31 May Manufacturing is where the development happens!

Chief Executive Dr Pam Murrell was invited and attended the ‘National Manufacturing Debate – Leadership and Investment for Manufacturing Skills at Cranfield University.This was an interesting event, with very topical subjects which are relevant to the UK Cast Metals Industry. Here is a short summary of the debate including some key areas that were discussed.

Professor Lord Alec Broers FREng, welcomed around 200 attendees to the 2017 National Manufacturing Debate organised and hosted by Professor Rajkumar Roy, Director of Manufacturing, Cranfield University.

“Manufacturing remains very important to the UK”, said Lord Broers, former Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and chairman of the board of directors of the Diamond Light Source. “The UK is a leading nation for research but we also need development. Development very different to research”, he said, “as this is the work required to make a product viable, followed then by the implementation phase to make it sustainable, efficient and cost effective. This happens within manufacturing and is where the great advances take place”.

He reminded delegates that development needs very bright people – to evolve a process or an idea, and a wide range of skills and expertise – logistics, market knowledge, environmentalists, materials specialists etc. The essential role of manufacturing requires skills and leadership – the theme of the day’s debate.

Prof John Loughhead, Government Chief Scientific Advisor, BEIS, then further emphasised the strategic importance of manufacturing to the UK’s economy – the fact that over 2000 separate responses were received to the recent consultation on the government’s industrial strategy shows how important the subject is to industry.

Manufacturing cuts across and underpins all the other sectors that are being investigated and worked upon – such as digital industrialisation, autonomous vehicles etc. It is in a state of constant evolution, with new developments and innovations, and the pace of change in increasing. “The development of the industrial strategy”, he said, “is not the role of government but has to be owned, developed and implemented by industry”. He urged industry to take this opportunity to take a lead in the partnership with government through the Sector Deals – which are an opportunity for those in the sectors to develop their ideas, identify policies and their needs and then to advise government how to invest effectively.

Prof Rajkumar Roy, Director of Manufacturing then presented the results of two reports that the University had recently conducted.

The first report presented during the debate was entitled “UK Manufacturing Growth and its Economic Contribution 2016”.   As Professor Roy explained, this white paper presented facts about growth in UK manufacturing, identifying inhibitors and enablers to that growth, proposes an Extended Manufacturing Growth Index, and reports the Manufacturing Well-Being Profile for 2016.

The key conclusions from this research can be summarised as:

  1. Top 5 enablers for the UK manufacturing growth over the last 25 years are high domestic demand, high export demand, low interest rates, strong transport and motor vehicles industry and weak pound.
  2. Top 5 inhibitors for the UK manufacturing growth over the last 25 years are strong pound, weak overseas demand, high interest rates, recession in the UK and global economic slowdown.
  3. The list of enablers and inhibitors has changed over time. Although export, interest rates and value of pound affect the growth most, there are other factors that have significantly impacted the growth adversely as well: high price of oil, low inflation, lack of investment opportunities and high taxation.
  4. UK Manufacturing includes companies providing design, make and support activities. An extended manufacturing index based on the design-make-support framework is proposed to measure modern manufacturing contribution to the national economy.
  5. UK Manufacturing economic contribution is currently under-valued by around £50 billion per year.
  6. Based on the extended manufacturing definition, UK Manufacturing has contributed around £208 billion to the economy in 2014, and that is 13.5% of the UK economy. This is around 3.3% higher than the traditional view of manufacturing contribution around 10.2%.
  7. The ship, boat and aircraft sector shows the highest growth between 2008 and 2015.
  8. Compared with other industrial sectors, the UK Manufacturing sector has maintained its lead achieving a high score on mental health of employees in the Manufacturing Well-Being profile 2016 (based on 2015 data). It is also observed that the proportion of number of jobs in manufacturing compared with other sectors has increased during this period.
  9. On the other hand, the 2016 well-being profile shows increase (compared to 2015 profile) in non-fatal accidents in manufacturing compared to other sectors. Similarly, the environmental impact of manufacturing has increased in the year compared to last year.
  10. UK Manufacturing growth should contribute more to the economy along with the

well-being of the work force and the environment.

