This year’s in-depth Annual Manufacturing Report assesses the state of UK manufacturing, looking at everything from skills through to finance, IT and the new technologies of Industry 4.0.
The below is an extract from the foreword to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 by Nick Hussey, CEO of Hennik Research – publishers of The Manufacturer.
When they write the history of the early 21st century, 2016 will surely qualify as one of the most turbulent years the UK has ever experienced, politically and economically.
With the Leave campaign winning the EU referendum and a complete political novice winning the White House (and within weeks beginning to rewrite historic diplomatic relationships with China and Russia), one word has come to characterise the world we now live in: ‘uncertainty’. And as anyone in business will testify, uncertainty is the enemy of planning.
Nevertheless, it is impressive that UK manufacturers have stepped up to the challenge and are coping with remarkable resilience. Some have done even better than that, grasping the unexpected opportunity presented by the pound dropping in value against the dollar post-Brexit to boost their exports; while others have benefitted from their products becoming suddenly competitive against overseas competitors, therefore increasing sales to UK OEMs.
It is against this background that we present our Annual Manufacturing Report 2017. We have surveyed a huge array of companies and their leaders from across the whole manufacturing spectrum, to gauge their mood and discover how prepared they are to navigate whatever the next twelve months chooses to throw at them.
One point of focus emerges very clearly: for all that governments past and present portray themselves as friends of industry, there is a dangerous absence of understanding running like an explosive thread through all policy areas that affect us.
Although we have yet to understand fully what the government of Theresa May is going to do across the full policy spectrum, it was telling that one of their first instincts was to attack the way bad companies are run with no praise for the vast majority of businesses doing the right thing.
The commitment to greater R&D spending is admittedly welcome, but it is simultaneously disturbing that immigration policy will work against the interests of businesses trying to hire much needed talent from overseas – from the EU, or beyond.
Then there is the education system, which stubbornly insists that the yardstick by which success is measured is access to the top universities. We wouldn’t argue with that being a great aspiration, but the fact remains that there are millions of young people for whom a future career depends on strong STEM learning and encouragement from their schools to take technical courses at 16.
The current system works against them and unless there is change, we will experience a very serious shortfall in talent that will hobble UK manufacturing for years to come, no matter what happens on the world stage.
Our grateful thanks to all who took part in our survey, and as always, to our sponsors for their fantastic support.
The Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 is sponsored by Barclays, Columbus, Dell and Intel, and The Manufacturer Thought Leadership Network.