To what extent is embracing technological change the most significant factor in the future success of UK manufacturing businesses? Justify your answer with reference to your own research and the item above. (40 marks)
Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. It can be argued that skills and other factors are considerably more important than technological change, for the future success of UK manufacturing businesses. Yet I disagree, I view technological change to be the most significant. In this essay, I am going to talk about several companies in which technology is vital.
Firstly, within the Food sectors, technology is absolutely essential. This is due to the need to adapt, not only to changes in demand, but from a business perspective too. As in the food sector, technology allows for food manufacturers to lower costs, by having machinery doing menial tasks such as filling cans or producing such items such as Walkers Crisps. Walkers factory in Leicester is amongst the largest crisp production plants in the world, producing over 11 million bags of crisps per day and using 800 tons of potatoes. This process mostly uses machinery to cook, flavour and package the crisps, as humans would not be able to withstand the amount of work needed to fulfil the demand. Technology has allowed Walkers to move from hand-sliced and fried potatoes in the 1880s, to mass machinery production.
This shows that technology has allowed them to produce new products, and with this change has provided investment allowing the business to further grow into a market leader. It is not only within the production of food stuffs that technology has changed businesses, but in selling the goods too, as Tesco and Asda, have also implemented technology into their processes. The large supermarkets use technology to implement processes such as lean production, which encompasses the “Just In Time” technique.
Tesco’s have been able to use this so that storage isn’t used up with unnecessary goods, as when an item is scanned at the checkout, it then logs into the computer, and when that item is low on stock, then an order is sent directly to the warehouse or supplier. This technique means that there is no wastage of stock, and reduces time wastage too as the manager doesn’t need to assess the remaining stock throughout the day. Also, as robots are becoming cheaper and slowly more advanced, it has seen the sales of them go up by 28% in 2013 in the food sector, once again showing how technology plays a large part in UK manufacturing.
However, in contrast, technology isn’t vital for Crockett & Jones of Northampton. This shoe company was founded in 1879. It began with 20 employees hand cutting and tanning leather. As technology developed, the company did begin to use it, yet only on the smallest of tasks, in order to not lose the significance of the hand quality goods which they gained their reputation for. Despite not using a lot of technology, they still have implemented some, which shows again how important technological change is to UK manufacturing.
Yet in the automotive sector, technology is viewed to be vital, as it allows from quality and precision to be improved greatly. This is shown in the case of Jaguar Land Rover, where they produce premium cars that provide excellent quality, whilst being assembled quickly. This has been successful due to the implementation of robotics and automation, whilst also reducing the costs of production too. The costs are reduced, because the business is seen to be more efficient due to the greater amounts of precision and lack of human error, which in turn reduces wastage. Another point as to why technology is significant in the automotive sector is that these advancements allow for each customer to have the exact car they want in the exact specification. For example, robotics for painting to be quicker, allowing for change to happen in the shortest possible time, again reducing time wastage.
With this reducing costs, it means that these increased levels in profits can lead to future product development, such as giving more investment to R&D to become more innovative, thus gaining a competitive advantage. The R&D may lead to investments into such technologies as Green Technology, which encompasses a continuously evolving group o methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products, thus allowing products to be more sustainable. By doing this it allows for companies to meet the needs of society, which can continue into the future without damaging or depleting natural resources.
Already, green technology is playing a massive part in Uk manufacturing, with the £60bn a year industry managing to save nearly 180,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2012. Toyota are leading the way for Green Technology in the UK, with their production plant situated in Wales. They produce the Prius, which, has near to zero emissions, which offers incentives from the government, such as lower road tax. Green Technologies have broadened the visionary design of the car of tomorrow, which if the UK wish to be market leaders, with a large customer base then they should further implement this technology available to them. The BMW i3 is a key example of this, as it is emissions free, and acts as a USP, heightening BMW’s success and allowing them to be market leaders.
In contrast, companies such as Rolls Royce, pride themselves on quality, bespoke, hand-made vehicles. Despite being the only car manufacturer in the FTSE100, they invest 7.53% of their revenue in R&D, yet they do not pride themselves on technology being needed as a USP. As it is said that each car produce by them is individual, as it is hand made, by well-trained craftsmen. Their premium price shows the prestige that they portray, and the amount of skill put into the cars. So this shows that Rolls Royce customers value quality above technology when they buy this car, which has lead to the business becoming so successful.
On the other hand, in some sectors of UK manufacturing embracing technological change is not the most significant factor in the future success of UK manufacturing, as skills are required to incorporate the technology into the business. Skills may also be considered to be more important as they allow for quality and premium prices to be associated with some products. For example, I M Kelly, has become the centre of excellence for automotive interior leather trim within the United Kingdom, whilst also diversifying into Rail and Passenger Aircraft industries. The company was established in 1975 and its head office and main production facility is situated in Northamptonshire, a figure point for high quality leather. The company also has a second production facility on the outskirts of Coventry, which thus allows it to be closer to the centre of the UK allowing for easier transport and delivery to such automotive manufactures as Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Aston Martin and Lotus.
These prestigious, premium brands illustrate the quality that I M Kelly produce, due to the high level of skills from their employees. These skills are used in tandem with the up-to-date technology, allowing them to produce outstanding quality, and exceed their customer’s expectations. Due to the type of leather work carried out here, means that robots or machines can’t sew small intricate stitches into the gear sticks, or along the steering wheel, again showing where skills are beneficial. The UK government have also seen to play an active role in promoting how important skills are, with David Cameron giving “fast-track’ visas to technology experts from outside of the UK. Whilst other businesses have called for increased investment into the education of scientists and engineers in schools, such as the Jaguar Land Rover apprenticeship scheme. Yet there are many sectors that do not require skills to be too important, meaning that skills are not vital for every company.
In conclusion, in the short term, it is arguable that skills are of utmost importance in progressing the future development of UK manufacturing, as it allows for the technology to be created and implemented. Shown by David Cameron being keen to fast track technology experts. Yet that statement also shows that the experts are needed for the technology only, so in the long term technology will be more significant. As the world is continually using up more of the natural resources, and their being a greater need for the reduction of wastage and emissions, it is clear that technology is the only way to achieve this. As it was due to old technologies that this “mess” occurred in the first place. Therefore by using technology to become innovative, to reduce costs and attract more demand, it will lead to UK manufacturing businesses to be more successful. Which will allow for manufacturing sectors to become world market leaders.