British manufacturing forging ahead despite political headwinds

Earlier in the year we reported on the quarter 2 figures in the regular survey by manufacturing lobby group EEF in partnership with leading accountancy firm BDO.  It was interesting to note that UK manufacturing did surprisingly well in April, May and June, despite three months of unhelpful political upheavals and economic uncertainty.  As part of that industry sector, designing and making a wide variety of custom metal desks, shelves, birdfeeders, shopfittings and component parts, we’re delighted that that this strong performance has continued – despite an escalation of the turbulence and hot air coming from Westminster and Brussels.

While the politicians flounder manufacturing businesses thrive

Uncertainty is not good for business – it makes it hard to plan, invest and operate with confidence.  In quarter 2 UK manufacturers had plenty to contend with, thanks to the early rounds of the Brexit negotiations and six weeks of electioneering following Theresa May’s ill-judged decision to go to the country in search of a stronger mandate and bigger majority.

In quarter 3 the uncertainty, if anything, ramped up.  The election result has had many alarming consequences for the business community.  We now have a clipped government with a very slender majority and a Prime Minister struggling to assert their authority. Many are now bracing themselves for the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn at number 10 Downing Street, with John McDonnell at number 11 – which will not be a welcome prospect for many British business owners and managers.  What’s more, the slow progress of the negotiations between David Davis and his EU counterparts have increased the likelihood of a “no-deal” outcome on trade, another scenario that is very bad news for our economy, especially the manufacturing sector.

Despite all the external challenges facing British manufacturers over July, August and September we have proved remarkably unfazed by these distractions.  This is testament to the resilience of the sector and the quality of the products.  The EEF/BDO manufacturing survey shows that over half the companies surveyed over the quarter reported increased levels of output.  Equally encouraging, this positive performance was evident across almost all the sub-sectors, including base metals, metal products, mechanical, electrical, electronics, rubber & plastics, transport and other miscellaneous sectors.  The overall outturn this quarter exceeded most expectations at the start of the period.

Exports, exports, exports

What explains this excellent performance?  The answer, it appears, lies overseas. Political upheavals at home have had much less bearing on matters than the economic activity in foreign markets.  The number of businesses reporting an increase in export orders has mounted an impressive recovery over the first nine months of 2017, rising from -2% in the last quarter of the previous year to +33% in the last three months.  Most sectors covered by the survey were pretty bullish about the export prospects, with basic metals, mechanical and electrical sub-sectors riding particularly high on this export wave.

In terms of financial performance the report highlights a number of positives.  Some manufacturers are rebuilding margins if they are able to take advantage of the lower value of the pound to boost profits.  On top of this, improved cashflow, solid demand prospects and another uptick in company-level confidence has contributed to a strengthening of investment intentions.  Companies’ capital expenditure plans have been positive since the end of 2016 and investment plans have gained added momentum over the last quarter to achieve a level that is now at a ten quarter high.

In terms of our own business, Dymond Engineering anticipates continued strong demand for our design-engineering, value-engineering and metal fabricating services.

What does the future hold?

Will this strong performance by British manufacturers continue?  There are so many imponderables that making any kind of prediction with confidence is almost impossible.  On the downside there are understandable worries about the outlook for the UK economy in 2018 – firms may be upbeat about their own performance prospects the same cannot be said for the country as a whole.  The EEF/BDO report notes that confidence in the UK economy has slipped for the second consecutive quarter.  Weak official growth statistics, subdued forecasts from the Bank of England and the ongoing worries about the Brexit negotiations and the likelihood of getting a trade deal with the EU are all cause for caution.

Having said that, it’s all too easy to give more credence to the doomsayers.  One positive, of particular relevance to UK manufacturers, is the steadily rising wages in emerging economies.  A recent report by Steve Johnson in the Financial Times, and quoted in an article by Forbes Magazine, reveals that that China’s average wage level has tripled between 2005 and 2016.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/douglasbulloch/2017/03/03/china-is-running-out-of-cheap-rural-labor-and-its-because-of-failed-reforms/#29789c1b25c6

This may gradually make it less attractive for companies to outsource their manufacturing to the likes of Asia and South America, something that can only be good for manufacturing companies in the UK.  This trend also creates a hugely expanded middle class with the disposable income to buy consumer goods, thereby creating greater demand and boosting the world economy as a whole – a trend that is sure to create exciting opportunities for our domestic producers who are willing to export their goods to the BRICs and beyond.

