Despite popular belief, the manufacturing industry is still one of the most prominent sectors in the UK.
The sector itself accounts for 11% of the GDP of the country while it employs over 2.6 million people. In fact, the UK is the eighth largest industrial nation, and if the positives steps in the manufacturing sector continue, the UK will be in the top five manufacturing countries by 2021.
With Brexit underway and industries in the state of flux, what is the current state of the manufacturing sector?
Key trends from the current state of the manufacturing sector
The rise in recent years has been smart manufacturing. The term smart may also be used interchangeably with ‘intelligent automation’. The increase in digital technology means that manufacturers can automate many more processes and machine learning can help to provide efficient operations and spot errors and assess weaknesses to achieve higher efficiency.
Digital technology can be used in manufacturing in a variety of ways. Digital sensors are a popular choice to increase the level of high-quality data that the business receives. Sensors can analyse data and connect the machine, people and processes to deliver accessible data-driven results for a real-time production picture. The ability to analyse and collect a wealth of data means that manufacturers can work smarter. They are able to increase efficiency and quality all thanks to data.
Smart technology is already in many manufacturing industries with 89% of manufacturers believing that intelligent technologies and having ‘smart factories’ will enable employees to work smarter.
The manufacturing industry in the UK has a majority of SMEs. Finance for small to medium-sized enterprises has always been notoriously difficult since the financial crisis. However, the recent trends show that gaining finance and investment is now easier. Primarily this is due to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer investment.
The investment market has opened up considerably, and instead of jumping through hoops for banks and other large financial institutions, manufacturers can cut out the banking middleman. Crowdfunding allows manufacturers to advertise and market their concepts and ideas and build up the funding from interested parties. These crowdfunding schemes are a great way to see the potential of a product before it is released to a mainstream market.
Peer to peer funding is also helpful to SMEs in the manufacturing industry as, generally, peer to peer funding operates with lower fees and interest rates compared to mainstream banks and other financial institutions.
With astronomical tuition fees, more and more young people are looking for alternatives to the traditional university degree pathway into a career. At the same time, manufacturers are noticing a distinct lack of skilled recruits and the demand for skilled manufacturing workers continues to grow.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of creating skilled recruits for manufacturers while also giving young people an alternative to university study by building up their skills while working. Apprenticeships have been in decline in the last thirty years. However, with the skills shortage becoming so great, there is a change in perception. Now, people believe apprenticeships have just as much respect as an alternative to university. Furthermore, many people think that apprenticeships allow you to climb through the ranks more quickly.
The only drawback of apprenticeships is the government’s standpoint. In fact, 55% of people believe the government is sending mixed messages about apprenticeships. For apprenticeships to succeed, they will need full government support and backing with a clearly defined policy.
It is likely that Brexit will have a very significant role in the manufacturing industry of the UK. However, many manufacturers have opted to continue as they are. With so much uncertainty, businesses are losing profit by holding back and fearing brave new moves. However, the manufacturing industry seems to be taking the approach of being ‘business as usual’.
60% of manufacturers are confident that they will continue to be profitable after Brexit while 40% are worried where their revenue will come from. This is especially relevant for the manufacturers who rely heavily on exporting goods.
For many manufacturers, the concern is that the strategy for industry and manufacturing is being forgotten in the wake of Brexit and without making it a priority, it could see some manufacturers struggle in the future. As 30% of manufacturers do not know how to approach the export market, a defined Brexit plan for the industry with a strategy for manufacturing growth is essential to help the manufacturing industry to thrive in the upcoming years.