The time has never been better for the IT department to make its presence felt in manufacturing and distribution companies. The key is to embrace the internet to automate the supply chain, a survey published by the Bourton Group has found.
It discovered that 90% of UK firms are planning to implement online sales and procurement.
But keeping up with the pace of change is a tough challenge for firms which are uncertain where they are heading, said the survey.
These challenges offer golden opportunities for IT professionals. "What comes through pretty strongly is that managing directors are saying that IT helps them run their businesses. It is not something that is a necessary evil or something that holds them up," said Bourton director James Bentley.
"IT professionals can now have their day because the board is becoming more IT-literate. They will be listened to," he added.
The Bourton Index, which surveyed 300 UK companies involved in "complex operations" - mostly manufacturing, process and transport - found that 90% of industrial companies are either already engaged in, or are planning to engage in, e-business.
Almost half have a Web presence, while 15% are using e-procurement to reduce costs in the supply chain. The survey added that industry front-runners are offering customer support and receiving a significant number of orders over the Web.
The research found that the main driver for adoption of the internet is a fear of missing out on the perceived benefits of a reduction in administration costs, quicker response times, better supply chain relationships, greater ease of selling/marketing and improved access to spare parts and information.
Despite powerful drivers towards e-business, the survey found that most firms are concerned that e-business will expose them to keener competition.