29 October, 2020
The pandemic has meant that working practices have already changed and are certain to continue doing so. For example, there may be more frequent overnight installations of new equipment, as this reduces the number of people congregating. For the same reason, modular construction and pre-assembly is likely to increase, rather than this being done on-site.
Another way in which working practices are likely to change is through utilising and investing in technology. For example, video technology and virtual reality allows manufactures to reduce the numbers of people on-site, whilst still allowing persons to be walked through and for training and design to take place. Similarly, augmented reality technology could help manufacturers to visualise how an installation will fit alongside current operations. There is also potential for digital twinning technology, where physical processes, services and products are mapped digitally and updated in real time.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma recently confirmed that £300m of government and industry funding is to be invested to boost the UK's manufacturing capabilities. The investment will be used to help businesses reach new customers, reduce carbon emissions, reduce prices for consumers, implement new technologies to boost productivity, and create new highly-skilled skilled jobs, as the UK builds back from the impact of the pandemic.
Of the projects which have been successful in obtaining funding so far, there has been a mix of SMEs, larger enterprises and universities.
The Manufacturing Made Smarter programme will also support technology SMEs by establishing partnerships between the government and the private sector, where experts will be able work with businesses to identify barriers to growth and offer solutions to overcome them. It will also create a national network of innovation 'hubs' where businesses can share advice, to help inspire growth and creative ideas.
Undoubtedly, businesses are investing in technology, and there are numerous reasons for this. As businesses grow, needs and priorities change. For example, businesses face increased demand, businesses may hire more employees and their needs to be looked after, and technical advancements or market pressures may mean that systems and processes which were sufficient a number of years or months ago, are now hindering progress and agility. Being able and being wiling to adapt and invest enables businesses to remain successful in an ever-changing market. Technology investment also improves business efficiency and employees' productivity, enhances security and improves relations and communication, both internally and externally.
As businesses look to make investments, it is important that bespoke agreements are put in place to ensure their rights are protected, for example through commercial contracts including manufacturing agreements, software licences and outsourcing agreements. These respectively set out key obligations of the manufacturer and the customer, and can include clauses for the provision of technology and equipment and warranty and indemnity provisions; govern the use and distribution of software; and outline the arrangement where services are provided to a business by a third party. Furthermore, it is important that Intellectual Property (IP) is registered. IP rights will distinguish a business from competitors and will form an essential part of marketing or branding. IP rights can also be used as security for loans, and could be sold or licenced.
Technology is developing rapidly and forms an integral part of most businesses. Technology is likely to help overcome obstacles and improve productivity, however ensuring the appropriate agreements are in place, sooner rather than later, will ensure smooth transitions as businesses change.
For more information contact John Pickervance in our Manufacturing & Engineering department via email or phone on 0333 207 1134. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.