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Annual survey gauges the mood of UK manufacturing

The Annual Manufacturing Report 2019, published by The Manufacturer, provides a comprehensive overview of the state and mindset of UK manufacturing for the year ahead.

The report is based on a survey of manufacturers, 40 per cent of which were SMEs, conducted between November and December 2018 to measure how they felt about the prospects for 2019. 

The report is split into five sections sponsored by different industry leaders, covering Government Policy and Industrial Strategy, Financing Investment, Skills and Training, Growth and Exports, and Smart Factory 

Headline findings include:

  • 81 per cent are ready to invest in new digital technologies to boost productivity
  • 71 per cent say Brexit is damaging their strategic-planning and business prospects
  • 66 per cent believe the British people do not understand the importance of manufacturing to the economy
  • 57 per cent think the education system needs a total overhaul to tackle the skills gap.

The Smart Factory section, which measures attitudes to the potential of digital technologies, features input from Richard Hagan, Director of Rochdale-based Crystal Doors, a manufacturer of vinyl wrapped doors and accessories which has invested heavily in new technology with support from GC Business Growth Hub: 

“We have seen the benefits of being [an] early adopter [of smart technologies], reducing electricity costs, labour costs per unit and able to take on work competing with much larger companies.

“Innovation means we can create new products and secure work, in the UK and for export, that could not be done without the new technology. As the rate of change for automation and robotics is now developing rapidly along with digitalisation, waiting is no longer an option.”

However, Cara Haffey, Industrial Manufacturing and Automotive Leader at PwC, sponsor of the Smart Factory section, said that a lack of clear strategy and strong leadership were blocking take-up in many companies:

“The main blockers appear to be a lack of coherent digital strategies and the inability for organisations to understand what practical applications some of these technologies offer within their organisation. If UK firms are to capitalise on the benefits of smart factories, a clear strategy and strong leadership from top management is vital.”

Elsewhere in the report, the survey shows that manufacturers are predictably concerned about Brexit and a widening skills gap, although most believe that the UK still has the drive to succeed as a leading manufacturing nation.

Mark Hughes, Regional Vice President, UK and Ireland, of Epicor Software, sponsor of the Growth and Exports section, commented:

“Brexit actually has the potential to bring significant opportunities to British manufacturing. It used to be more cost-effective to outsource various elements of the manufacturing process off-shore. Current and future technological advances mean that now more than ever before, on-shore is a truly viable option and “Made in Britain” will be key to helping Britain stay on top.”


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