Traditional Industries and the challenges posed by tech (UPDATED)

Updated 2023


Big businesses in traditional industries have all pioneered the way and innovated enough to stay on top of their game and maintain their market share. But that’s where the problems can now happen.


It’s not enough to have once innovated. Modern day businesses need to be agile. And they need to be early adopters. Market share can be overrated. Being forward thinking is much more valuable.


Take the manufacturing industry for example. The best manufacturers are easy to work with from a supply chain perspective, through to distribution and services. And there’s only one way to make yourself clear and easy to work with. Tech. So, why are we seeing a reluctance to adopt in certain traditional industries?


Ignoring the need to change


If a business is successful, why change? If processes are in place and operations are foolproof, surely there’s no need to iterate how things are run? This is dangerous territory for established businesses and can easily lead to stagnation. Even traditional industries can’t deny the financial benefits of Industry 4.0.

The viability of using 3-D printing, for example, in manufacturing has greatly increased the opportunity for small businesses to go global quickly – products can be developed and prototypes made in small environments. Suddenly, smaller companies can compete like never before. If bigger businesses don’t take heed, they could drop away. If they innovate in the way that GE has in the aviation industry, it could truly take the industry to the next level.


There are many real-world examples of traditional businesses adopting new technologies. One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, BP, saw the benefits AI could bring early on and invested £25.9M in accelerating the delivery of industry-grade AI software.  


Another example is Domino’s Pizza, which has always embraced technology to revamp its ordering and delivery process. The company’s online ordering system is now responsible for over 90% of its orders, and it has even experimented with drone and robot delivery.



For established companies hindered by red tape, security concerns of adopting tech will always exist.


Cloud systems for example feel too remote for many traditional businesses, with the prevailing attitude being that the closer the information is the safer it is. This is backward thinking.


For those in the manufacturing industry who’ve already adopted cloud systems, they will in fact form the backbone for how the business is run moving forward.


It also opens up the opportunity of creating digital ecosystems whereby they’ll become the guarantor of data, the customer and potentially the industry. It’s here where the transformation on an industry wide scale can happen. The opportunities are there.


A lack of an off the shelf solution

For many manufacturers, the understanding of how tech, specifically AI, can improve efficiencies across their businesses is there. For example, machine learning can improve predictive maintenance and even quality control, while deep learning can be applied to existing processes.


The issue is that there isn’t really an off-the-shelf solution that can be implemented quickly and easily. Everything will need to be bespoke for that business, taking into account operations and human behaviour. Often, the tech exists as independent building blocks that need to be integrated to work for that specific business.


This creates a space for companies to work with cloud-based systems to coordinate the different components. Those who adopt the full suite of tech will be on the front foot, but change requires expertise. Integrating disparate systems requires expert-level knowledge. Time and time again, we have found that no matter how large an organisation is, relying on a technology partner will ensure the success of your digital adoption project and guarantee that your bespoke solution meets your unique needs.


The job market

This has long been discussed with the emergence of tech around manufacturing, specifically in the realm of robotics and machine learning.


However, a recent report by Barclays highlighted the key benefits of implementing AI and investing in tech. Specifically, that 101,000 jobs would be created in the UK in the next 10 years if manufacturers invested in smart technologies, with the textile and clothing industry benefiting the most, followed by pharmaceuticals, wood, paper and printing, and fuel. Introducing tech also enables staff to concentrate on higher-skilled work, improving the quality of work people experience.


The manufacturing industry, specifically in the UK, is currently in a strange place. Confidence abounds, with two-thirds of companies seeing the UK as a competitive place for manufacturing. And that is down to the opportunities provided by tech. However, while certain tech is becoming prevalent, such as robotics, the industry is still in the early stages of adopting emerging technologies, with 57% of leading manufacturers only piloting or experimenting with AI.


The confidence is there, the tech is there, but the adoption isn’t. The latter needs to change.


At J B Cole, we specialise in helping traditional businesses adopt the right tech solutions for their specific needs. We recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and work with each client to determine the best approach for their particular situation. Our team has successfully helped many traditional businesses improve their operations and increase their competitiveness through technology adoption.

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