriate solutions to match their clients' business needs.

Digital transformation support

Systems Assurance has already helped a number of manufacturers with their digital transformation projects. Is it time for you to review your IT systems?

A 16-page pdf guide – which includes a review of how Microsoft's products can be put to their full potential in the manufacturing sector – can be downloaded from Systems Assurance's dedicated manufacturing site: http://manufacturing.systemsassurance.com/

To speak to Systems Assurance about how it can help you, call 0114 292 2911 or email [email protected]

i http://www.cbi.org.uk/news/digital-divide-among-uk-business-is-holding-back-the-economy/
ii http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-economic-growth-2017-q4-final-quarter-ons-officenational-statistics-a8178991.html
iii http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-5135991/Manufacturing-activity-four-year-high-drivendomestic-demand-exports.html

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