Lord Bilimoria says UK manufacturers are helping the country to rebound and rebuild our future post-Coronavirus

Posted on 9 Nov 2020 by Tom Lane

Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chairman of Cobra Beer, President of the CBI and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, officially opened Digital Manufacturing Week with an impassioned address to attendees.

Lord Bilimoria used his keynote address at Digital Manufacturing Week 2020 to highlight the “vital role of the UK manufacturing sector is playing, not just in meeting the challenges of the current COVID-19 crisis, but also in helping the UK to rebound and rebuild our future”.

He said: “With the incredible growth of digital manufacturing, this sector can be a driver of inward investment, exports and catalyst innovation. The message has to go out that manufacturing is something the whole country is proud of, something we truly excel at and something we want to grow because this country has always been so good at world leading cutting edge innovation.

“When we look back historically, some of the world’s greatest innovation strengths came from this country, whether it’s a steam engine, the smallpox vaccine or the worldwide web, whether it’s manufacturing, medicine, infrastructure, whatever it is, we’re at the heart of it. We have always been at the heart of it. And it is that spirit of creativity and innovation that we have got to revive. And digital is at the heart of that of that possibility.”

Lord Bilimoria drew upon his own experiences as Chairman and founder of Cobra Beer to highlight the challenges manufacturers across the world have faced this year. Two-thirds of Cobra’s business was affected by the initial Coronavirus lockdown, with production of the popular beer reduced to a single SKU of its 620 ml bottled version of the drink for supermarket sales.

Lord Karan Bilimoria = Cobra beer bottle 2 digital manufacturing week

Like many organisations Cobra Beer was hugely disrupted by the shutdown of the hospitality industry: “Two-thirds of our business in the UK is through the restaurants. Without these restaurants we wouldn’t be where we are today. I am always grateful for the support of all the restaurants, the Indian restaurants in particular have supported me from day one. We supply over 7000 restaurants and our hospitality sales came to an absolute standstill on 23 March when the lockdown started, right until the 4th July.”

He continued: “We lost two-thirds of our market overnight. At our brewery, we had to shield many of our staff. Our production was curtailed from producing a wide range of SKUs, from draft to cans to small bottles and multi bags. We were down to only be able to produce one SKU, our lounge size iconic double size 620 ml bottle for the supermarket. That is all we have survived on for those three and a half months, one SKU. Two-thirds of our business, gone just like that. That is how we survived. That is how we built together. That is how we adapted.”

Lord Bilimoria went on to praise Digital Manufacturing Week describing the event as “the definitive highlight of the manufacturing calendar, which is more important than ever this year”.

digital manufacturing week
The Manufacturer’s MD Grace Gilling with Lord Bilimoria, host of the launch of Digital Manufacturing Week 2020

He said: “We know that manufacturing employs over 3 million people in this country and we represent 10% of our economy. This 10% is rarely very important, very valuable and very impressive. We know that we outperform every other sector when it comes to exports. And most important of all, we as manufacturers are responsible for almost 70% of all business research and development, a scalable investment that means that British manufacturing, as we know it, is transforming in front of our own eyes. So much so that we now need events like this entire week devoted to digital manufacturing. And this is to truly grasp the scale of what is possible.”

To hear all of Lord Bilimoria’s opening address head over to the Leadership and Strategy Arena of the Digital Manufacturing Week platform to view it on-demand now.

If you are yet to register for Digital Manufacturing Week you can still do so here.