Boeing UK and Rolls-Royce yesterday agreed to exhibit at the Global Manufacturing Festival (GMF) in Sheffield in April, while four big OEMs pledged that visiting SMEs can talk directly to their purchasing managers.
GMF 2013 now has a meaningful presence from a number of large multinational companies representing three of the four industry themes the festival has chosen this year: aerospace, nuclear and renewable energy.
The organisers are working on large company representation for the fourth sector, medical, and are in talks with three large medical component manufacturers to take part.
The panel, that included Sir Roger Bone, president of Boeing UK, Hamid Mughal, executive vice president of manufacturing engineering & technology at Rolls-Royce, Andrew Peters, a divisional director of Siemens Industry and Mark Broxholme, managing director of Tata Speciality Steels, gave effusive support to the ideals of the Festival.
These are to give SMEs better access to the projects and supply chains of big global companies who work in and around the Sheffield City Region. The long term aim is to stimulate manufacturing growth, centred on advanced engineering, beyond the region throughout the UK.
The ‘Big Four’ said their companies are becoming more transparent for smaller companies who want to know how to supply to them, and more collaborative with a broader range of UK companies. The Catapult model, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with universities, and more ‘meet the buyer’ days were all contributing to make their business models more collaborative, they said, to support British companies.
All the panellists said they have invested in the Sheffield City Region – which has had £100m investment committed from four or five global brands in recent years – for similar reasons. These are that, when looking to invest in a company or region, it needs technology capability, a skilled and engineering-based workforce, good universities, high quality products and a legacy of manufacturing. Rolls-Royce’s Mughal said, “Rolls-Royce has choices where it can invest. One of the most important criteria is in good cost engineering, the ability to design and make to cost. The Sheffield region has these criteria.”
Martin McKervey, a partner at festival sponsors Nabarro, asked that, with so many disjointed government initiatives and funds, were SMEs finding business support mechanisms confusing.
Andrew Peters of Siemens said Siemens regularly takes a “stewardship role” with smaller firms, helping them to navigate the different initiatives and funding pots – such as the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative, and the Regional Growth Fund – so they were better equipped to apply for these with more success.
Sir Roger Bone told an audience member who expressed difficulty in getting a fair hearing with Boeing’s procurement process, that “if an SME approaches us with a product or proposal it would never be turned away. A person at Boeing would always look at it and contact would be made based on its merits.” Sir Roger offered to help the person to access a decision maker more easily.
Hamid Mughal, who sits on the High Value Manufacturing Catapult supervisory board, defended the Catapult model passionately, saying it was “the best thing that BIS [the Department for Business] have done in decades”. He said the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, one of seven Catapult centres, will play host to the GMF 2013. Mr Mughal maintained that the Catapult was working exactly as it was designed to: helping smaller companies reach key Technology Readiness Levels and grow by accessing technology they would not normally have access to.
Two Rolls-Royce investments, the new single crystal blade factory in Rotherham and the second new factory, making disks and drums in Sunderland, were realised in part through work with the AMRC and the Manufacturing Technology Centre near Coventry. “These will be the most advanced facilities of their kind in the world,” he said. “When they’re built, they will get attention, from schools, local government, other companies, people will come. This will generate service businesses and jobs locally. So the Catapult is helping to create wealth through manufacturing in different ways.”
James Newman, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Finance Yorkshire, said that supporting grass roots, high potential manufacturing companies could be best delivered by adopting the “Heseltine approach” of devolving money and decision-making to the regions. Lord Heseltine published a report last year calling for greater devolution of power from central government to the ‘core cities’. “If they [Government] really want to get money out to local enterprises to boost growth, it must be distributed locally,” Mr Newman said.
The Global Manufacturing Festival will run in the Sheffield environs from April 17-19.
Bookings to the exhibition, the Get up to Speed Festival for schools and several factory tours on April 19 can be made at: http://livebuzzreg.co.uk/2013/gmf13/reg/