The UK manufacturing sector must become a priority area for innovations that will help UK businesses compete globally, says World Wide Technology (WWT).

While there is plenty of optimism around at the moment following news that UK manufacturing contributed to a 1.1% increase in total UK production, there is also doom and gloom in the shape of a weaker pound.

That said, the stated aim of the government’s new industrial strategy is to determine priority areas of investment in science, research and innovation to support the UK’s world leading sectors.

New research suggests that the global manufacturing sector will invest $20.59bn into Internet of Things (IoT) solutions by 2021, and that the Asia-Pacific region will see exponential growth in this area. The capacity of sensor-based technology to boost productivity and profitability must not be ignored in Britain.

According to Ben Boswell, EMEA director at WWT: “It’s great to see this return to optimism in UK manufacturing, but the level of uncertainty in the market means that every effort must be taken now to make the sector sustainable.”

He added that strategic application of IoT technologies across the business lines of manufacturers can have a significant impact on productivity and cost. “Over in the US, we’ve seen a global manufacturer lined up to achieve $1 billion in annual savings beginning this year. The data-driven rigour of the connected factory is helping them to reduce machine down-time through predictive maintenance and automated repair, for example.”

Boswell argues that applying IoT – and achieving considerable savings – is a complex undertaking. “Many IoT initiatives rush to deploy technology and fail to pay attention to the critical underlying IoT infrastructure. This can lead to a fragmented solution that may not be secure, sustainable or scalable. At worst, an IoT solution is barely more than a gimmick and becomes an added cost burden, which fails to unlock business outcomes.”

However, he says that such solutions offer a competitive edge ‘simply through the smart analysis of routine processes’.

“With optimism high but potential bumps around the corner, the time has never been better for government and industry alike to prioritise the innovations that will deliver sharply focused and sustainable business outcomes for years to come.”