As June 8 looms, we find ourselves at one of the most pivotal points of the 21st century. Throughout the UK and Europe, political, economic and technological developments spell change of epic proportions for the Manufacturing industry that are occurring at a rate far faster than previously predicted. As TS Grale celebrates its first year in operation, we look back at 2016’s predictions, and 2017’s realities, in the Manufacturing industry.
Innovation from uncertainty
Undeniably, last year’s Brexit vote sent shockwaves across all industries. With growth predicted to fall from 1.3% in 2017 to 1.1% in 2018, there looked to be no end in sight for Manufacturing challenges. However, the industry remained positive: in the days before the Autumn Statement, experts gathered to attend The Manufacturers’ Annual Leaders’ Conference where one topic would be on everybody’s lips: Industry 4.0.
Innovation, according to CBI’s Felicity Burch, is the industry’s way of responding to uncertainty by improving productivity, reducing costs and attracting new customers. Where technology is concerned, 2016 saw the start of investment into data analytics, cloud computing and the Internet of Things. UK Manufacturing was beginning to wake up to its need to innovate in order to stay competitive, and this had myriad benefits across many sectors. In the automotive sector, for example, McLaren Applied Technology noted better decision making through increased data streams in their Formula 1 cars.
The Autumn Statement
As 2016 drew to a close, Philip Hammond presented the Autumn Statement, which would see significant investment into the automotive, transport and electronics sectors. Specifically, £390 million would be invested into electric vehicles, £1.1 billion would be invested into local transport networks, and £1 billion would be put towards digital architecture, propelling Britain forward with 5G connectivity. Industry 4.0’s sentiments of improved productivity and communication were to be addressed, while the environmental impacts of modern investment were also considered.
The subsequent Spring Budget appeared to shed little light on further investment for Manufacturing; however it did demonstrate confidence in the potential of individuals. More investment is now being poured into technical education whilst the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund continues to gather pace, and more PhD places are being funded for those working within STEM disciplines.
As automation comes to the fore with self-driving cars and “smart homes”, the concern of job losses is a fair one – but experts assure us that the power still very much lies with the people. Keith Jackson, Chief Technical Officer at Meggitt, says: “Industry 4.0 is not just about optimising your factory; it’s about optimising your people and allowing them to become the best they can possibly be. The future backbone of Manufacturing is built around data, communication and connectivity – the core pillars of Industry 4.0.”
Newly published figures, and indeed Jackson’s very job title, are key indicators of the on-going need for people power across all Manufacturing sectors. Recent survey results from the Purchasing Managers’ Indexing Report saw the UK Manufacturing industry hitting a 30-year high in December 2016. This was coupled with continuously rising employment in Manufacturing, demonstrating the need for skilled workers across all sectors.
Though 2017 will inevitably pose challenges across the entire Manufacturing industry, there is also high cause for optimism. Where 2016’s experts were focusing on the importance of gathering data, in 2017, manufacturers should look forward to pooling the best of UK talent with developing technology to encourage positive upward trends.