Predictions for 2018: Notes from UK manufacturers

The year 2018 has just started, and this is the best time to look into what UK manufacturers expect from the economy and their own business in the next 12 months.


UK production output has reached its highest for a decade, according to ONS - image courtesy of Depostphotos.
UK production output has reached its highest for a decade, according to ONS – image courtesy of Depostphotos.

The government has announced that 2018 will be the ‘Year of Engineering’ as a first crucial step to tackle the increasing skills gap in the UK.

And, a recent survey has shown that 59% of UK manufacturers are expecting business activity to increase over the next 12 months.

Furthermore, it is expected that Britain’s manufacturers are set to benefit from a boom in overseas demand in 2018.

These are only three facts which indicate a positive outlook for manufacturers on the year 2018.

Against the backdrop of those exciting prospects, we have gathered some future predictions on the next 12 months – expressed by UK manufacturers.

Andrew Churchill (L) with apprentices - image courtesy of JJ Churchill.
Andrew Churchill (L) with apprentices – image courtesy of JJ Churchill.

“2018 has to be the year UK manufacturing (and especially supply-chain companies) gets serious about digital and more broadly the 4IR (I include additive manufacture, robotics and autonomous production, AI, VR, data analytics and materials science advances in this). 

“Creation, collation and mastery of the huge amounts of data that almost all manufacturers generate must be used to drive productivity and UK competitiveness. 

“In many instances this will require investment, in which in the current Brexit environment many companies are delaying.  We cannot afford to do this; we are already behind many of our peer-group competitor manufacturing economies and the differential advantages that can accrue is time-bound – we need to act now. 

“In 2018, JJ Churchill will be investing substantially in robotics and closed-loop adaptive machining processes to deliver global cost-competitiveness from a UK manufacturing base.”

Andrew Churchill, managing director at JJ Churchill

“This year will see the continued rise in manufacturers looking for automation and advanced machinery and we fully expect orders for our range of CNC machine tools to feature more turnkey solutions. Every company is looking for that competitive advantage and – from the pipeline of opportunities – it appears they’re not afraid to spend to find it.”

Martin Doyle, managing director at Engineering Technology Group

“I think we’ll see manufacturers continue to push the boundaries for lighter materials, as they look to take the weight out of products, whether that is for the aerospace, automotive or medical sectors. We fully anticipate sales of aluminium and titanium etched parts to increase by 50% in 2018.”

Matthew Snelson, managing director at the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT)

Utility Costs - L to R: Rowan Crozier (Brandauer) with Liam Conway (CEC) at Brandauer in Hockley, Birmingham.
L to R: Rowan Crozier (Brandauer) with Liam Conway (CEC) at Brandauer in Hockley, Birmingham.

“For UK manufacturing to be globally competitive and sustainable, we cannot compete against low wage economies if we just utilise low skilled roles.

“The challenge is for industry to apply automation and technology to production, whilst being innovative and at the cutting edge of product development.

“This will hopefully be the year where UK industry uplifts skills in its existing workforce and encourage new employees into engineering at apprentice and mature levels.”

Rowan Crozier, CEO of Brandauer and member of The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN)

“I think we’ll see manufacturers continue to push the boundaries for lighter materials, as they look to take the weight out of products, whether that is for the aerospace, automotive or medical sectors. We fully anticipate sales of aluminium and titanium etched parts to increase by 50% in 2018.”

Ian Whateley, managing director at Advanced Chemical Etching

“The next twelve months will see Industry 4.0 go from being a buzz word of the few to a vital part of industry. Every firm – whether employing 20 people or 10,000 – are looking to gain better real time control of their processes and Blum has a big role to play in this by giving manufacturers the opportunity to ‘live’ measure and adjust through the roll-out of our Digilog technology.”

David Mold, managing director at Blum-Novotest

Image L to R: Laura McBrown, George McBrown and Kate Sharp (all G&B Electronic Designs Ltd).
Image L to R: Laura McBrown, George McBrown and Kate Sharp (all G&B Electronic Designs Ltd).

“We are seeing components, including standard common items such as resistors and capacitors, going out on eye watering lead times with no expected let up until Q4 of this year. 

“Our opinion is that any part beyond 26 weeks cannot be relied upon.  With this in mind we consider this to be the biggest risk to sales growth in what is currently looking like a very positive year for manufacturing. 

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for OEM’s to be speaking with their suppliers about their 2018 requirements and get their supply chains secured.

“Other expectations for this year include a focus on “servitization” within supply chains for productivity improvements and closer scrutiny of packaging waste and materials.  Consumer buying habits are changing and I believe there will be an extra expectation on manufacturers for “responsible packaging solutions.”

Laura McBrown, managing director at G&B Electronics

“Analogous to the Levy in 2017, the impact of the imminent GDPR legislation is only just beginning to be appreciated by many UK manufacturers.  Again, like the Levy, it’s a legislative change and like most changes of this nature, that incurs unwelcome administrative burden and cost – after all, we really just want to get on and ‘make’.

“But, the penalties for non-compliance are potentially huge and the communication of the changes has been weak.  GDPR, and achieving the readiness it demands, could prove to be one of the major headaches for manufacturers in 2018 unless we and our suppliers get ready now.”

Andrew Churchill, managing director at JJ Churchill

“At Salop Design, we have ambitious growth plans for this year, we have already invested over £200,000 in new equipment to enable us to manufacture fabrications and larger assemblies. We have a vision to take grow our turnover, sustainably, and create more jobs.

We certainly do not fear what Brexit holds, in fact we embrace the chances that will come our way. We need to make and buy British, we need to invest in jobs and train a skilled workforce, and we need to be optimistic for what the future holds.”

Chris Greenough, commercial director at Salop Design & Engineering

“As we look forward to 2018, a further increase of c50% in manufacturing rates on the F35 Programme will bring opportunities for BAE Systems and its extended supply chain in the UK.  The continued success of Hawk and Typhoon sales in the international markets will continue to sustain manufacturing on these two key product lines.

“Finally, our continued development and exploitation of new technologies across our manufacturing activities will re-inforce our global manufacturing credentials, helping to position our products to succeed in a highly competitive market place.”

David S Holmes, manufacturing director, BAE Systems – Air