James Selka DL
CEO, Manufacturing Technologies Association
If the UK manufacturing sector is to recover quickly from the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, much will depend on the durability of its complex supply chains.
The complex nature of manufacturing supply chains makes them more vulnerable than most to the effects of a global shutdown, such as that experienced during the pandemic.
Reshaping supply chain models with a more sustainable thread is therefore highly desirable, while the ability to manufacture our own critical goods such as vaccines, medical equipment and defence products will be of vital importance to the nation’s ability to bounce back.
Several industries, especially automotive and aerospace, have been significantly affected by the pandemic and will continue to rely on innovation and agility to secure their long-term future.
Planning for recovery, manufacturers have had to ask some tough questions about how robust their supply chains are. Even before the pandemic and with Brexit looming, many had looked to regain greater control over their operations by reshoring increasing parts of their supply. This continues to be enabled by sophisticated and powerful manufacturing technologies that drive us towards greater viability of producing to demand. Lower miles and less waste all adds up to a welcome and important step towards net zero.
Having surety over supply will be a key factor in how quickly the industry is able to recover. The successful vaccine programme and the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions mean the UK is in a better position than most to resume full production. Allied to its reputation for producing quality goods, the picture is more optimistic than it was looking in the final quarter of 2020.
A further determining factor in the speed of recovery will be the ability of manufacturers to enhance their production efficiency to make step changes in their competitiveness. Automated processes are becoming more widespread and advances in machine tool design, metrology and allied software mean production gains can be more readily attained.
Let us encourage UK manufacturers to seize this arguably once-in-a-generation opportunity, to invest in new technologies.
With Brexit and the pandemic understandably affecting investment confidence, delayed decisions about upgrading production capabilities were inevitable. But the Super-Deduction stimulus announced by the Chancellor in his spring Budget could incentivise many firms to bring forward their investment decisions.
The Manufacturing Technologies Association, which organises the MACH exhibition, is already seeing considerable interest from suppliers for its 2022 event, many keen to exploit the benefits offered by the new scheme.
Let us encourage UK manufacturers to seize this arguably once-in-a-generation opportunity, to invest in new technologies and develop their workforces to leapfrog our international competitors, thereby accelerating our economic recovery for everyone’s benefit.