Keep calm and carry on

Whatever happens, the British manufacturers who can avoid the wider political and economic distractions to concentrate on producing great products and do a great job of meeting customer needs, will continue to thrive.  That’s certainly where our focus lies – so if you need high-quality light-weight metal products including components, office furniture and retail display systems just get in touch.

Please read Dymond Engineering’s terms and conditions for details of our modus operandi.

The team at Dymond Engineering are very pleased to announce the recent appointment of Marcus Kenny as our new Product Design Engineer.

Graduating in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Derby in 2013, Marcus has a wide range of experience in product design, metal production and project management.

Whilst at university Marcus won the University of Derby Technology Innovation of the Year Award for developing a training aid to develop firefighters’ understanding of casualty evacuation process from HGV’s

After graduating Marcus moved to North Devon to take up a graduate position with an international business.  As Graduate Innovation Engineer his role was to manage the product development of new and innovative concepts, which involved product design, costing, production methods and project management, from concept to delivery.

Marcus then worked as Design Engineer and Project Manager with a local metal fabrication company.  This involved liaising with clients, managing budgets and production costs, working with the production and site installation teams, ensuring projects came in on time and budget to the customers’ specifications.

As well as product design and development Marcus was involved in Project Management, pricing and quoting, client management, supply chain management and implementing lean manufacturing.

He then took 6 months out to establish his own Slacklining business and once that was running smoothly he worked as Operations Coordinator with a local company before joining us at Dymond Engineering & Metal Products.

Marcus is fitting into the team well and has impressed us with his skills in prototyping and project managing new product development.   Marcus says he is enjoying the hands on nature of his role and particularly enjoys the diversity of working with 2D, 3D and hands on design work, as well as learning new skills.  These include operating the CNC laser and learning to TIG and MIG weld amongst other things.  He’s enjoying the fast paced production environment.

Outside work Marcus’ interests include climbing, Slacklining and travelling.  He is always off on adventure when not working.

We are delighted to have him in the team.  If you have any prototype work with us then Marcus will be your man. He looks forward to working with you.

Dymond engineering was delighted to sponsor the inaugural Scratch golf competition at High Bullen Golf Club this year.

Mike Garner is a member at the club and suggested the Scratch competition whilst he was a member of the club committee.

We are pleased to say the competition was a big success, they even enjoyed great golfing weather.

Alas Mike’s golfing prowess did not prevail on the day, but by contrast, Dymond’s design engineering skills will be utilised in the design and making of the unique trophies which will be presented at the annual Awards evening.

The two trophies are being designed, laser cut, folded and powder coated in Dymond’s factory in Barnstaple, North Devon.  We look forward to the presentation.

For further details about Dymond Engineerings modus operandi please read our terms and conditions.

Our new and improved galvanised bird feeders are proving very popular and selling well this season.  Word is spreading amongst the Gamekeerper community and we are proud of the latest testimonial provided by Exmoor Headkeeper, Gareth Clark.

 
“We are already using most of the 40 feeders and I am delighted to say after over 2″ of rain all the feed remained bone dry.”

 

Galvanised Pheasant & Partridge Feeder

Galvanised Pheasant & Partridge Feeder

“This season we have started using the Dymond Engineering Partridge Feeders.

They are well built weighing some 25kg empty, thus not blowing around. They are 100% water tight, suitable for the Exmoor wind and rain.

Holding approximately 60kg of compound pelleted feed, they enable keepers to fill only in favourable weather, say on a twice a week basis.  NO  wet pellets clogging feeders at all.

Certainly we will look to increase our feeder number in years to come.”  Gareth Clark, Headkeeper, Buttery Sporting.

 

Gareth’s comments certainly reflect the feedback we get from Headkeepers and shooting estates.

