The recent National Manufacturing Conference, organised by MAKE UK (the new name for the EEF, which was announced during the event) highlighted that the UK and the industrial sector face an unparalleled set of challenges and opportunities in the years ahead: Brexit, digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence and the emergence of new markets. How well we deal with them will ultimately reflect our future success as a manufacturing nation.
The predominant message I felt was screaming out at the recent MAKE UK Conference, is that Britain makes amazing things, in vast quantities and of the very best quality. The sector employs 2.6 million people, accounts for 44% of exports and provides 13% of all business investment – these are things to shout about.
As British manufacturing transforms, modernises and adapts to the new environment we should remain optimistic about the prospects ahead of us.
UK manufacturing is back on the global map, due to the brilliance of our companies, which have made such a success of supply chains and the modern marvel of just-in-time logistics.
During these unsettling times, it is easy to forget what we actually do best, and only if we continue to be outward looking to reflect the world class innovation and manufacturing skills we possess, will the UK cope with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.
New digital technologies are rapidly transforming European manufacturing, and investment in 4IR technologies is vital to achieving a step change in UK manufacturing productivity and taking advantage of potential new opportunities.
Although 4IR/ Industry 4.0 has become a phrase we love to hate – looking forward to 2019, manufacturers should continue pursuing their digitalisation goals, but must put a clear focus on investing in the right technology, creating business models for growth and importantly, maintaining and up-skilling their valuable workforces to prepare for this wave of disruptive digital technologies into industry.
As we move through 2019 it will become increasingly clear that manufacturing is key to the UK’s performance on the world stage, and will play an important part in improving the health of the economy as Britain leaves the EU.