Editor’s letter

Posted on 2 Jun 2014 by The Manufacturer

Jane Gray introduces the June issue of Tm with some thoughts on the AstraZeneca-Pfizer story, foreign ownership and management culture.

Read the digital edition of TM June online.

May was a fascinating month for manufacturing news.

Not least, the AstraZeneca-Pfizer saga has panned out with room for a sequel should the US drugs giant try and re-launch its takeover bid in six months – the time it is now legally required to wait.

Pfizer’s attempt to pull off the biggest takeover of a British firm to date, raised debate over the security of the UK’s science base. Regardless of your views on whether the Pfizer bid was a good or bad omen for British jobs, it threw this national asset into a public spotlight and forced high profile discussion of its value.

This raised awareness of the importance of strong, STEM-based knowledge to our economy. The national press talked about Britain’s prowess in pharmaceuticals development and considered the fate of employees at AstraZeneca’s factory in Macclesfield.

From a wider industry perspective this hubbub can only be a good thing – the whole story served as a reminder that

the UK does indeed engage in high tech industry and talked about why it would be dangerous to let this slip away.

Of course, it is controversial to suggest that by allowing a foreign firm to acquire AstraZeneca, we would necessarily be condemning its employees or the UK science base.

Some of the most prosperous and successful manufacturing enterprises in Britain lie in foreign hands – Tata is a case in point as we learned in TM’s February edition which explored Tata’s UK legacy and future. Without it, our automotive sector, not to mention steel, would be a shadow of its present self.

And yet there is no denying that many have strong reservations about the effect foreign ownership has on the long-term security of jobs, knowledge and competitiveness.

The impact of foreign ownership on UK productivity was among the many topics discussed at the National Manufacturing Debate at Cranfield University on May 21.

Comparisons were drawn between trends in performance management and productivity culture at large, foreign owned firms as compared to family owned SMEs in the UK.

The conclusions of the debate were not sensational, but were level headed.

It really doesn’t matter who owns a company. All that matters is that they are committed to its long-term sustainability and take responsibility for the welfare of employees, wherever they may be.

These are not business traits which can be ascribed to any specific nationality – only to good management.

With this in mind I look forward to a busy summer with TM readers at the magazine’s increasingly vibrant set of Future Factory events, each of which has something to add to the sound management of a manufacturing firm in the UK. From clarity on the steps to creating a flexible workforce – capable of working and innovating autonomously – to understanding effective energy management strategies and more, the programme is relevant to the UK’s manufacturing challenges.

There’s no doubt, there are many of these. But, as always, it is heartening to report that a heap of entries to TM’s

Manufacturer of the Year Awards are already piling up, demonstrating that firms large and small are finding ways to overcome these challenges and compete in a global marketplace.

Don’t forget to get your entry in before July 31.