UK industry must embrace digital technologies to improve productivity through data analytics

A new report from the University of Portsmouth calls on industry to embrace digital technologies to improve their productivity and business gains through data analytics.

The report outlines the challenges and opportunities for businesses to fully realise the value of their data.

This report on ‘Data Analytics and Decision Making’ helped underpin the identification of research challenges that could help deliver some of the key recommendations of the 2017 Made Smarter review, which explored how UK manufacturing can maximise benefits from increasing adoption of digital technology.

The report identifies publicly funded research being undertaken in the UK and has been led by the Institute of Industrial Research (IIR) at the University of Portsmouth, who have been working in data analytics and decision-making for over 20 years. It was commissioned by the Connected Everything network plus, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and consists of over 90 different institutions, focusing on industrial systems in the digital age. Professor David Brown from the IIR and lead author of the report is a member of the executive committee.

The report was produced in response to the rapid growth in, and collection of, vast amounts of data. It outlines the challenges and opportunities for small and mid-sized companies to fully realise the value of the data being produced and to adopt the digital technologies and techniques currently influencing data analytics and decision-making.

Ann Swift, report author and former Senior Innovation Research Fellow in the IIR, feels that factories should stay connected to each other, even with the availability of powerful onsite data processing systems.

“Most large companies have in-house data analytics capabilities. The challenge is to encourage mid-level companies and SMEs to adopt the state-of-the-art Internet of Things technology, connectivity and communication protocols which would enable them to harness the data generated during the manufacturing process to improve their productivity and business gains,” she said.

Connectivity using 4G/5G/satellite/the cloud allows for factory to factory data comparisons and allows the optimisation of production linked to strategic business models – something that has been explored in several IIR EU-funded projects linked to data analytics and the manufacturing sector.

Dr Edward Smart, Senior Research Fellow in the IIR and one of the report authors, said: “Data Analytics are qualitative and quantitative methods and processes used to convert information collected during the manufacturing process into a format that will help to inform decision making with a view to enhance productivity and efficiency.

Katie Daniel, Head of Manufacturing at EPSRC said: “The Connected Everything network plus have worked closely with EPSRC to identify the key research challenges which need addressing to ensure UK industry takes best advantage of digitisation.  The challenges will inform future strategy and priorities for EPSRC.”

The report, which was produced by Professor David Brown, Ann Swift and Dr Edward Smart from the IIR, is available at:,

It is part of a series of six reports covering the research challenges within digital manufacturing.

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