Galvanised Pheasant feeder

Galvanised Pheasant feeder

Galvanised Pheasant feeder

Galvanised Pheasant feeder

Galvanised Pheasant Feeder

 Dymond Galvanised Pheasant Feeder – Water, Rodent and deer proof

Some years ago companies in the UK and Europe started to outsource their manufacturing to those parts of the globe where wages were lower.  There are signs, however, that this trend is running out of steam, and even going into reverse. As manufacturers of custom metal products including desks, shelves, game bird feeders, retail display equipment and metal component parts (with no plans to outsource ourselves to the Far East or South America!) we are naturally delighted that the business world is starting to recognise the commercial benefits of keeping production close to home.

Clarks shoes retraces its steps

The most recent local instance of this preference for shorter supply chains is the decision by Clarks shoes to return some of the company’s manufacturing capacity to the UK.

The heritage footwear brand announced a few weeks ago that a new manufacturing unit is set to be opened in Street, at Clark’s Somerset headquarters, where the company started 200 years ago.  The new unit will produce the iconic Desert Boot, originally designed by Nathan Clark, great grandson of the company’s founder.  The new robot-assisted facility will be able to produce 300,000 pairs a year but should also create 80 new technical and managerial jobs.

Another West Country manufacturer bringing production home

Fashion brand Mulberry, also based in Somerset, originally started manufacturing locally in 1971.  However, like so many other British companies they increasingly employed manufacturing partners in Turkey, Spain, Portugal and China.  Since 2011 however their Chilcompton factory has been extended to increase capacity, and they have opened a brand-new unit in Bridgewater, employing 330 local people.  This has enabled Mulberry to bring about 50% of their production back to the UK, and in-house.

Bright future for UK manufacturing as reshoring gathers momentum

Clarks and Mulberry are not isolated examples.  Think tank Civitas produced a report in 2014 entitled “Bringing Manufacturing Back – is the tide of offshoring beginning to turn towards reshoring?”   In that paper they stated that that 64 per cent of firms surveyed had re-shored some element of production to Britain.

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/BringingManufacturingBack.pdf

In a 2015 report Ernst and Young also estimated that there is scope to generate 315,000 new jobs and an additional £15.3 billion for the economy by 2025 through bringing production back to Britain.

http://economia.icaew.com/opinion/february-2015/reshoring-is-15bn-opportunity-for-uk

 

What is persuading companies that the grass is not always greener abroad when it comes to manufacturing?  A number of reasons are cited including rising wages in international markets, escalating shipping costs, the problems created by language barriers and the growing acceptance that UK-made goods tend to be of consistently high quality.  Similarly, many companies wish to benefit from the enhanced flexibility and reduced turnaround times that manufacturing in the home market deliver.

Manufacturing offshore proves expensive in more ways than one

In today’s competitive and fast-moving world the attractions of seemingly lower prices tend to be far outweighed by other considerations.

Mike Shearwood, Chief Executive at Clarks, comments that “Clarks has always led the way in shoe design and manufacture having developed a significant proportion of modern shoe construction technologies,” adding that the new facility “will help us continue that tradition of innovation.  Clarks is changing and as a global business we need to innovate and respond to the changing global economic order.  The 21st century craftsmanship that we are introducing will also lead to and encourage innovation in shoe design. It will be transformative to the process of how we design and develop shoes.”

Many companies, right across the western world, are finding offshoring to be a false economy.  Through bitter experience they’ve been forced to conclude that it’s much easier to design new products, to respond swiftly to emerging trends, to maintain quality standards and to get the latest lines to market when the manufacturing is done in their home country.

We’re just down the road

Devon may not be the centre of the universe but we’re a lot closer to our customers than our competitors in the Far East!  So if you need high-quality light-weight metal products, including components, office furniture and retail display systems, give us a call.  We have a wealth of design engineering and value engineering expertise, speak your language, and can produce in small quantities at very competitive rates.  So give us a call.

At Dymond Engineering we operate in a relatively niche marketplace, making custom metal products including desks, shelves, birdfeeders, retail displays and metal component parts.  However, we still like to keep an eye on the big picture – and it’s an interesting one at the moment.

