Our future economic success largely rests on manufacturing being a vibrant and growing part of the UK economy. Manufacturing accounts for 10% of UK GVA, 45% of total exports from UK and 2.7m people rely directly on it for employment. Automation will pose a challenge to that last number but according to recent OECD / PwC / ONS date we are at low risk of job loss through automation than either Germany or United States.
With the pound falling we have the clear opportunity to use this to export our goods, products and services much more successfully and competitively around the globe. On the other side of this same coin is that we must import much of the equipment needed to manufacture the product, we have a real skills deficit and we cannot rely on fluctuations in the currency markets for sustainable long-term success.
Opportunity is there, digitisation is happening and the entire manufacturing sector must embrace it, yet the EEF believes only 11% of organisations are geared up to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution. It is imperative the benefits that can be gained are fully understood across the entire value chain, but especially in the SME sector.
To ensure our future economic success, building a world class manufacturing sector is critical, and there a some well accepted areas that will deliver this, especially for the SME businesses with that desire to grow.
Training and skills is a good starting point. The constant shuffling of the deck chairs on this is a national disgrace. We need 69000 more engineers to meet current demand, yet we continue to fail in this regard. Business must engage and lead on developing the knowledge of the opportunities and the real difference being an engineer can make.
This leads to close links between business and academia, with the latter getting a better understanding of industry needs. Knowledge transfer partnerships (or KTPs as they are known) would thrive and are proven to be incredibly effective. Building these partnerships strengthens manufacturers and can often lead to exciting and successful spin-outs.
The focus on ultra high technology is an imperative. 3D printing and additive manufacturing sit at the forefront of the transformation of manufacturing. In 2015 3D printing market was estimated to be $5.9bn USD, by 2025 this forecasted to be $49.1bn USD. In one project it was identified that 10000 units had been produced by 3D printing before the injection mould tooling had even been manufactured! Additive manufactured products are being pioneered across sectors with 3D printed products even being deployed by NASA on the International Space Station.
This leads to the final element – a spirit of adventure and pioneering. We look to the US and see the likes of Elon Musk reshaping not just automotive but the space sector also and is now challenging the transport sector with his hyperloops while in the UK we struggle with HS2! We need to recognise those blazing a trail, in the smart city space we have businesses like Brompton and See.Sense as exemplars but not recognised nationally as they should be.
Our economic success depends on manufacturing embracing IR4.0 and the nation embracing manufacturing.
Supporting internal process efficiency, accelerating innovation, growth opportunities in new markets, competitive differentiation / advantage and productivity gains all support SME success – contact jheSOLUTIONS at firstname.lastname@example.org