Plant & Works Engineering
Don't take your eye off the ball
Published:  12 February, 2019

Contrary to widespread sentiment and political drama it is sometimes impossible to see that UK manufacturers remain optimistic about the prospects for the global economy, despite the challenges of Brexit.

We must not lose sight that according to the EEF, the sector employs 2.6 million people, accounts for 44% of exports and provides 13% of all business investment.

However, as Martyn Williams, managing director at COPA-DATA UK recently highlighted industry isn’t ‘completely home and dry’ yet. Amidst upcoming political turbulence, manufacturers still need to prepare. In addition increasing digitalisation, plugging the growing skills shortage, and cyber security are all other important issues facing Industry in 2019 and we mustn’t take our eye off the ball.

New digital technologies are rapidly transforming European manufacturing, and investment in 4IR technologies is vital to achieving a step change in UK manufacturing productivity and taking advantage of new opportunities. Although 4IR/ Industry 4.0 has become a phrase we love to hate - looking forward to 2019, manufacturers should continue pursuing their digitalisation goals, but must put a clear focus on investing in the right technology, creating business models for growth and importantly, maintaining and up-skilling their valuable workforces to prepare for this wave of disruptive digital technologies into industry. One aspect of Brexit which presents a potential opportunity, is providing a stimulus for employers to think more strategically about unlocking the skills potential of their workforce.

Despite the current economic uncertainties, other important issues highlighted above, still face manufacturers over the next year, which present both threats and opportunities. Simon Gallimore Manufacturing Industry Group Lead of AIG also warned that aside from Brexit, disruption from cyber attacks remains a significant risk faced by manufacturers. As technology and data continue to play increasingly critical roles in the industry, companies will inevitably find themselves more vulnerable to cyber breaches, which can cause severe disruption to the supply chain.

As we move through 2019 it will become increasingly clear that manufacturing is key to the UK’s performance on the world stage, and will play an important part in improving the health of the economy as Britain leaves the EU.