Collaboration is Key

Collaboration is Key


  • Ireland’s 4,000 manufacturing enterprises contribute 24% of the country’s economic output
  • Manufacturers can benefit from collaborating with businesses in their supply chain
  • As technology advances, collaboration between humans and machines is also expected to have significant benefits

A connected business ecosystem, bringing together various elements of the supply chain, could have many benefits for the Irish manufacturing industry. We look at some of the factors that could see the sector triumph on a world scale.

To misquote John Donne: “No manufacturer is an island, entire of itself; every business in the supply chain is a part of the main. If a piece is taken away, the whole enterprise is the less.”

Apologies to the poet, although he would probably agree, as does Ibec’s 2016 Manufacturing Ireland report, that a strong, integrated supply chain is integral to success.

The value in developing cross-sector dialogue and effective collaboration is greater than ever in manufacturing, states the report, which also highlights the fact the industry is a key driver of the economy: Ireland’s 4,000 manufacturing enterprises contribute 24% of Ireland’s total economic output and employ more than 159,000 people, making manufacturing the second-largest employer in the country.

According to the report by Ibec, the organisation representing Irish business, a galvanised network would generate even higher production in Ireland: “Collaboration is a competitive tool that firms can use to improve business performance.”

Ibec believes increased communication across the entire supply chain could contribute significantly to shortening time to market, developing skilled talent, and improving operational efficiency and supply chain agility. “It allows strategic partnerships to be established with suppliers and trading partners in order to set beneficial goals and share processes and information.”

Connectivity and accessibility

What must not be forgotten, alongside these potential alliances, is the physical infrastructure that connects all these points – our road, rail, sea and air links. Being able to quickly and easily access and communicate with the various elements of your supply chain is critical for an efficient manufacturing process.

“In a world of globalised supply chains, the ability to move materials efficiently and at low cost is a basic requirement,” says Harvard professor of management practice Willy Shih.

As a reference point, poor transport infrastructure has been the biggest obstacle to the development of India’s potentially huge manufacturing capacity. By contrast, China’s is very well developed – where it matters.

With 82% of manufacturing employment based in the regions in Ireland (ie outside Dublin), Ibec is calling for greater connectivity across more of the country, particularly on major transport routes.

Harnessing skills

There is considerable promise for the Irish manufacturing sector. National policy advisory board Forfás estimates the potential for 43,000 direct new jobs by 2020, and Ireland has already attracted a number of global manufacturing giants, including Apple, Merck and ABB.

The Manufacturing Ireland Campaign is actively encouraging manufacturers to employ more young people – particularly women and young people – within the sector. For continued growth and prosperity, it’s vital that the manufacturing industry attracts and retains workers at all skill levels.


“Collaboration is a competitive tool that firms can use to improve business performance”

Manufacturing Ireland, Ibec


 As a solution to a future skills shortage, Ibec recommends establishing an industry-led national manufacturing research institute in Ireland and a mentoring programme for manufacturing, allowing firms to access expertise from their own and other manufacturing sectors.

Embracing digital technologies

While technological advancements may pose certain threats to the traditional working environment, collaboration between humans and machines also has significant benefits.

The majority of respondents (88%) to Ibec’s Manufacturing Survey plan to invest in new technology and equipment.

This year, over half (52%) of respondents to a recent report by Accenture expect to see improved productivity, 47% expect improved operational efficiency and 31% expect enhanced safety and risk management as a result of implementing a connected industrial workforce where humans and machines work together. By developing such a workforce, manufacturers hope to also improve value chain visibility, safety and risk management, and unleash the true potential of their workforce.

Ireland’s collaboration drive

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA), in association with Ulster Bank, Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail, Rhenus Logistics and media partner Fleet Transport, recently launched a new supply chain initiative: the IEA Supply Chain Series 2017, comprising seminars and working group meetings exploring the supply chain issues in Ireland including supply chain diversification, trade finance, integration, process and partnering.

The Multimodal Working Group meetings will discuss the importance of multimodal partnering in the supply chain and associated opportunities and challenges.

Eddie Cullen, managing director, commercial banking division at Ulster Bank, said: “Most business relationships cross borders and time zones and managing that supply chain is vital to their growth.”

Those involved in industry need to look at every aspect of the business environment for the ecosystem to thrive.



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