How is the UK manufacturing finance function changing?

Posted on 3 May 2018 by Tim Coulthard

The role of the Finance Director in British industry is changing – in response to new approaches to risk management, capital investment and innovation.

James Dyson, Jaguar Land Rover

UK manufacturing is at a crossroads. A fast-moving external environment with a dramatically-changing risk profile; changing capital requirements as manufacturers shift towards more collaborative supplier relationships, as well as more direct relationships with end users; and a once-in-a-generation digital transformation of process and systems.

These three overlapping shifts have profound implications for the role of the Finance Director in UK manufacturing – forcing them to relook their approach to risk, capital and innovation, the three areas of focus of the upcoming Manufacturing Finance Summit (16 May, Oxford).

According to James Dyson, responsible for finance systems at Jaguar Land Rover, the finance team has to change the way it works: “To improve the margins of new products the finance team has to work more closely with design and R&D.” This marks a significant change in the finance function. “Finance and manufacturing really need to work in greater harmony in order to improve NPD/NPI.”

Ryan McCormick, Head of Manufacturing with Xaar, agrees. The manufacturer of industrial digital inkjet printheads, believes that finance teams are being required to expand their skillsets: “Finance innovation is most exciting for me when predictive analytics and data science helps us to improve planning capacity.”

“Data is helping manufacturing businesses streamline their finance functions in real time,” adds Martin Leeming, CEO of Lancashire-based TrakRap, a provider of packaging and wrapping solutions.

A case in point is the recent experience of Caterpillar Skinningrove. Located near Teeside, the facility is part of the Remanufacturing and Components Division, producing steel track shoes that perform the ‘Cat track’ found on hydraulic excavators. A lot of metal goes into the plant’s output, exposing the operations to a lot of commodity and currency risk, reveals Neil Anderson, Managing Director of Caterpillar Skinningrove: “Real time information on foreign exchange markets means our procurement costs are always minimised,” he notes.

Belinda Smith, Finance Director of fast-growing Agrimech, echoes this: “Finance innovation is about squeezing more efficiencies out of our operations to improve cashflow.”

The above executives are among the speakers at the Manufacturing Finance Summit, being held in Oxford on 16 May – the only UK conference dedicated to the manufacturing finance function.

Registration details can be found here.