The Manufacturer: Top 10 features of 2019

At The Manufacturer, we’re fortunate enough to visit many of the world-leading factories the UK has to offer, as well as speaking to a host of industry experts about the various challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced.

The past 12 months we no exception. We spoke with business leaders and researchers working in Formula One, technology, training, supply chain, steel, agriculture, textiles and the catapult network, to name just a few – as well as all those who shared their experiences and knowledge during Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2019.

Here are The Manufacturer’s most read, shared and referenced features of 2019.

1. What do Formula One and Manufacturing have in common?

Manufacturers and Formula One teams are both trying to make sense of an ever-increasing volume of data - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Manufacturers and Formula One teams are both trying to make sense of an ever-increasing volume of data – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The high-octane world of Formula One isn’t as far removed from the more traditional field of manufacturing as you might think. In fact, the two share several key similarities beyond the obvious.

Manufacturers and race teams are both trying to make sense of an ever-increasing volume of data and how that changes the way they behave.

Both are also having to make case-by-case business judgements on a growing list of potential technology investments, while simultaneously trying to minimise disruption to their operation and their employees and maximise the opportunities.

We explore how these three themes – data, technology and people – are impacting Formula One as well as the manufacturing sector more broadly.


2. State of UK manufacturing from the perspective of SMEs

The leaders of seven manufacturing businesses gathered last year to discuss the challenges faced by SMEs and the external support they use, or have used, to achieve their growth ambitions. The key takeaways of which were exclusively shared with The Manufacturer.

The discussion was loosely structured around a handful of open questions, with each manufacturing business represented being well-established (more than 10 years old), an international exporter, employing 46 -260 employees, and turning over £1.4m – £10m.

3. Our current approach to skills isn’t good enough for today, let alone tomorrow

UK Manufacturing and the Education Sector

For the past four decades, every study and piece of research shows that we aren’t producing anywhere close to the number of skilled engineers and technicians we need.

Our frustrating lack of progress to this perennial issue is making the lives of industrial business owners even more difficult, as anyone who’s spent longer than 60 seconds with one of them will no doubt have been made aware.

To stimulate an adequate supply of trained engineers into industry, we need to radically change the way we teach, train and develop people at every stage of their lives. A new study proposes such a vision and offers a roadmap for how to get there.


4. Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2019: The key takeaways

How do you summarise the takeaways from 186 interactive roundtable discussions, more than a dozen keynote talks, two panel discussions and countless conversations at the coffee station? Here are our own highlights from the two days.

5. Thinking of reshoring? No? Maybe you should!

Made in the UK – again. Over the next six months, Albert Jagger is reshoring production of its Antiluce fasteners range.A fundamental realignment of manufacturing in the UK is on the cards, now the shape of a post-Brexit trading arrangement with the EU is becoming clearer.

A key part of that will be the reshoring of production back to the UK from what were once cheaper overseas factories.

Nick Peters reports on one UK-based component manufacturer, Albert Jagger Engineering, that is already ahead of the game.


6. Are UK manufacturing supply chains fit for the 21st century?

The tenth National Manufacturing Debate, hosted by Cranfield University, brought together industry and academia to discuss one of the biggest challenges facing businesses – the digitalisation of supply chains.

Now more than ever, manufacturing relies on ever more sophisticated and complex global networks of suppliers, partners and customers. These networks are no longer linear chains, but circular ecosystems built on collaboration, innovation, resilience and – increasingly – digital technologies.

But what about the UK. How ready are our businesses for this transformation?

7. Proven ways to get a quick ROI from digital transformation

Data Digital Transformation IoT Analytics Customer Experience Technologies Technology - Stock ImageSo, you’ve successfully embarked on a digital transformation journey. Your activities are aligned in support of your existing business strategy and they sensibly focus – at least initially – on driving internal productivity growth.

But where do you go next? If you’re wrestling with that exact question, then you’re not alone.


8. Will Vertical Farming solve the world’s growing food crises?

Vertical farming is by no means a new concept – the theory that food can be grown in large quantities inside tall buildings has been around for decades, but it is only recently that it has become possible at a price point that matches that of produce grown using traditional methods.

And it is all made possible by data lean manufacturing, and the same digital technologies that are revolutionising our factories.

9. Changing the stereotype of the steel industry and its workforce

The UK steel industry employs 32,000 people - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
There are “absolutely” opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated steel sector. – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Many women we speak to mention that a career in industry was never their first choice. However, once in the sector they can’t imagine doing anything else.

One such individual is Barbara Evans, a 25-year veteran of the steel industry.

We spoke to the competence assessor at Tata Steel in South Wales  about the career she entered “by accident” more than two decades ago, and about the fact that there are “absolutely” opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated steel sector.


10. Fast fashion is getting faster and that’s a good thing

According to the British Fashion Council, the value of the fashion industry to the UK’s economy has increased to a record £32bn.

Textile manufacturers can take credit for a sizeable part of this growth, thanks to a welcome (if gradual) renaissance in British garment making across the UK.

We paid a visit to Jenny Holloway, CEO of London-based Fashion Enter, a business proving that clothes can be successfully made in volume in the UK and is part of the country-wide rebirth in British garment manufacturing.