British manufacturing is very much on a roll, as we reported in our last couple of posts.  It’s ironic, but the volatility and uncertainty caused by the vote to leave Europe, and the snap election, both of which might have been expected to make life difficult for companies in this sector, doesn’t seem to have put them off their stride.  Indeed, by lowering the value of the pound, it has probably done us all in the industry a bit of a favour.

However, for this success to be sustained it would help if our politicians, and those in Europe could start making some progress with regard to our ongoing relationship with our nearest neighbours – that was the recent message from EEF CEO Terry Scuoler.

Spelling it out in Strasbourg

EFF champions the UK manufacturing industry, working with decision-makers and influencers in this country and across the EU to create and maintain the best possible business environment where manufacturers and wider industry can innovate, thrive and compete.

In this capacity Terry Scuoler attended the European Parliament in Strasbourg and addressed MEPs, including President Antonio Tajani.  He told his audience that “The UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, speaking in Germany last week, set out a vision for growth in the UK and in Europe. He was right to highlight our joint interests amid the complexity of the Brexit negotiations. Many of our industries are interconnected.

“UK businesses need to know soon what arrangements will be in place after March 2019, to be able to plan, make investment decisions and have confidence that an orderly and carefully managed approach to Brexit is underway.

“If they don’t have that assurance there will come a tipping point, sometime in 2018, when boards in the UK and elsewhere will need to make decisions based on the state of the negotiations at that point. They cannot wait until the end of the process for confirmation of a deal on our departure or future trading relationship.

“They need to know much sooner what transitional arrangements will be in place, and for how long. A failure to do so will damage our collective economic interests, a situation which would be as tragic as it would be harmful.”

Getting the message out to ministers at home.

A few days after his trip to Strasbourg Terry Scuoler attended the first meeting of the Government’s new Business Advisory Group.   This was held at Chevening House, and attended by representatives from other business organisations.  He again attempted to put business interests at the heart of the Brexit debate and get a clearer picture of the government’s plans.

After the Chevening meeting he was able to say “This meeting has been a good first step and it’s clear Ministers are listening to business concerns, which we welcome. We had an open and frank discussion and we’ve started a process where we will work together to obtain as much clarity and certainty as possible for industry as we prepare to leave the EU.”

Keep forging ahead

So where does this leave us and other British manufacturers?  None the wiser, but slightly reassured that the politicians, on both sides of the channel, are in no doubt about the UK manufacturing industry’s concerns.  It’s a case of keep calm and don’t panic.  That’s certainly our attitude at Dymond Engineering and we are experiencing no slackening of demand for our design-engineering, value-engineering and metal fabricating services.  So if you need high-quality light-weight metal products, including components, office furniture and retail display systems, just get in touch – we’re very much in business as usual mode!

In our last post we reported on how well British manufacturing was doing, despite all the uncertainty surrounding the recent election and Brexit negotiations.  We’re delighted to note that the good news continues, with another very positive set of figures, this time from the CBI.  The politicians may be having a torrid time of it but those of us who design and make tangible products have been successfully forging ahead regardless.  We’ve certainly been busy at Dymond Engineering, making everything from retail display equipment to galvanised birdfeeders to bespoke desks frames and legs.

British manufacturing riding a wave of demand

The CBI’s latest Industrial Trends Survey shows that UK manufacturing is positively booming.  Figures from 464 manufacturers found that total order books have climbed to the highest level since August 1988.  This was way above expectations – the market had forecast a rise of 7 points but the actual numbers showed a whopping 16 points.

So why are Britain’s manufacturers enjoying the strongest demand for their products in almost 30 years?  It all comes off the back of a recovering global economy and a weaker pound.  This combination of factors is working wonders in terms of boosting order books.

The survey, which gives a monthly snapshot of how the UK manufacturing sector is performing, found that it wasn’t simply a story of a weaker pound stoking demand – both export and total order books were both at their highest levels for decades.  This provides some hope that a stronger manufacturing sector will help to carry the economy as higher inflation puts downward pressure on consumer spending.

