Half of UK manufacturers go digital to cut carbon

Nearly half of manufacturers plan to invest in digital technologies to lower their carbon footprint, says a survey by MakeUK.

44% of UK manufacturers said digitalisation was the best method for them to improve productivity. Favourite digital tools cited included supply chain management tools, data analytics, and automation of a wide range of business processes, including HR, finance, procurement, and the manufacturing process itself.

The study also found manufacturers’ investment in digital tech is at an all-time high, with 24% saying they’ve already made major investments and another 23% planning to. 

62% of respondents who adopted digital technologies said it had saved them money on their energy bills, with over half saving £10,000-100,000 in the last year alone. Another 46% saved under £10,000 but said the savings were still significant.

They also said digital tech had helped them cut water usage and material wastage, and 44% said digitalisation had been the no.1 driver of productivity improvements in their organisations, notably by tightening up production processes. 

With almost all companies now looking to cut carbon, a quarter of UK manufacturers believe new digital technologies are already having an impact on decarbonisation and boosting their ability to reach ambitious Net Zero targets–only a tenth believe it will have no impact on their progress towards Net Zero.

But a 2021 study from the University of Leeds revealed that moving away from fossil fuels might be a struggle for some manufacturing sectors–steel, for example, accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions in the industrialised world, but is unlikely to have fully operational electric manufacturing technology until the 2040s.

Government investment will be needed to improve this picture. Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, highlighted the need for extra R&D tax relief for industrial decarbonisation equipment, and a Help to Grow Green tax credit to support sustainable manufacturing while labour and energy costs remained high.

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