Manufacturing 2015 – The North West Review
Squire Patton Boggs and TheBusinessDesk.com joined forces on a survey into the manufacturing sector to give North West manufacturers a voice and have their say on the big issues facing their businesses. NAA Chief Executive Carol Holden OBE took part in a roundtable discussing the issues. Here’s a summary of the final report.
There can be no doubt that the manufacturing sector is facing unprecedented challenges across the board, driven by the uncontrollable; government policy, energy supply and overseas markets, together with the controllable; the sector’s approach to skills, collaboration and innovation.
Through our survey and manufacturing roundtables it is clear that the sector is positive and ready to face the challenges to cement a profitable future for UK manufacturing.
This is the biggest challenge the sector is facing. Manufacturers would like to see positive government policy around the STEM agenda, and there also needs to be greater collaboration with education institutions to build the brand of manufacturing as a sector offering interesting, rewarding and challenging careers. Skills training funded by industry through statutory apprenticeship levies is one interesting idea currently being debated; an idea which has the potential to reshape technical education to ensure it is technically and industrially relevant and delivers the highly skilled workforce required for the future.
It is clear that the overwhelming majority of the manufacturing sector wishes to remain part of Europe and sees it as a critical factor in the long term success of the sector.
Manufacturers now have the opportunity to join together and deliver a single message to government.
The sector would like to see increased support for innovation, industrial R&D and the commercialisation of new products. Technological innovation will give UK manufacturing a competitive advantage and manufacturers need to work more closely with government to focus on creating a long term strategic plan to drive the sector forward.
Supplier collaboration goes hand in hand with innovation as new technologies are developed and used to create competitive advantage, so inter-relationships across the supply chain become more critical. The development of the Asian market means that the price advantage of Far Eastern manufacturers is narrowing; reshoring to shorten the supply chain will become ever more apparent.
Current UK transport infrastructure is seen as a major hindrance to growth – the physical movement of goods and people is a major challenge facing the sector. There is a need for manufacturers to join forces and work with government in the development of a coherent, UK-wide transport strategy. The timing of HS2 and HS3, together with the infrastructure connectivity throughout the Northern Powerhouse economies to major ports and airports, is critical to growth in the sector.