UK manufacturing is buoyant and taking off, says logistics director

The Manufacturer chatted with Bernard Molloy, global industrial director for Unipart Aftermarket Logistics about the state of manufacturing in the UK and why he is looking forward to speaking at The Manufacturer Leaders conference in November.

Molloy has over 40 years of experience managing and strategically advising companies.

Bernard Molloy has more than 40 years of experience managing and strategically advising companies in the warehousing, logistics and materials handling industries.

Unipart Logistics is part of the global Unipart Group of Companies, operating in market sectors such as retail, technology, manufacturing, consumer, automotive, industrial, defence & aerospace, rail, financial services and healthcare. The Group turnover exceeds £1.1bn.

Molloy recently spoke to The Manufacturer about the current state of UK manufacturing and his expectations around The Manufacturer Leaders Conference in Liverpool in November.

How would you describe the current state of UK manufacturing?

Extremely buoyant, and that brings its own problems. The UK from a manufacturing point of view is taking off. The problem is availability of labour, and the appropriate skills, it has got a lot of challenges.

What had to be done to change the situation? 

To be honest, it is a little too late. We have problems because successive governments have not provided the appropriate training and skills base. This is putting supply chains at risk, because of shortage of labour and the shortage of skills.

We are in a good position, but we should be in a better position, than we are, if we had encouraged more vocational skills rather than people going to university.

What would you describe as being challenging or hindering for future growth?

The visibility in supply chain with digitisation is going to improve, it is whether or not the UK can keep up with the rest of the world, who have a lead on us.

If we can improve visibility, we can improve the appropriate skills and take risk out of the supply chain; car and construction and equipment manufacturers who have a very short tact time, are often let down by the fact that second, third and fourth-tier suppliers are not robust enough with lack of visibility in there own supply chain, digital visibility will improve this.

So, while the major automobile manufacturers are doing very well, they can be let down by smaller suppliers.

Bernard Molloy will be a keynote speaker at The Manufacturer Leaders Conference in Liverpool in November. 

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The way around it is, that people further down the supply chain need support of the major OEM’s, in terms of supply development, the new Digital World will make this much better.

It is in the interest of these people to make sure that their suppliers are more robust, it is not just about price. It is a about quality and a guarantee of performance.

Strategic partnerships are a way forward, rather than the purchasing department screwing companies down at the best price. Making sure that it is not just about price, it is about the overall long-term strategic relationship and a collaborative partnership.

Why are you excited about speaking at this year’s The Manufacturer Leaders Conference?

It gives me the opportunity, to raise the question that business leaders like myself should be very vocal in actual telling Government to get the act together. We had successive ministers of trade and ministers of education, who have been told about this but they have done little.

Apprenticeships are now credible. Lost generations of people coming from single parents’ families or families who have not been in an employment for several generations, and bearing in mind that manufacturing has got a sort of poor reputation, we must get into schools and collages and make children aware before their teenage years, we must look after them.

If people realise they could have real apprenticeship, instead of leaving school or whatever, they would realise then they would have a very fulfilled long-term life in a vocational skill.

Skills Apprenticeships Apprenticeship Apprentices Workers Manufacturing Stock Image

Siemens for example regards apprenticeships as an investment, which would pay back over 27 years. And actually, the apprenticeships start paying for themselves after two years, and when you are an apprentice, you never stop learning, so it is a life time of learning if that makes sense.

Whereas if you went to university, there is a good chance that when you qualify, there isn’t a particular job available you, and you walk away with a huge depth which you can’t pay back.

Whereas with vocational skills, you can work your way through, and you don’t need to go to university, you can still graduate later on, but without the debt, that’s what employers are looking for. Employers are looking boys and girls, that have got the personality and the perseverance to run the course.

What will the audience learn from your discussion at the Leaders conference?

I think they will be surprised, how strong the North of England is in terms of manufacturing, if you look at the Engineer Employers Federation figures, most people would think that the heart of manufacturing is in the West Midlands, but in truth, the West-Midlands is £16,4bn of GVA, whereas the North West, £23,7bn GVA.

So, manufacturing is doing very well, but manufacturing in the North-West is steaming ahead.

What are you hoping to learn from the two-day event?

All about digitisation and how to take risks out of the supply chain.