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Growth Stable Despite Eroding Skill Base

Nov. 5, 2019
Survey results spotlight value of tech investments if manufacturers hope to maintain stable growth.

According to the results of the Epicor’s recently released Global Growth Index, political volatility and uncertainty continue to be a common cause for concern across the globe. Specifically, thirty-two percent of respondents cited the China-US trade dispute as likely to have a negative impact on future business growth. A quarter of businesses (24 percent) stated that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is also still a big threat, with the percentage rising to 46 percent of EMEA based respondents.

Now in its third year, the survey measures the state of worldwide business growth within the manufacturing industry. The Index tracks the performance of businesses—year on year—within 13 territories across multiple key indicators including turnover, profits, headcount and product range. Compared to last year’s results, the Growth Index rose by one percent, compared to 3.7 percent in the previous 12-month period.

Need for stronger tech skills

While business growth has remained stable, 42 percent of respondents found it challenging with 23 percent noting that staff skills and experience have played a detrimental part in maintaining growth. “The issue around the aging workforce is something we are seeing become increasingly important as more workers leave the workforce with no one to replace them,” says Epicor Vice President of Global Product Marketing Terri Hiskey.

The good news? A manufacturer’s willingness to invest in technology makes a meaningful difference. Specifically, improving businesses were more likely to believe technologies such as cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence (AI), digital transformation and Internet of Things (IoT) would play a key role in driving future business growth. As such, 84 percent of businesses view investments in cloud as playing an important role in delivering their overall growth strategy.

Unfortunately, 85 percent of respondents admitted that they lacked adequate knowledge of at least one technology area tested. And 21 percent identified a lack of knowledge about new technology – beyond those in IT – as a key barrier to change. Additionally, 35 percent felt that the rapid pace of change in terms of new tech was a key reason why it was difficult to keep abreast of the possibilities offered by new technology.

Areas of highest reported inadequacy included:

  • • AI/ Machine learning (29%)
  • • Big data (28%)
  • • 1 in 5 even admitted that the felt they did not know enough about the possibilities offered by the cloud.

In order to help address the shortcomings, manufacturers plan to invest in more training, more active recruitment as well as actively promote the use of newer technology in order to bring the next generation into the mix.

Hiskey tells IndustryWeek the key takeaway is that manufacturers cannot underestimate the significant role of digital transformation, especially considering the rate at which workers are retiring.

“This is no longer a matter of ‘if’ it is time to put plans together, but more of ‘when’ because speed is of the essence here. Game-changing technologies are becoming more accessible and affordable across the board to all sizes of manufacturers,” she says. “If manufacturers haven’t thought about a strategy to harness these technologies to help solve for the workforce gap and to proactively address issues before they become crises, then there is a real problem because their competitors certainly already have plans in place.” 

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