Why manufacturers must collaborate in order to innovate this year

Posted on 12 Apr 2022 by The Manufacturer

Global uncertainty, Brexit, rising energy prices and post-pandemic fatigue are affecting businesses across the UK. The world has changed, and manufacturers need to work together to tackle these issues, and weather what is to come.

With the current changing industry landscape, as businesses, we need to innovate to stay relevant and thrive. Through innovation in manufacturing, we can meet the needs of consumers whilst maintaining business goals and gaining profit, and in order to prepare for the year ahead, firms can mitigate price rises with zero loss programs and adapting where relevant.

Additionally, succession planning, strong development and career roadmaps, plus a strong employee value proposition is vital in the current climate in order to retain and attract talent in a tough labour market.

At Clearly Drinks we know that innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and sometimes the best thing to do is admit that you don’t have all the answers. Being part of candid, honest networks is imperative to strategic growth and understanding the wider marketplace. As members of the BSDA, we work with them on key issues such as CO2 inflation, other price rises, skills shortages, DRS and packaging tax. This allows us to share skills and knowledge in order to face the challenges collaboratively.

When you are a leader within a business, you’re looked upon to give guidance, and confidence to the team and it can be difficult if you don’t have anyone in turn to ask, but ultimately it can be a lonely place. Creating a trusted network is so important to bounce ideas, share challenges and have someone to listen – I’m fortunate to have worked within operations and engineering at a number of household drinks brands throughout my career and have built a global community of people that I trust enough to share challenges and opportunities with.

There will be some key milestones in 2022 that will offer manufacturers across the UK a chance to adapt and evolve, this includes the Packaging Tax in April, as well as the preparation for DRS Scotland and the new restrictions surrounding HFSS products in the UK, which are expected to come into effect in autumn. The continued rise in inflation adds constant pressure to both businesses and consumers across this and every industry, depending on how inflation shifts throughout the year this could add more pressure as we move forward.

In order to combat the ongoing energy crisis, we have accelerated the need to drive innovation, value engineering and new product development where our aim is to offset and reduce our operating expenses. Inflationary headwinds have seen our cost base increase upwards of 50% in most instances, which has directly correlated with a slight dip in profitability. As this crisis impacts every aspect of the supply chain, from raw material supplies through to the distribution of finished goods to customers it is only through collaboration and innovation that we will continue to grow and succeed.

We have seen the growth of automation in manufacturing over the last few years, and we are expecting to see the continuation of that in 2022 and beyond. With the continued growth of automation in importance, recruiting automation specialists is becoming an increasing requirement, and IT skills and digital knowledge are therefore becoming an increasing priority in manufacturing and recruitment.

This means looking outside of our immediate networks to see who else is already doing these things well and building processes that we can learn from and adapt. Let’s not work in silo, look to the tech startups, the construction firms developing modern methods of construction, or the aerospace industry and see what is possible to solve problems.

If we can create channels of communication that will allow us to share best practices, pain points, and understanding as we face these headwinds and legislations are passed, we will be in a much better position to continue to free up headspace for UK manufacturers to focus on how and where to innovate and invest, rather than getting bogged down trying to answer the same questions.

It’s going to be another complicated year for the sector, but we need to collaborate and learn if we want to drive UK manufacturing forward, together.

About the author

Ian Forrester, COO of Clearly Drinks (1)Ian Forrester is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Clearly Drinks with notable engineering experience within HSE, production, logistics, and strategic planning. Ian has worked within operations and engineering at several household drinks brands throughout his career including Carlsberg Group and Britvic PLC, before taking up his role as operations director at Clearly Drinks in 2019 and then COO in 2021, where he has supported world-class manufacturing implementation at its Sunderland site.