UK manufacturers have faced a challenging time lately with global economies demonstrating a slowdown and the sector facing an extended period of uncertainty following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. says Dave Atkinson, UK head of manufacturing at Lloyds Bank.
Recent manufacturing performance however has remained buoyant, albeit bolstered more recently through continued stockpiling which has led to increased demand for the domestic supply chains in stark contrast to the slowdown in exporting. The sector, however, continues to demonstrate great resilience, agility and its usual determination to succeed with business leaders’ hands nudging the tiller of their ships as they navigate ongoing stormy waters of uncertainty.
They also tell us that availability of skills remains a challenge and with employment at a fifty year high, we are starting to see real wage growth, with firms competing in a finite skills market adding a further challenge of rising costs to the sectors performance.
Knowing how important confidence of access to finance is to the sector, we have also extended our £1bn per annum commitment of new lending to manufacturers. This public commitment, which we are on track to deliver, will help businesses to achieve growth, fund equipment, working capital and facility upgrades and finance wider investment objectives.
But it isn’t just about financial investment. Developing the next generation of manufacturing engineers is crucial to ensuring we’ve got a pipeline of talent ready to run and elevate the industry in the decades to come. That’s why we have now doubled our commitment at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry with a £10m sponsorship to support the training and upskilling of 3500 apprentices, graduates and engineers by 2024.
It is these apprentices and graduates that will be leading the charge on Industry 4.0, the digitalisation of manufacturing bringing fresh ideas and new thinking to the sector.
Manufacturing is constantly evolving and investment in manufacturing intelligent automation, robotics, 3D printing, using data more effectively and adoption of other new technologies will help to unlock the benefits of this 4th industrial revolution; we run the risk of falling behind unless we encourage industry to act now before its too late.
These topic’s remain a key theme for MACH 2020, the manufacturing conference scheduled to be once again held in Birmingham in April next year and once again sponsored by Lloyds Bank, representing a decade of support to the sector through our partnership with the Manufacturing Technologies Association who run the show.
Last year at MACH 2018, we learnt about manufacturers that are already harnessing the power of Industry 4.0 to increase productivity and boost innovation and we expect to see an even bigger focus on these areas at next year’s flagship event for manufacturers.
Manufacturing was a strong performing part of the UK economy in 2018, indeed regardless of the softening outlook it remains the engine room of economic prosperity creating jobs, generating almost half of all the UK exports and being responsible for around three quarters of the business Research and Development spend in the UK.
The sector’s future prosperity now depends on investment, innovation and ambition and Lloyds Bank remains fully committed to supporting the sector, regardless of what the future holds.