Sussex manufacturers look to AI for productivity gains

Around one in four local manufacturers expect to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) in the next 12 months to improve business operations and productivity. At the same time, there is strong support across the sector to achieve net zero, with many actively pursuing measures to reduce their environmental impact.

These headlines were revealed at the latest meeting of METALL (Manufacturing Engineering Technology Alliance), a forum for manufacturing, engineering and technology businesses hosted by leading Sussex and South East accountancy firm Carpenter Box.

Tony Summers, partner and head of manufacturing and engineering at Carpenter Box, said: “It’s good to see the Sussex manufacturing sector successfully addressing many of the challenges it currently faces.

“Recovery from Covid was stronger than expected and there is growing interest in how AI adoption could positively impact productivity. 

“Net zero, of course, is a key focus for the sector and many businesses have already taken significant steps towards making their operations more environmentally friendly.

“These include electrifying their fleet of vehicles, insulating their buildings, adjusting their heating and cooling systems and installing their own renewable electricity or heating.”

Also at the METALL eventM Marcus Wright, senior economist at NatWest Group, provided the forum with an overview of the UK economy and the key trends emerging for the manufacturing sector.

Marcus said: “The sharp rise in the cost of finance has led to a significant decline in the desire of businesses to stockpile goods.

“Of those manufacturing firms planning to adopt AI, the most common reason is to improve business operations, however, the largest reported obstacles are lack of expertise and upfront costs.”

He added that with inflation expected to fall to 3% by the end of 2024 and interest rates at or approaching their peak, trading conditions for manufacturers are expected to improve.

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