James Pozzi speaks to five figures from UK manufacturing to get their industry wishes for 2014.
Terry Scuoler is chief executive of manufacturers organisation EEF.
“By the end of 2014 there are three main areas where we must see measurable progress from policy makers. The first is a significant improvement in the standard of debate on the UK’s relationship with the European Union; we must see the UK taking the lead to secure tangible economic gains for the UK and other member states – by refocusing discussion on trade, innovation, single market completion and a coherent and systematic reduction of red tape.
“Government must, secondly, address one of the key risks for UK businesses – the rising cost of energy. By the end of this year the UK must set out a realistic framework of achieving a cost effective goal to address climate change and other environmental regulations. A framework that works with the grain of business and fully addresses the fundamental issue of competitiveness for manufacturers; one that supports rather than hinders new investment plans.
“Finally, progress on reforming the skills landscape must continue apace. Industry has been struggling with skills shortages for too long and this must be the year that the foundations of a long-term, stable and responses skills system take shape.”
Jason Pitt is managing director of Made in the Midlands, which promotes world class industry in the region.
“In years to come, 2013 will be looked back upon as the renaissance of manufacturing. It proved to the public at large that we do still make product and subsequently after years of negativity, there has been a demonstrable shift as the media and politicians alike have fallen back in love with industry.
“The Midlands remains the hub of much of this activity but for it to be sustainable manufacturers must combine their traditional reputation, built up over nearly 300 years, with a commitment to world class production, quality and innovation. There is a need to work smarter, to embrace the bigger picture and diversify.
“Ultimately, conditions and cost pressures remain as fierce as ever, although there appears to be a weakness in the emerging markets, with China and India not proving as cheap as was first thought. In some cases logistical problems and poor quality have increased the initial price.
“Manufacturers have real grounds for optimism in 2014 and although we have more challenges to face, these can be more than matched by opportunities in what is now a truly global marketplace, regardless of the market you operate in. Our wish is for manufacturers to have the confidence to embrace evolution and the challenges that come with it. In doing so they can benefit from the considerable opportunities on offer.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive at SMMT, which supports and promotes the interests of the UK automotive industry.
“There is tremendous momentum behind the UK automotive sector, with car volumes expected to surpass 1.5 million – the highest volume since 2007. With manufacturing helping lead the UK economy out of recession, the support given to industry by government must not diminish as other sectors – especially financial services – begin to grow again.
“Manufacturing in general – and the auto sector specifically – is vital to the UK economy; a fact recognised last year with the publication of the joint government-industry Automotive Sector Strategy. With cross-government and cross-party support for the industry, the strategy is now about delivery. This is a long term project with a 10-year commitment in place for more than £1 billion to be invested across UK automotive manufacturing. That investment must be matched with a range of wider policies to support the sector.
“Top of the list is the need for more engineers and more young people into our industry. The many thousands of jobs that are set to be created on the back of the recent multi-billion manufacturing investment announcements must be filled urgently. Around 720,000 people are currently employed across the automotive sector, but this needs to grow by 100,000 between now and 2020. Initiatives such as See Inside Manufacturing are good at raising awareness of our sector but we have to inspire more people into STEM subjects and engineering disciplines.
“With such investment comes opportunities for the UK supply chain. Long-neglected, now is the time to bolster the UK capabilities to take advantage of the £3 billion worth of opportunity that is currently met from suppliers. For 2014, we want to ensure supply chain companies have the best possible chance to grab a larger share of this growing market.”
David Brimelow is managing director of Manchester polythene manufacturer Duo UK.
“Our wish for the year ahead is to see the government do more to support British manufacturing. Where commercially viable, sourcing British made goods does not only support the individual manufacturer, but provides a welcome boost to the local economy, supports the local jobs market and other supporting local industries.
“We urge the government to make prioritising British suppliers and producers a New Year resolution for 2014. Our campaign has already won the support of labour shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna and in a recent survey we commissioned, involving more than 1,000 purchasing professionals, 70 per cent of UK PLC were seen to be behind the bid.
“The second half of 2013 was particularly strong for the manufacturing sector, with encouraging figures announced on January 2 in the December Markit Report confirming operating conditions, expansion in production, job creation and, increasingly, the domestic market are all continuing to perform well. From this starting point we can take an optimistic view for 2014, however in order to maintain momentum we have to collectively commit to a reform in purchasing strategies. With the arrival of the New Year we look ahead to what we hope will be a great year for British manufacturers.”
Antony Bourne is global industry sales director at ERP provider IFS.
“According to Gartner, shipments of 3D Printers will skyrocket this year. This is something I’m really excited about, and I’d like to see manufacturers embracing the technology’s full potential in 2014.
“To date I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what it can offer – for example, imagine if we could ship products with a 3D printer so spares can be printed on-site instead of waiting for delivery. Users could pay to download a blueprint for the desired parts, eliminating large parts of the supply chain and allowing manufacturers to become service providers.
“The risk is that, with the ability to reproduce something that used to require trained individuals or complex machinery, the need for traditional manufacturing processes could disappear. But that’s where operating as a service comes in, ensuring manufacturers remain useful, profitable and in-demand. Those who grasp this opportunity now will prosper in the future, and with this in mind I think 3D printing could reinvent and revitalise the UK manufacturing industry.
“There are also fears a black market for blueprints could emerge, where manufacturers suffer from illegal downloads in the same way the music and film industries have, but the powers that be can nip this in the bud early on by taking a zero tolerance stance with those who try it.”