With growing uncertainty associated with current world events, supply chain disruption and an ongoing skills shortage, to name but a few challenges, the future of manufacturing is a topic that’s firmly under the spotlight.
John Pearce, CEO at Made in Britain, and Jonathan Orme, Sales Operations & Marketing Manager at Exel Computer Systems (and Made in Britain member), offered their insights at Smart Factory Expo 2022.
What does the road ahead look like for industry?
JO: There is a lot of uncertainty but overall, what we’re seeing is really positive for manufacturing. This is especially true for small and medium sized companies, who are very positive and upbeat about the future. We’re seeing this in our sales conversations with these companies, who are actively investing right now, which is testament to their business sentiment.
JP: We have members across 50 different product sectors. Digital manufacturing, which is where Jonathan and Exel fit in, is just one element. I would say when you see a room like this, full of manufacturing enthusiasts, the beauty is that they are pathological optimists. And they have to be as it’s a really resilient sector. We’re seeing construction products doing extremely well at the moment. There’s also a lot of support for engineering, what with the move towards a greener future. It’s something of a revival.
Despite all the challenges they’ve faced, Britain’s manufacturers have shown time and again just how resilient they are, and they’re driving forward economic improvements as a result.
Have challenges caused delays in the adoption of new technologies?
JO: I don’t think the brakes have been put on. Rather, I believe it’s made many companies realise that they need to be efficient and one way to help achieve that is to invest in new technology, which is what we’re seeing.
JP: For manufacturers, net zero waste is almost the most important thing they must achieve. After all, you cannot send raw materials off your premises without adding value to them. And I think the support they get at an event like this, where we’re seeing how tech can actually offer support towards a greener, more sustainable future, means this is a really interesting opportunity for British manufacturing to turn that story into one to tell the world.
Made in Britain recently celebrated its tenth anniversary last year and you’ve got some new additions to the board…
JP: Yes, we’ve got some ambitious plans to double our membership in the next few years. We’d like to represent more than 2,000 members. While it’s a lot of members to represent with the official Made in Britain mark, we’ve expanded our board. We’ve brought in some industrial and retail specialists, plus volunteers from our membership. They’ll be joining the board of directors, and we’re going to put together a strategy so that we can double the amount of businesses that have been represented in this way.
There are several export trends that are taking place at the moment. Are you able to share some of your members’ challenges and success stories?
JP: We’ve got an export programme for our members, and monitor this quite carefully. Seven out of ten of our members are already exporting to at least one country, which highlights the fact it’s an important priority.
Some businesses are experiencing hurdles when it comes to getting small parcels containing samples into Europe. If you can’t send a sample, then you can’t sell if you’re a manufacturer. However, I think the net impact of Brexit on exports remains to be seen. I don’t think we’ll see the real situation for a while, but I do think exporting manufactured products is part of the solution.
Emphasising the high quality products that British manufacturers produce, which inevitably last a long time, is an important role that the government has to recognise. At Made in Britain, we’re very supportive of export growth.
In 2023, Smart Factory Expo will become part of Manufacturing & Engineering Week, held at the NEC in Birmingham on 7-8 June. Manufacturing & Engineering Week brings the entire community together for a festival of innovation featuring a dynamic, interactive series of digital and live events to inspire, inform and entertain.
Discover what the immersive, tech-driven event will hold in 2023 and how this will be a memorable experience for all those involved.
Visit www.mandeweek.co.uk to find out more.