The full report may be read at:


The second was a study entitled “UK Manufacturing Skills Shortage, Leadership and Investment”. This new work reveals key skills shortages within manufacturing. Leadership, innovation and management are all non-technical skills, frequently cited as lacking within the manufacturing sector. The report also revealed shortages of technical skills in the areas of robotics and artificial intelligence, software skills, data analysis and electronic and electrical engineering as well as shortages in skilled machine operators.

The report can be accessed via: https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/~/media/files/nmd2017whitepaperfinal.ashx

The information for the report was gathered after a systematic review and analysis of over 350 reports from Government, trade NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) and the media and revealed that 62% of reports mentioned a shortage of skills in robotics and artificial intelligence, 55% reveal a shortage of data analysis skills and 46% reveal a shortage of innovative skills.

The report points to five key reasons for skills shortages within manufacturing:

  • Young people in the UK have less interest in manufacturing related subjects;
  • Female employment in manufacturing is far less than male employment;
  • The perception that employees have lower income in the manufacturing sector;
  • The lack of applicants with the right skills to fill open posts; and
  • UK manufacturing has an ageing workforce which needs replacements quickly.

Analysis has also revealed that responsibility for addressing the skills shortage is not clearly defined, with employers looking to Government and Government looking to employers to address the issue.

Areas of particular skills shortages include supply chain management, communications, systems engineering, production engineering, software/IT, control and instrumentation as well as awareness and understanding of Industry 4.0, with skills needed in data analytics and sensor networks.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Employers to work closely with Universities and Schools to design the curriculum
  • Government should encourage strategic use of the ‘apprenticeship levy’
  • Educational and engineering institutions should work together to raise awareness of manufacturing careers
  • Improvements should be made in the quality of manufacturing apprenticeships
  • Strategic overseas recruitment for short term to plug current skills gaps
  • All stakeholders of manufacturing should work together to tackle this sector wide challenge

Allan Cook, Chairman, Atkins agreed that not enough young people are being inspired to enter engineering and in his view we are now in a CRISIS! The government stated targets for manufacturing and productivity gains cannot be met due to the skills shortages that persist.

Mary Brand, VP and General manager for Coty Manufacturing UK Ltd spoke about the search for talent and the need to look to all opportunities through creating a sense of urgency, from apprenticeships to interns from University in areas such as Process Engineers, QA and Planning roles as well as gap year students – where her company has successfully brought in new skills in 3D printing and SolidWorks as well as the development of a robotic teaching cell – all led by new talent. Communication and them empowerment to act on the vision has been vital, with consolidation to build on the gains.

The difficulties for smaller companies was also emphasised by Mike Rigby, Head of Manufacturing for Barclays. Whereas the macro economic factors are very positive for investment and innovation presently, management stretch and the availability of the right labour remains an issue. For a small company to have the relevant skills required at Board level that are the enablers for a successful company – leadership, skills, labour, strategy, finance, not to mention the newer topics such as cyber-crime, additive manufacturing, energy, internet of things can be very challenging.   Board rooms skills of experience, depth of knowledge, track record, networks and advisors – in SMEs this can be down to one person!

Launching the White Paper, UK Manufacturing Skills Shortages during the debate, Professor Rajkumar Roy said, “We must implement industry, school and university collaboration to design the teaching curriculum, so that what is being taught reflects the latest developments in manufacturing.” He recommended that progress should be monitored on this through OFSTED for schools and the Teaching Excellence Framework for universities. “This analysis, he said, “shows that the sector faces some key challenges in skills development that will have long-term implications for manufacturing productivity in the UK. Our report highlights a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for tackling this skills deficit with employers looking to Government and the Government looking to employers. All of us involved in manufacturing, industry, schools and universities, must work together, as a matter of urgency to address this critical skills shortage.”





Ben Hale