As many manufacturers contend, there is a substantial lack of awareness among the public and wider business of the opportunities available in UK manufacturing. This has led to a shortfall in the skills and investment necessary to sustain a strong manufacturing base. Last month’s Global Manufacturing Festival is one of a number of events taking place this year hoping to improve the image of industry, generate interest in manufacturing and stimulate debate about the issues facing the sector. Tim Brown reports.
While the message that skills and investment remain absent from manufacturing has been heard throughout the industry and even to some degree in government, for the most part manufacturers have been preaching to the converted. Particularly for investors, politicians and students, the opportunities available in areas of food and beverage, aerospace, automotive and pharmacy – to name but a few – have generally remained undersubscribed.
The Global Manufacturing Festival 2011 was held all last month in one of the world’s strongest centres for manufacturing heritage, Sheffield. The celebration culminated in a week of jam-packed activities beginning on March 14 which were aimed at highlighting UK manufacturing now and in the future.
The week provided opportunities to visit the factories of some of Sheffield’s world famous engineering firms. Delegates from industry, the banking sector, the media and local and national government, including local MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, were in attendance and learned about local business opportunities and headline manufacturing trends. In addition, the festival aimed to inspire the next generation of engineering talent and bridge the gap between innovation and commercial success by bringing education and businesses closer together.
A passionate issue
The week’s programme kicked off with a range of events that focused on issues from taxation policy through to enthusing the next generation of engineering talent. Two notable events included the ‘Rebalancing the economy’ lunchtime debate, instigated by Lloyds TSB, and a series of factory tours at heavy engineering firm DavyMarkham.
The former event brought together industry leaders and experts in the fields of accountancy, law and policy, to discuss how the UK should be looking to create a sustainable and balanced economy. The debate drew some large question marks over the definition of these objectives and questioned whether policy drivers truly understand what they mean by what is a fairly subjective description. Brian McKenzie, vice-president of Firth Rixson UK and Europe commented on the inadequacy of definition in political rhetoric and offered his interpretation saying: “At the end of the day I think we are talking about creating wealth. It is all about how you take the resources available and how you deploy them.” The necessity of self-determination in the achievement of success was echoed by other panellists at the event. Graham Honeyman, chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters, expressed that government must allow industry to get on with what it knows best and stop “tinkering with markets they do not understand”. In particular the focus of discussion settled heavily on the need for industry to realise more universally the necessity of investing for growth.
Comments were made about the need for greater capital allowances and better support for R&D from government, but, largely, discussion of investment priorities showed that industry leaders view it as the responsibility of industry itself to pursue opportunities in this area.
Hugh Facey, executive chairman of Gripple, and Brian McKenzie both shared that their companies plough around 5% of each annual turnover into R&D, or as Gripple prefers to call it, Ideas and Innovation.
Facey stated the challenge: “It is not about government. It is about manufacturing and about how we do it.” The common belief expressed throughout the day was that ‘how we do it’ was unequivocally the responsibility of the individual manufacturers and the people they employ. No matter how simple or complex the manufacturing process or the extent to which a line had been automated, the need for talented people with relevant skills for the strategic direction of industry was highlighted time and again.
The Engineering Training Centre in Sheffield spent the day showcasing the way it is working with young people in the area as well as major industry players like Sheffield Forgemaster in order to ensure that the possible applications of STEM skills are realised early on by those with aptitude. The DavyMarkham factory tour also gave visitors the chance to understand the workings behind one of the nation’s most highly commended apprenticeship programmes.
Offering a word of caution, however, Graham Honeyman warned assembled delegates at the Lloyds ‘Rebalancing the Economy’ debate that companies must not be lured into the temptation to take up incentives to over train for apprenticeships that will not lead to jobs. “We need to be very careful with apprenticeships,” he said. “At Forgemasters we have around 30 apprenticeships every year and every one of those leads to a job.
Apprenticeships must mean jobs, not just a lot of qualified but unemployed people. That will only lead to disaffection.”
DavyMarkham open day
DavyMarkham, an invaluable gem in the crown of British manufacturing that is the Sheffield region, threw open its doors to school children, peers in industry and the general public last month as part of the celebrations for The Global Manufacturing Festival. Jane Gray attended the event and shares her impressions from the open day.