Looking at the findings in more detail reveals particularly strong performances by the food, drink, tobacco and chemicals industries, with an increase in orders across 13 of the 17 industrial sub-sectors tracked each month.

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s chief economist, said: “Britain’s manufacturers are continuing to see demand for ‘Made in Britain’ goods rise with the temperature. Total and export order books are at highs not seen for decades, and output growth remains robust.”

The economy is the priority

Whilst everything is going swimmingly for manufacturers at this present moment, Newton-Smith does sound a note of caution: “To build the right future for Britain’s economy, manufacturers and workers, the government must put the economy first as it negotiates the country’s departure from the EU. This approach will deliver a deal that supports growth and raises living standards across the UK.”

His is not a lone voice.  Britain’s biggest business groups, the British Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers’ group EEF, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors have all joined the CBI in issuing a joint statement asking the government to put the economy first in Brexit talks – and to secure a transitional deal that preserves access to the European single market.

It is widely expected that the UK will need such a transitional arrangement to cushion its exit from the EU after 2019. The business groups are anxious to secure an interim agreement to “maintain the economic benefits of the single market and the customs union until a final settlement between the UK and the EU is agreed and implemented”.

Please don’t rock the boat!

There are hints from Chancellor Philip Hammond that he is listening to the business community and that the government may be backing away from its earlier preference for a more immediate and painful “hard Brexit”.

Let’s hope so!  The companies who come to us for our design-engineering, value-engineering and metal fabricating services, are on a roll.  They, and all those other hard-working manufacturers who are adding so much to the economy, deserve a deal that preserves the current trading arrangement with Europe while the longer-term arrangements are thrashed out.

It’s anybody’s guess how these negotiations will turn out, but in the meantime if you need high-quality light-weight metal products, including components, office furniture and retail display systems – just get in touch with us.

While Britain as a whole has endured six weeks of uncertainty brought about by the Government’s unexpected decision to call a general election the country’s manufacturers have coped surprisingly well.  Companies in this sector have kept their heads down and worked hard to maintain “business as usual”.  This has certainly been the approach at Dymond Engineering – and we’ve seen steady demand for the wide variety of custom metal desks, shelves, birdfeeders, retail displays and component parts that we specialise in designing and making.

Strong figures fuel higher growth expectations

The latest quarterly survey by manufacturing lobby group EEF, in partnership with the BDO accountancy firm, shows that British factories are growing at their fastest pace in more than three years.  Manufacturing output put on a sharp spurt with the balance of firms reporting growth rising to 31 percent in the first quarter of 2017.  This is the highest level since the third quarter of 2013, when Britain was starting to shrug off the after-effects of the global financial crisis.  For example, GKN and Meggitt, two British engineering firms, recently reported better than expected results and growing business orders.  What’s more, the balance of firms expecting growth in the second quarter rose to 33 percent.

Taking these results into account EEF raised its forecast for growth in the sector to 1.0 percent this year.  This is a big turnaround from their previous estimate of a 0.2 percent contraction.  The organisation also upped its estimate for British economic growth as a whole to 1.8 percent from 1.3 percent.  The recovery in manufacturing has also been shown in official economic data. In the October-to-December period of last year, factory output was up 1.2 percent from the previous three months, the strongest performance since the Brexit vote.

Summing up these results the writers of the report concluded that Brexit-related uncertainty was presenting “less of a drag than previously expected” with firms reporting positive output and new order balances, as well as strong rallies in confidence, investment and employment intentions.

Exports playing a big part in the success story

This excellent performance is partly explained by a robust export performance, helped by the fall in the value of the pound after the Brexit vote and a recovery in core markets in Europe.  The report suggested that this buoyancy was set to continue, commenting that “a combination of the weaker exchange rate and enduring healthy demand conditions should see exports continue on the up”.  Demand was especially strong in European markets, with 61% of firms saying they had seen an increase.

Meanwhile, higher import prices should in theory encourage UK households to move towards domestically produced goods and services and away from imported goods, it said.

EEF’s chief economist Lee Hopley said: “Industry is reporting that output and orders have continued to head higher in recent months and the recovery in manufacturing globally is a big part of the story.  It’s very encouraging that UK manufacturers have positioned themselves to capitalise on the windfall of a competitive pound and resurgent world economy.”

