The Manufacturer: Top 10 news stories of 2019

UK manufacturing continues to face significant change in automation and digitalisation, attitudes towards its emissions output and preparing its workforce for the future, while being beset by ever-shifting political challenges as the UK prepares to the the European Union.

That atmosphere has been reflected in much of the news The Manufacturer Editorial team has reported in the past 12 months.

Here are the 10 news stories, announcements, analysis and insights our audience of manufacturing business owners and decision-makers engaged with the most.

1. Top jobs in 2040 will involve virtual reality, artificial intelligence & robotics

Top jobs in 2040 - AI Translator - image courtesy of BAE Systems.
Almost half of young people between 16-24 believe they will work in a role that doesn’t exist yet – image courtesy of BAE Systems.

Emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will strongly influence the careers we do in the future, according to British multinational defence, security and aerospace company, BAE Systems.

Its futurists and technologists predicted what they think will be the the top jobs in 2040 and the areas of study that students should pursue to equip them with relevant skills.

2. Report: Major car brand will ‘cease to exist’ after automotive trade war

A major European car brand is expected to fail within the next three years as automotive manufacturers fight to survive a period of “extreme change”, according to a report published by Protolabs Europe.

Vice president and managing director, Bjoern Klaas, said leaders in the automotive sector are facing a “perfect storm” of trade wars, the race to electrification and Brexit that could see one of the big names fall victim.

The stark warning for the sector came after the company interviewed more than 300 car makers and suppliers, including: BMW, Daimler, Jaguar Land Rover, Magneti Marelli, Volkswagen and Williams F1.

An ergonomic transition to Smart manufacturing - COPA-DATA
UK manufacturers now lag behind the top 10% in smart factory adoption, with China, Germany and Japan currently leading the trend, closely followed by South Korea, the US and France.

3. Smart factories could add $1.5tn to world economy

Smart factories could boost the global economy by at least $1.5tn over the next five years, so long as manufacturers can adopt the technologies necessary for the transformation.

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) could unlock trillions in revenue for firms across the world over the next five years, so long as manufacturers can adapt the technologies necessary for the transformation.

That was the headline finding of a report published by the Capgemini Research Institute, which also identified the convergence of IT-OT (information and operational technology), up-skilling and digital know-how as the key barriers to adoption, inhibiting opportunities for innovation, efficiency and value-added business.

4. JLR calls for UK ‘gigafactory’ as it invests in electric vehicles

Jaguar Land Rover’s recent calls for a UK ‘gigafactory’ to ease the transition to electrification for the struggling car industry appear more relevant than ever, as plans for a new range of electric cars at its Castle Bromwich plant were revealed.

The automotive industry’s future is electric, that’s if Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement of a multi-million-pound investment to build a range of electric vehicles at its new plant is anything to go by.

The site will produce an electric version of the luxury Jaguar XJ, in a development that (JLR claims) will help secure 2,700 jobs at the Midlands plant. The firm has also pledged to offer customers electrified options for all new models from 2020.

Automotive manufacturers like JLR are investing in technology to lead the charge for electric vehicles. Most recently, JLR and BMW joined forces to share their electrification expertise and develop the cars of the future.

UKEF UK Overseas Export Exports
“The UK has always punched well above its weight when it comes to exports and it’s vital this trend continues – jobs across the UK count on it”

5. UK manufacturing output now worth £192bn – world’s ninth largest manufacturer

The annual analysis of the sector published by Make UK and Santander demonstrates the vital importance of manufacturing to the success of the UK economy overall.

Manufacturing accounts for two-thirds of overall research and development (R&D), almost half (45%) of total exports, and 15% of business investment.

The sector provides 2.7 million jobs – many of which are high value and highly skilled. The latest analysis also smashes the myth that careers in industry are badly paid (something The Manufacturer has long been championing).

6. Offshoring manufacturing same as offshoring pollution

A study revealed that the practice of producing goods abroad essentially amounts to offshoring pollution, with two-thirds of emissions from UK clothing occurring overseas.

The report –  conducted by the University of Nottingham’s Energy Innovation and Collaboration team – found that 47% less emissions are created by manufacturing clothes in the UK, in comparison to a similar operation in an overseas textiles production base.

The academic study into the environmental impact of offshore manufacturing was commissioned by Derbyshire fashion firm David Nieper, as part of its campaign to localise British manufacturing.

deposit cars automotive
The value of automotive exports has grown significantly, with more than 80% of cars produced in 2018 destined for international markets compared with 64% in 1999.

7. UK automotive productivity up 208% since 1999

The UK motor industry’s progress in output and sustainable development was revealed in new data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT’s 20th annual Sustainability Report disclosed the environmental, economic, and social gains achieved by UK automotive businesses over the past two decades, highlighting the substantial improvements in areas such as energy and water use, waste to landfill and CO2 emissions.

8. UK manufacturing sector could be 100% bigger than Govt claims

The economic value of manufacturing is placed at just below 10% of UK GDP, but this figure is based on outdated counting methods and underestimates the sector’s worth by as much as half, claimed a Cambridge University report.

Manufacturing’s relatively small contribution to GDP is misleading, according to the report, with the sector’s share of the economy much higher than the 9% labelled as ‘manufacturing’. In fact, it could be as much as 20%.

“It is essential that policymakers have accurate information on the size of manufacturing sectors in order to develop internationally competitive industrial strategy,” said Dr Eoin O’Sullivan, from Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing, and joint author of the report.

The Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 reflects a surprisingly resilient mood among UK manufacturers- image courtesy of DFC
The Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 reflects a surprisingly resilient mood among UK manufacturers – image courtesy of DFC

9. Annual Manufacturing Report 2019: Some key takeaways

Without spoiling your enjoyment of the Annual Manufacturing Report 2019, here is just a flavour of what we discovered in this comprehensive overview of the sector’s state of mind in what was a critical year.

Three key findings were reflected through much of the report’s findings:

  • The gap between manufacturers’ undoubted enthusiasm for adopting digital technologies and a significant lack of willingness to actually pull the trigger on investment.
  • The sector is largely ‘going for growth’, using the lower exchange rate to grow market share, not pocket some quick profits.
  • The courage and indomitable spirit of businesses to succeed in the face of continued challenges and uncertainty.

10. Operational downtime most common impact of IoT-focused cyberattacks

As connectivity in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) increasingly transforms manufacturing, global research revealed that nearly eight in 10 manufacturers (79%) have suffered some form of IoT cyberattack over the the past 12 months.

With IoT devices continuing to proliferate across critical manufacturing infrastructure, the findings underlined the importance of ensuring that the potential business benefits of IoT can be realised safely.

The research – conducted by Irdeto – also suggested that businesses are aware of where key cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist within their infrastructure, but don’t necessarily have everything they need to address them.


*Unless credited, all images courtesy of DepositPhotos