Technology a comfort for skills-short furniture manufacturers

UK furniture manufacturers struggling to fill 750,000 vacant positions can take comfort in their business critical technology systems, to provide relief from an industry-wide skills shortage.

That’s the message from K3 Syspro at a time when, despite an increase in turnover of 11% over the last four years, Britain’s furniture manufacturers now face the challenge of filling thousands of vacant positions and recovering from £10 billion worth of missed opportunities and rising wages; a figure cited by PwC.

According to K3 Syspro, utilising the data held in mission critical systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications, and analysing it the right way can empower existing employees and help to fill the gap of talent that the sector is currently faced with.

K3 Syspro Managing Director, Cathie Hall explained: “We all know there is a skills gap across the manufacturing sector and the furniture sector has been particularly hit by this. The problem is not going away for a while but with the right use of technology, furniture manufacturers can still increase productivity and make the most of new opportunities, even if they are struggling to build an extensive workforce.”

Furniture businesses are being urged to lean on their business applications in order to drive efficiency and productivity during uncertain times. For example, businesses can utilise transactional data held in their ERP systems, to better understand customer buying habits, improve production efficiencies and empower existing workforces with greater intelligence. This means that any gaps in a workforce’s production knowledge can be filled by automating processes. Production scheduling can help employees to better plan and prepare for demand, while regularly analysing inventory levels can demonstrate to Purchase Managers where raw material investment is being wasted. This insight can enable furniture manufacturers to upskill existing workforces, empower and motivate their staff, and comfort the blow currently being caused by the skills shortage.

Cathie Hall continued: “Existing technology can not only help to streamline processes and increase productivity, but it can also educate manufacturers. By collecting and interpreting data, furniture manufacturers can gain valuable insight across their entire supply chains, from tracking orders over time to detailed production scheduling, both of which help staff identify seasonal peaks ahead of time, ensuring that when the order books enjoy an upturn, productivity doesn’t suffer due to a lack of skills, and the rise in demand can be successfully met.”

The advice from K3 Syspro comes as the EEF’s National Manufacturing Conference 2016, held earlier this month, found that 31.6% of delegates cited a lack of skills as the single biggest barrier to increasing productivity in UK manufacturing. However, while the survey was a cause for concern for some, a further 51% of those surveyed at the event stated that they felt that while productivity may be lagging, technology is key to remedying this.

“There is no doubt that technology will prove key in overcoming the long term challenges facing UK manufacturing, however for some businesses, it is the here and now which is a more pressing issue. By better utilising the technology already available to furniture manufacturers they can not only improve productivity, but also really take advantage of the current upturn across the sector.” Cathie Hall concluded.


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