Keep calm and carry on

This good news is slightly overshadowed by the fact we now have a hung parliament.  Whilst the uncertainty this creates is not helpful to business it does suggest that we are less likely to get the hard Brexit being pursued by Theresa May before her poll disaster.  She will probably have to back away from her “No deal is better than a bad deal” stance and this increases the likelihood of us getting a more favourable trading arrangement with Europe – something that most businesses, and especially manufacturers, will welcome.

We’re certainly pretty positive about the current situation and anticipate continued strong demand for our design-engineering, value-engineering and metal fabricating services.  If you need high-quality light-weight metal products including components, office furniture and retail display systems – just get in touch if you have a job you’d like to discuss.

Despite the numerous worries surrounding Brexit British manufacturing seems to be doing rather well.  Although at Dymond Engineering we operate in a relatively niche marketplace, making a wide variety of custom metal products including desks, shelves, birdfeeders, retail displays and component parts, the fact that the manufacturing sector as a whole is benefitting from a number of positive factors is good news for all of us – “a rising tide raises all ships”.  In this post we share upbeat reports from four different sources that are full of feel good factors.

Bank of England Agents’ Summary of Business Conditions Qtr. 1 2017

This review of the first quarter of 2017 makes very encouraging reading with manufacturing output growth for the domestic market continuing its upward trend.  The automotive, aerospace, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and construction products subsectors showed the strongest demand growth and a significant proportion of that reflected healthy activity in export supply chains.

Goods export volumes growth also continued to increase following sterling’s recent falls and reflecting stronger world demand growth. The pickup, however spread across most subsectors – at home many manufacturers benefited from increased price competitiveness relative to firms based abroad. Some companies also reported increased domestic sourcing, especially in the food and drink sector.

SWMAS Manufacturing Barometer Results: South West

The South West Manufacturing Advisory Service Senior regularly canvasses the view of decision makers within small and medium sized manufacturers to gather their views on a range of issues.  The most recent feedback suggests the sector is proving resilient with 57% of firms experiencing an increase in sales turnover in the past six months, up from 45% in the last survey, and 5% up from the same period last year.

Optimism is also buoyant with a noticeable jump in future turnover expectations – these have increased from 56% last quarter to a current level of 68%. Investment over the past 6 months in both new technology and new machinery has remained static with only a 1% increase since the previous quarter.  However, firms are forecasting increases over the next 6 months, with 50% expecting to up their spend, compared to 43% last quarter.

Finally, there has been a slight dip in the number of firms expecting to increase employment in the next six months, decreasing from 48% last quarter to 46%. However, this percentage shows there is still a significant number of businesses looking to recruit, which is good news for the sector and for the UK economy as a whole.

CBI Industrial Trends Survey

This report suggests that UK’s manufacturers’ export order books have risen to the highest level in over three years, while expectations for growth are at a more than two-decade high.  423 firms polled reported that export order books were the highest since December 2013. Total order books remained firm in March, after strengthening to a two-year high in February. Output growth rose at its quickest pace since July 2014 in the three months to March, with manufacturers anticipating that it will accelerate further over the near-term. Meanwhile, firms’ expectations for selling price inflation remain elevated for the quarter ahead.

Q1 2017 Manufacturing Outlook report by EEF and BDO LLP.

This study shows that UK manufacturing got off to a much stronger than anticipated start to the year, providing a much-needed boost to confidence, recruitment and investment.

The balance of firms reporting an uplift in output (31%) and orders (29%) is double what was expected, with the output balance hitting its highest level since Q3 2013. Importantly, all of UK manufacturing’s sectors are seeing this positive trend.  The figures demonstrate manufacturers’ ability to capitalise on a broad based export recovery fuelled not only by the drop in the value of sterling, but also by an improvement in the economic performance of key markets. A balance of 54% of manufacturers report positive demand conditions in Europe while, overall, just a fifth of firms (20%) are yet to see any pick up in overseas markets.

