The traditional summer wind-down for industry was more in evidence this year than it was in 2011 – though probably more due to the oppressive economic atmosphere and the distractions of the Olympics than more authentic industrial or business reasons.
Peering into the last quarter of the year, it seems unlikely that there will be much energy to pick up the pace. Numerous surveys from EEF, the CBI and others show a trend for contraction in orders across manufacturing and the British Chambers of Commerce reduced its GDP growth forecast for 2012 from 0.6% to 0.1% in July.
Without growth, it is impossible, attests the CBI’s John Cridland (p18), for manufacturing to meet the expectations placed on it to bring about a rebalancing of the economy and absorb unemployment.
Furthermore, the very government which talks up this expectation, is inconsistent in its understanding of what industry needs in order to be competitive. EEF has long been vocal on the mis-match between government frameworks for green and growth (p10) but this was further evidenced in a July report from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills that showed a damaging lack of alignment across departments (the BIS-DECC relationship being foremost) is recognised from within. And the situation is set to get worse.
From April 1, 2013 (we can only hope to be fooled) carbon emissions in the UK from electricity generators and energy intensive industry will be taxed at £16 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, rising to £30 per tonne in 2020. This grim prospect is still being challenged, but in the face of it, strategies for energy efficiency and canny energy purchasing become all the more important (p53).
But although you would expect a patchy approach to industrial policy and well cited skills gaps to brand the UK as an anti-manufacturing location there are plenty of industrial voices singing ‘Make it in GB’.
Mark Elborne, chief executive for GE UK, tells us on p30 that the arguments for manufacturing in the UK are “compelling” and a string of announcements made at the UKTI’s Global Business Summits – held in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics – show that companies large and small, British and foreign, are investing in British production facilities, R&D and jobs (p4).
On which optimistic note, it gives me great pleasure to say that TM received a record number of applications to The Manufacturer of the Year Awards this year. Shortlisted companies will be revealed later this month and will attend a final round of judging at the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (p26) in October.
Jane Gray, Editor