Exports, apprenticeships, image and the role of ‘normal’ manufacturing in the economy were themes covered at the launch of the Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield, at EEF’s headquarters today.
A packed house of manufacturers, energy consultants, lawyers, business advisors, politicians and academics attended the launch of the Global Manufacturing Festival at EEF’s head office in London this morning (January 18th).
Organised by business agency CreativeSheffield and EEF in association with the Financial Times, Global Manufacturing Festival is a fortnight’s programme of science and manufacturing events, workshops and exhibitions in and around Sheffield from March 14 to 24.
The event will showcase Sheffield’s strongest manufacturing capabilities, ranging from traditional sectors like steel conversion and blade manufacture, to some of the nascent industries emerging from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), its Nuclear AMRC sister and small technology firms and start-ups in South Yorkshire like Zoo Digital.
Presented by Professor Bill Speirs, the Master of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, a group which runs business networking forums, the event featured speeches by the business minister Mark Prisk; Chris Squires, procurement manager at EDF Energy; Peter Marsh, the Financial Times’ manufacturing editor; Martin Temple CBE, chairman of EEF, and Will Butler-Adams, managing director of Brompton Bicycle, makers of the eponymous folding bike.
Minister Mark Prisk MP said: “The Global Manufacturing Festival is an important and timely event for the UK to host in 2011. Manufacturing is leading the way in rebalancing the economy and reducing the budget deficit so it is vital that we work with industry to make sure that exports continue to grow.”
Manufacturing is climbing higher up the national business agenda.
At the CBI annual conference in October, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to invest £200 million in technology and innovation centres over the next four years, and described Sheffield as a benchmark for such centres. South Yorkshire based organisations Rolls-Royce, Boeing and The University of Sheffield, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, were singled out as leaders in the field.
Will Butler-Adams, MD of Brompton Bicycle, commented: “There is a common misconception that there is no manufacturing in the UK. Yet we remain the 7th largest manufacturer in the world; leaders in Formula 1, aerospace, defence, and folding bikes, to name but a few.”
“In parallel, the next generation of manufacturers, when asked to name a living engineer, came up with the mechanic from Coronation Street!,” he added. “The personal pride and recognition of the title ‘engineer’ has been eroded in the last 50 years and this needs to be revived to bring the brightest minds back into making things.”
Butler-Adams also pointed out that viable manufacturing is not only about advanced engineering and “high tech” products. Rather many products made competitively in the UK can be utilitarian but high value-added goods like bicyles. Peter Marsh of the Financial Times who chaired the panel session, cited the example of John Guest, a plastic pipes manufacturer who uses expensive, latest generation injection moulding machines to remain competitive in making relatively low tech products.
Better and earlier education, both of students and parents, about manufacturing’s modern meaning was a strong theme. Kevin Parkin, managing director of award-winning heavy precision components engineers DavyMarkham (see photo), is chairman of WorkWise, the Sheffield-based consortium that organises work placements for students exploring different careers. Some are placed at manufacturers who provide on the job training, and Workwise has now developed a vocational degree programme for these candidates. Apprentices take one day per week day release at university over three years, receiving a degree at the end and probably a job contract.
Parkin was zealous about the upside of combining classroom and workplace learning while receiving a wage and avoiding up to £9,000 p/a in tuition fees (in most cases the employer will pay).
Alison Bettac, UK learning and development manager at steel products maker Firth Rixson, remarked: “Today, customer focus means ‘global focus’ and Firth Rixson is helping to reshape global manufacturing, especially in the aerospace sector. Growth is important to UK economies and this is why we are supporting the Global Manufacturing Festival as a headline sponsor.”
The Festival kicks off on March 14 with a week-long series of science and technology events before focusing on manufacturing in week two.
For further information and to see the latest programme go to: www.globalmanufacturingfestival.com
The Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield is being led by Square 5 in partnership with Creativesheffield and Business & Education South Yorkshire. It is sponsored by Nabarro LLP and Firth Rixson, and will comprise of a series of focused events, workshops, exhibitions and conferences with leading representatives from the world of manufacturing, politics and education.