North West businesses plan long-term investment in automation

13th November 2019, 10:42 am

One in five North West businesses say that automation will be their biggest priority over the next five years 

  • A quarter (25%) of NW businesses are using robotics in some way in their business
  • 75% of CFOs and Financial Directors in the North West have not seen automation impact jobs in any way, however more than two-fifth (41%) do anticipate some change in the next year

In the first of a series of CFO surveys, accountancy and business advisory firm BDO surveyed 200 CFOs and Financial Directors across the UK to understand how important automation is to their business. The report, New Economy: Investing in Automation shows that senior leaders across the country expect automation to be pivotal to their businesses and employees’ development in the coming year. 87% have automated a key business process during the last year and one in five (21%) CFOs view automation as their most important investment priority during the next five years.

In the North West, senior business leaders are already aware of the process of automation, but few (5%) consider it to be the number one priority in the next financial year – this compares to a national average of 11%. However, in a sign that North West businesses see automation as part of a longer-term focus, this figure quadruples over the next few years to 20%.

It is clear though that some North West businesses have already embraced automated technology. A quarter (25%) of CFOs and FDs report that their businesses are already using robotics in some form. 43% of North West businesses have already invested in Computer Aided Industrial Design (CAID) – almost double the proportion of the next highest British region surveyed (Yorkshire, 22%). On average, businesses in the North West expect to invest 8.2% of their company spend on automation, a rise of 1.2% from last financial year.

When asked about the impact on jobs, the trend mirrors the investment priority for CFOs and FDs. Only 20% of senior leaders in the North West believe there has been an impact on their workforce in the past year, but looking to the future, 41% think there will be changes. When it comes to ensuring employees are best able to utilize these new technologies, 35% of North West businesses have invested in training, compared to a national average of 39%.

The data also shows that many businesses in the North West are yet to make up their mind as to how they view automation. 55% of businesses in the North West, the highest proportion of any region, see automation as both a threat and an opportunity in equal measure.

Ed Dwan, partner and Head of BDO in the North West: “It’s encouraging to see businesses with plans for investment in automation which should help to increase productivity, encourage innovation and reinvent roles and sectors which in turn boost the economy. As a region, we have a global reputation for invention and ingenuity and while it’s understandable in the current climate that business leaders have other priorities in the short-term, there could be real growth opportunities for those who embrace these new technologies as part of Industry 4.0.”

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