The diversity of DavyMarkham’s portfolio is a constant challenge. Touring the factory floor with other industry pilgrims at the DavyMarkham open-day, we passed mammoth structures, and more modestly sized engineering projects, ranging from innovative bridge mechanisms through to components for generators and mine hoisting equipment. While this last market is where DavyMarkham’s bread and butter lies, the company seeks to meet the demands of as many customer bases as possible and to pioneer new ways to apply workforce skills.
DavyMarkham’s readiness to embrace the challenge to diversify, which has become prevalent as an outcome of recession, is one of its defining qualities. A quality furthermore, which has had to be created in order to pull the company out of the dire situation it faced just four years ago.
According to John Watson, production manager at DavyMarkham the key to this transformation has been the establishment of a culture of continuous improvement. He observes: “Making the workforce believe that they had a future was a turning point for us…
one of the most important ways we were able to do that was through our apprenticeship programme. This showed we were really serious about the future.” The DM apprenticeship programme has become renowned in industry circles in the UK and it is now used us a template and a resource for the establishment of similar programmes in other organisations. What makes the DavyMarkham apprenticeship programme so successful is the transfer of quality expectations inherent in the main business. Apprentices thrive under the company’s high expectations – which are understandable given that apprentices comprise 23% of DM’s skilled workforce.
Of particular importance are apprentice maths skills. DavyMarkham will accept only grades B and above for enrolling apprentices, a fact that reflects the demanding engineering tasks the company takes on every day, work which requires manufacturing and tooling large equipment with quality tolerances sometimes as minute as a fraction of a millimetre.
DM’s rigour in training and practice will hold it in good stead for one of the major new challenges it hopes to take in the coming year – a role in the nuclear supply chain. Given recent events in Japan it is unsurprising that plans for nuclear expansion in the UK have come under close scrutiny and expectations around testing and safety have sky-rocketed.
Despite this, Watson believes: “We will see a major step-up for manufacturing procurement for nuclear new-build in the UK in the next 12 months.”And he is not alone. At a separate festival event, a debate hosted by Lloyds TSB to bring together industry, finance and policy experts for a discussion on the challenge of rebalancing the economy, Graham Honeyman, CEO of Sheffield Forgemasters, asserted: “I still believe in nuclear.” The dynamism of the Global Manufacturing Festival in Sheffield has provided many such opportunities to highlight and debate just where manufacturing should be focussing its efforts at this important stage in the economic recovery. The imperative now is not to let the end of the celebrations mark an end to that dialogue. Following our tour of DavyMarkham, Watson expressed how this need for better, sustained intra-industry discussion and openness resonated with the culture of his organisation. “Visitors are always welcome here,” he said. “We are always happy to share what we are doing.
Angels of the North
An important and timely event at the Global Manufacturing Festival in Sheffield last month was hosted at the city Cutler’s Hall, and celebrated the contribution of women in manufacturing across the region and the industry as a whole.
The event, titled Inspirational Women: Women in Manufacturing, was sponsored by NatWest and chaired by Pam Liversidge OBE, the first female president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Inspirational speakers in attendance included young entrepreneur Katey Felton, founder of a successful Sheffield silversmithing business and Elinor Oldroyd, general manager of Firth Rixson. In addition, a stirring and motivating speech was given by Kathleen Roberts, a veteran of the home front during world war two and one of the pioneering women who proved that the demanding physical work of the steel industry was not beyond female capabilities. The event came on the heels of Lord Davies’ report on the number of women in UK board rooms and also the news from business intelligence company Creditsafe that glamour model Katie Price, director of Jordan Trading and KDC Trading, is the most researched business woman in the UK. Both pieces of news provided a provocative backdrop to discussion at the event and prompted questions over the influence of female role models on the ambitions and perceptions of the next generation.
Technology Innovation Centre programme to create three thousand jobs nationwide
Whilst at the Global Manufacturing Festival, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced, with Business Secretary Vince Cable, the first of at least six Technology Innovation Centres. Details of the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) for High Value Manufacturing, part of a Government investment of over £200m over the next four years, were given at the Rotherham based Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Over a decade, the TIC is expected to generate about £2bn of additional manufacturing R&D and create 3,000 new engineering jobs across the seven institutions that make up the consortium operating the centre (including Sheffield’s AMRC and Nuclear AMRC).
