Companies & Industries
Driving the next industrial revolution?
- Issue 3
Simon Griffiths, Manufacturing Advisory Service’s area director for the North and West, examines why Shropshire is helping power a renaissance in English manufacturing
The ‘March of the Makers’ is gathering pace. It hasn’t been easy and there have been casualties along the way, but the good news is that English manufacturing appears to be back in ‘vogue’ and growing across both traditional and emerging sectors.
Supply issues from China/India and other low-cost bases has played its part in the power shift returning, and it’s also fair to say that a favourable exchange rate had helped to make our domestic companies 30 per cent more competitive overseas.
Even with rates creeping back up it has given firms the opportunity to demonstrate their quality and retain orders.
However, it would be doing a disservice to the thousands of manufacturers that have successfully come through the worst recession in living memory if we didn’t mention their role in the revival.
MDs, who have been quoted as saying ‘orders just fell off a cliff, overnight!’, worked tirelessly to identify ways in which their companies could evolve in order to thrive again. It’s no surprise that most business plans featured the words value added, design and innovation.
And this attitude has been rewarded. Led by the universal success of Jaguar Land Rover, the UK has seen nearly £6bn of new investments flow into its once beleaguered automotive sector.
JLR’s decision to base it’s new engine plant at the foot of the M54 started things off, and this has been quickly followed by BMW’s expansion at Hams Hall, Nissan building the Qashqai in Sunderland, and the new Astra set for production at Ellesmere Port. The latter has already safeguarded in excess of 2,000 direct jobs.
The SMMT, in a recent news story, is even confident the UK can pass 2 million cars being produced on its shores by 2015, beating the previous high of 1.92m in 1972.
But it’s not just automotive that is thriving. There have been significant investments and advancements in medical, aerospace, marine and, importantly renewables.
Backed by government initiatives, ‘green’ manufacturing has become big business and everything is being done to make England a great location for world leaders to come here. Siemens’ decision to build a £210m wind turbine factory in Hull is an early sign that we’re getting it right.
Over 2.5 million people are employed in manufacturing in England, accounting for £137bn of national GVA.
It is playing a massive role in helping to bring the economy out of recession and thankfully is getting the type of backing and dedicated support it needs through ourselves and other bodies.
Time are still tough and every contract is a major battle. The good news is we are more often than not winning the battle!
Shropshire is helping to drive the ‘March of the Makers’ in some style, with hundreds of companies involved in different forms of manufacturing.
These firms employ in excess of 12,000 people, which accounts for more than 11 per cent of local employment.
Reassuringly, our latest Barometer survey shows that confidence is extremely high for the future, with 62 per cent of local companies seeing a rise in turnover in the last six months, with 73 per cent expecting further growth between now and the end of the year – the highest of all the areas in England.
The survey also revealed that 46 per cent of companies are planning to create jobs with more than half admitting they were planning to invest in premises and machinery.
These figures show there is a real determination for growth and that will continue to come from international orders.
The enhanced Manufacturing Advisory Service was launched earlier this year and provides support to help manufacturers improve and grow.
Funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, its team of highly skilled advisors deliver on the ground assistance to streamline processes, reduce waste, increase productivity, implement strategy and boost sales.
There is a fantastic support network in Shropshire that manufacturers can tap into and we urge them to contact our hotline on 0845 658 9600 in the first instance.
Shropshire Chamber of Commerce is also a key driver in the economic performance of the sector, and we have a host of excellent academic resources to assist with developing new technologies and products.
The Warwick Manufacturing Group recently launched the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation, something that is going to benefit SMEs in our region immensely.
So the powerhouse that brought us the industrial revolution appears to be stirring again. It’s leaner, meaner, more agile and committed to becoming the brains behind the future of global manufacturing.