Business confidence, which took a temporary dip battering following the referendum result, continues to climb and is now at a level last seen in 2015. This, combined with the fact that firms are much busier than they had forecast, is supporting an increase in employment and investment intentions as firms strive to increase capacity.

The positive and broad based trend looks likely to extend into the next quarter and EEF has revised its growth forecasts upwards to 1.0% for manufacturing and 1.8% for GDP.

The outlook is sunny

So, all these reports indicate that manufacturing in Britain is in good shape – and likely to remain so over the foreseeable future.  We’re certainly seeing strong demand for our design-engineering, value-engineering and metal fabricating services.  Having said that, we are always happy to help if you need high-quality light-weight metal products including components, office furniture and retail display systems – just get in touch if you have a job you’d like to discuss.

Britain, once “The workshop of the world”, has seen its manufacturing industries steadily decline from their heyday in the 19th century.  Having said that it’s still a very important sector for the UK economy and the government has recently launched a green paper outlining its future industrial strategy.  The EEF, the Manufacturers’ Association, has submitted a response to ensure that companies like ourselves, which make a wide variety of custom metal products including desks, shelves, birdfeeders, retail displays and component parts, get the focused support we need.  In this post we share some of the key points made by the EEF in the hope you’ll find them useful and reassuring.

What is the green paper about?

It sets out the government’s vision and proposals for strengthening the industrial capability of the country as we prepare for a post-Brexit world.  Three key objectives emerge.  Firstly the need to build on the UK’s industrial strengths and extend excellence into the future.  Secondly to close the gap between the UK’s most productive companies, industries, places and people and those that currently lag behind.  Thirdly, to make the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business.

How has it been received?

EEF has responded by canvassing the views of manufacturers, then distilled these into a report outlining what are seen as the plan’s strengths and weaknesses.  The report also set out set out those areas where it was felt the proposed strategy could benefit from further development ahead of the forthcoming white paper.

What were the key points made by the EEF in their response?

The EEF welcomed the fact that the government was refocusing on industrial strategy and felt that manufacturers were broadly in favour of the main recommendations.  However, there was a feeling that some areas left room for improvement.

  • The EEF agreed that the cross-cutting policy ‘pillars’ featured in the green paper, skills, infrastructure, energy and innovation, are the right ones – not only are the correct priorities but are areas where the government can effectively exert influence to shape outcomes for the private sector.
  • It was noted that some of these pillars were explored in more detail, and supported by greater resources, than others.  The plans for science and innovation were praised for being comprehensive and there was agreement that there is a need to build on the success of existing schemes.  The EEF was also positive about the plans for the infrastructure pillar and it was noted there has been much progress on improving decision-making on big projects.  With regard to energy it was suggested that more detail is needed on who will benefit from lower costs and that greater focus is required on the transition to a low carbon economy.  On the subject of skills development manufacturers wanted more detail on how they can work with education providers to shape the curricula.
  • The green paper gives a list of initiatives for early sector deals.  These sectors include life sciences, low emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, nuclear industry and creative industries. It is made clear, however, that this list is not exclusive nor definitive and stresses the government’s willingness to work with any sector.  The EEF would like more information on the mechanics of securing a sector deal.  It also felt there was a need for further discussions with manufacturers and other industry bodies to create more structure and to get good deals that make a genuine difference to the fortunes of the sectors in question.
  • The government’s existing approach on ‘place’ fits with how the EEF would like to see industrial strategy delivered.  Action that is already underway to devolve power and funding to local areas, create combined authorities and elect mayors was broadly welcomed as the basis of better sub-national decision making on priorities such as infrastructure and planning.  It was felt the government should continue with this process and that there is no need for new institutions to deliver strategy outcomes.
  • The main element that was felt to be missing was a vision of what success looks like, with some clear benchmarks against which progress can be measured.

So, what are your plans?

It’s encouraging that the government is working hard to develop a plan to provide further support to British manufacturing.  It’s also good news that they are broadly in agreement with the companies in the sector about the areas where they can make a meaningful contribution.  More importantly, however, what are your plans?  If you need our design engineering and metal fabrication capabilities to make things happen then don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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