The project will allow the centres to create a national network capable of addressing all manufacturing issues. Talking to The Manufacturer in an exclusive interview, Mr Clegg said: “The Centre will translate great research and innovation, particularly in our universities, into commercially viable products, to make sure that as a country we remain on the cutting edge of new advanced manufacturing. My view is that with the consistent support of Government, which we are determined to give to these sectors, this really could be one of the most promising innovations in the long term support for advanced British manufacturing in many many years.” The TIC will aim to support those sectors forecast to grow significantly over the next 10 years: highperformance batteries for electric vehicles; off-shore wind turbines; a new generation of fuel-efficient passenger aircraft; and the nuclear industry.
Getting up to speed
If there is a way to have dozens of kids flock to the shed of a manufacturing company and learn about engineering, the organisers of Get up to speed with Engineering and Manufacturing, part of Sheffield’s Global Manufacturing Festival, seem to have found it.
Formula 1 simulators, a World Bobsleigh Champion, supersonic cars and ice cream: it doesn’t get much better than that for a young person, although parents and teachers seemed to be just as excited. Structural support manufacturer Ekspan’s Blue Shed came to life with games and speeches, including one by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Sponsored by Tata Steel and organised by Business and Education South Yorkshire, the event aimed to raise interest in engineering careers among young people. Businesses set up stalls, where they met those who, they hope, will become the next generation of British engineers and told them about apprenticeships and career possibilities.
Commenting on the event, Jackie Freeborn, chief executive of Business and Education South Yorkshire, said: “Businesses came together to celebrate engineering and manufacturing and to get young people interested in pursuing a career in these sectors. We have fantastic companies here, and they are desperate to recruit the next generation of engineers. We are absolutely amazed by how many people turned up: this shows there is great interest we have to tap into and nurture.” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined the event and delivered a speech inviting young people to consider a career in engineering. “The UK already has many manufacturing success stories. But a great deal of potential remains untapped. For too long we failed to fully capitalise on our historic talent for building and making things. Now is the moment to rediscover Britain’s capacity for invention and design,” he said.
He was followed on stage by racing driver Russ Danzey, Women’s World Bobsleigh Champion Nicola Minichiello and entrepreneur Richard Noble OBE, the man behind the landspeed record car Bloodhound.
Expressing concerns over the diminishing number of young people choosing manufacturing and engineering as a career, Noble said: “In 20 years, 60% of the aerospace workforce will have gone. We have to do something about it.”
Sheffield’s contribution recognised
Winding down the festival was the Made in Sheffield Awards, held on March 24. The Region’s manufacturers were joined by Sheffield MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP at the Cutlers’ Hall to celebrate the many great achievements of Sheffield’s thriving manufacturing sector. Clegg shared his own thoughts on the health of Sheffield manufacturing and its place in the wider global economy – a theme which was pertinent to the Global Manufacturing Festival.
The awards aim to recognise the companies and individuals who are doing the most to uphold the traditions of the Made in Sheffield brand, through their commitment to quality and excellence in manufacturing. The six awards which were up for grabs included Innovation, Exporter of the Year, the region’s Apprentice of the Year and an overall Made in Sheffield Award.
Speaking at the awards, Nick Clegg said he was “convinced with every fibre in [his] being” that manufacturing would be at the forefront of a new model of sustainable growth. He told guests: “Most of the hard work needs to be done by you. You are the innovators, you are the creators, you are the designers. What we have tried to do over the last 10 or 11 months is to use the constrained resources that we have to make sure that the manufacturing renaissance is not just a flash in the pan but is part of a new story of economic prosperity and growth in Britain. It is a naff cliché from a politician but we are really on your side. The hopes of the whole country are genuinely on what you can achieve.” He took the opportunity to remind guests that the government had to tackle the deficit rather than hand debts on to our children. He accused “lazy” previous governments of massively inflating the public sector, leaving cities such as Sheffield with an over-reliance on public sector jobs.
Forgemasters was named the “overwhelming” winner of the main Made in Sheffield Award, having been deemed by the judges to have contributed most to maintaining the national and international renown of the brand for high-quality craftsmanship. Despite a year in the headlines after the withdrawal of an £80m loan from the government, the manufacturing giant has powered on winning contracts across the world.
Export turnover now accounts for more than 70% of Forgemasters’ business.
Other winners included: Luke Shaw, Firth Rixson (apprentice of the year); University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing (manufacturer support award); Firth Rixson (investment in people award); William Beckett Plastics (exporter of the year award); and AESSEAL (innovation award).