Made Smarter, the movement connecting UK manufacturing industries to digital tools, conducted a survey of 200 SME manufacturers in the area.
The results highlighted how the last two years affected them, their approach to digitalisation and their priorities going forward.
The survey revealed while many (35 per cent) makers, particularly smaller businesses, were focussed on survival after a turbulent few years, achieving growth by improving productivity and adopting digital technologies were key drivers.
In fact, two-in-five manufacturers (38 per cent) revealed they had plans to invest in new technology in the next two or three years. Meanwhile, one in three said their latest business strategy included integrating digital technology or a roadmap towards automation.
The survey also showed that manufacturing leaders were exploring a range of technologies to revolutionise the way they make and distribute their products.
Almost half (44 per cent) expressed an interest in data and systems integration technologies, while two-thirds were considering industrial machinery, robotics and automation.
The survey also tapped into attitudes towards technology adoption where it found almost a third (29 per cent) cited productivity, efficiency, and output as key drivers for manufacturers in 2022 and beyond, despite the current business climate.
Increasing revenue (18 per cent) was the secondary motivator to invest in new digital tools, followed by attracting and winning new customers (17 per cent).
However, while the majority (80 per cent) of manufacturing leaders expressed a clear understanding of what they need to do and the benefits of investing in new technologies, once they are aware of the benefits, barriers to adoption remain.
Two in five (42 per cent) manufacturers said that the lack of capital and funding to invest was holding them back.
The survey also revealed a fragmented awareness of the business advice and support available, meaning SMEs are potentially missing out on valuable funding and support available to them.
Donna Edwards, programme director for the Made Smarter adoption programme in the North West, said the findings of the research show that the case for digitalisation has never been stronger.
She said: “SME manufacturers have endured a few unsettling years and continue to face a multitude of recovery challenges. They are aware that technology brings significant benefits and they risk being left behind by not capitalising on the opportunities on offer.
"But it is also clear that they need support and advice to create a roadmap to digital transformation to enable them to adopt the right digital tools, progressively and sustainably, to avoid risking wasted time, money and effort.”
Made Smarter was designed to overcome these and other hurdles by helping SME manufacturers navigate through complex technology advice and decisions.
Registration only takes five minutes and is followed up with a digital transformation workshop to identify core challenges, provide a bespoke digital manufacturing roadmap, and pinpoint other ways that Made Smarter can support digitalisation.