Editor’s comment: Future thinking

Jane Gray, Editor of The Manufacturer
Jane Gray, Editor of The Manufacturer

The UK teetered on the edge of triple dip recession at the close of April – a parlous economic position which was accompanied by the usual political mud-slinging with added historical context given the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher earlier in the month.

The demise of Baroness Thatcher provoked heated debate over the root causes of Britain’s current economic profile. Blame and absolution were sought in equal measure by supporters and detractors which served to prove only one thing beyond doubt; that the Iron Lady will endure in history as one of Britain’s most divisive and influential leaders (p6).

It can be useful from time to time, to refresh our understanding of the political, social and economic decisions which have shaped our present. For companies, such reflection can explain important cultural factors and regulatory frameworks which impact on the way they conduct business – particularly useful insight for investors.

But at the same time, it is crucial not to get bogged down in re-hashing the past. A pitfall some would argue that UK manufacturing, and certainly national press coverage of the sector, has been prone to in recent years.

Forming an inspiring vision for the future is more proactive. In the last year there have been positive steps to discard the negativity of Britain’s recent industrial history and focus on developing its enduring positive characteristics – its IP, innovation, quality and service culture.

A string of policy and funding announcements from government show there is political will to do this, if not perfect understanding of exactly how it should be done. And events such as the National Manufacturing Debate, hosted at Cranfield University, are making an effort to collate several years’ worth of input from industry leaders in order to progress discussion of how the sector can take its fate into its own hands (p54).

Forward looking reports on manufacturing trends abound. Prof Steve Evans, our interview this month, is lead expert for the forthcoming Foresight Report which will highlight the requirements for establishing closed loop manufacturing and economics in the UK, among other issues (p22). The RSA has published a report challenging the march of globalisation, a theme to be picked up later this year by EEF as it explores ‘localism’ in manufacturing.

How will these trends impact on the day to day running of our factories and supply chains? Software supplier Kronos suggests our understanding of labour will be one of the first things to change as employers demand more decision making autonomy, innovation and multi-skilling of staff in order to respond very quickly and accurately to localised demand (p52). It’s a theme TM will explore in more detail at its Flexible Workforce event on July 16 (p15).

Jane Gray, Editor