Steve Turner: Thoughts on a bright future for Scottish Manufacturing from the 2018 SMAS Conference


“Productivity is the Defining Challenge of our Generation.” said Nick Shields in his opening address to the 2018 Scottish Manufacturing Advisory service (SMAS) conference. As the expectant audience sat there at 8:30am, he could not have provided a more accurate precis of the of the day.
The biannual SMAS conference brings together Scotland’s Manufacturing sector providing the opportunity to showcase the best of the sector, address common challenges and engage with the support and expertise available through the SMAS team.

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The theme of the day was Industry4.0 and the challenges and opportunities presented by this emerging and much hyped Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Here in Scotland, you are never far from our history of invention, our global dominance of much of 18th and early 19th century manufacturing and, our resilient national character forged, in large part, through our hard experience of the growth and decline of industries.

As we enter this 4th Industrial Revolution, the others could be described as:

  1. The birth of manufacturing and processes giving us factories and production as we still know it.
  2. Came with the growth of industries such as Coal, Steel, the expansion of railways as electricity as a source of power became commonly available.
  3. Was the start of the digital age and brought computerisation and automation.

If being more frugal with words, I could simply have said:
First = Steam
Second = Electricity
Third = Computers
And, when we write the history of this 4th revolution, it will almost certainly say
Fourth = Data
This SMAS Industry4.0 conference brought us an impressive speaker line up including –
Professor Juergen Maier, Chief Executive of Siemens,
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon,
Sarah Jardine, from Optos Plc,
Tom Williams who is COO of Airbus,
Douglas Dawson who is CEO of Liberty Industries Group
Rhys Herbert a Senior Economist at Lloyds Bank.
With a high degree of coherence from all speakers, the messages could not be clearer.

  • Manufacturing is not just important but is critical to Scotland and the wider UK economy.
  • Industry4.0 cannot be ignored but, the “Big Scary Data” (Thanks to Sarah Jardine for that phrase) is not too scary if you have the right culture, mindset and approach.
  • There is support available to go on your journey of digitalisation and, the potential benefits are so significant that you ignore it at your peril.
  • Your investment to get started does not need to be huge in cash terms and the investment of your time is more important.

If you missed the conference, I still recommend taking a look at the event web page at:
For my part, this was an exceptional event, well done SMAS and everyone involved; I have three thoughts for you on Industry4.0 and, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments:

  1. Scottish businesses are superbly placed and supported to thrive in this 4th revolution; we more or less invented the 1st revolution (Thanks James Watt and your contemporaries.) We excelled in the 2nd and, sadly, were devastated through the 3rd. The 4th is more about Leadership, Cultural attitudes, Skills and Inventiveness and less about Cash, Investment and Scale. This plays to our strengths as individuals and as a nation.
  2. Focus on Leadership, Connections, Skills and Attitudes in your organisation; those of us who embrace innovation and have well run businesses who can focus on getting things done well, will thrive. During his Keynote speech, Tom Williams (originally from Maryhill) who is CEO at Airbus called on us to bring together and use the Scottish Diaspora. This is a subject close to my heart and for those of you who do not know about it, I urge you to look at to learn about how the Scottish Business Network is doing just this.
  3. Do not ignore Industry4.0, if sensors, automation data and adapting to change sound scary, engage now with people who understand and have been through the process. In each of the previous industrial revolutions, we have seen an Accelerated Commercial Darwinism where even dominant businesses disappear if they have no response to new ways of working. I don’t need to work hard to find examples of this in every part of the country; from our magnificent former mill buildings now all repurposed, decaying or demolished to our shipyards and steelworks which, now, are all but extinct.

I left the SMAS conference extremely optimistic for what we can achieve as a sector and as a country to create incredible new products, ways of working and opportunities for us all in a time of change that Scotland and Scottish business are superbly well positioned to benefit from.
Steve Turner is Commercial Director at DPS Group & Partner at Exolta Capital Partners
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