Ray Gore reflects on the positive effect of technology on the potential prosperity of once disconnected regions.
SW businesses’ export opportunities enhanced by streamlined supply chains and Superfast connectivity!
I was reflecting on the way that the digital age in which we now live has so changed the way things had to be done when I first started out as a young Procurement Engineer for Rolls Royce back in the late 1970’s, and of the export opportunities now afforded to business by the new communications mediums that are now available.
I first began my career when there were no mobile phones, desktop computers or even fax machines. Computers were the size of a small house, landline telephones were the only direct means of communication (if the GPO ever got around to connecting you up) and we had only the telex machine, primitive photocopiers and a hideous piece of equipment called the Roneo Banda machine by which documents could be reproduced. This meant that document amendments had literally to be “cut and pasted” after the relevant passage had been retyped and inserted into the master draft before photocopying. There was no CAD/CAM at the time or word processing facilities, meaning that engineering drawings and specifications had to be amended by hand and then redrawn later. Meetings with suppliers sometimes even took place over a car bonnet at a service station, with amendments made with red crayon before being redrawn in the drawing office later.
This lack of real time communications not only caused delay and poor use of time and resources but more seriously lead to errors from bad translation, communications and misunderstandings. Quality control issues arose and relationships suffered, even with UK businesses. Doing business with overseas companies was of course, even more complicated.
Now the internet, Superfast Broadband, CAD/CAM, and Social Media, together with the instant communications provided by mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e mails and texts etc means that most if not all of the above problems have been either eliminated or significantly reduced. These not only provide the accessibility to anywhere in the world potentially, but business can also be done from virtually anywhere as well. I have encountered many small businesses now running from home, including one that was supplying sporting training software to the New Zealand All Blacks! Not long ago I met a man sitting on Huntingdon Beach, California conducting his business from a beach chair under a sun umbrella by means of his laptop and mobile phone.
All this increased business connectivity is really good news for parts of the South West such as Devon and Cornwall, who have long suffered from regional peripherality issues in the past. Business can now operate efficiently from anywhere, and there has been an increase in people making lifestyle choices, and setting up their business in places such as Cornwall to take advantage of the lovely environment that they can enjoy. First class connectivity can mean reduced supply chains, with manufacturing being undertaken near the export market concerned, or in low cost countries to increase competitiveness. All this remote activity can be managed and controlled efficiently from the businesses home base thanks to the connectivity now available. Of course these benefits not only apply to manufacturing but to service industries as well, with digital gaming, financial services and marketing flourishing to name but a few.
I marvel at the exponential advances that have been made during my career, and can only wonder in excitement at what future developments will bring.