Manufacturing in 2022 and 2023 - Part Two - With Make UK

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Welcome to the Trend Detection podcast, powered by Senseye, an industry leader in using AI to drive scalable and sustainable asset performance and reliability.

For this three part series, I’m joined by Jim Davison and Nina Gryf from Make UK, who champion engineering and manufacturing in the United Kingdom. In the second episode, we looked at some of the big success stories from manufacturing in 2022. 

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Key topics covered (click to jump to the section)

  1. Big successes in manufacturing
  2. What impact does remote working have in manufacturing?
  3. What challenges are there when attracting new talent?
  4. What the key trends that can have the biggest impact in manufacturing over in 2023?
  5. Subscribe to our podcast

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Welcome to the Trend Detection podcast, powered by Senseye, an industry leader in using AI to drive scalable and sustainable asset performance and reliability. For this three part series, I am joined Jim Davison and Nina Gryf from Make UK who champion engineering and manufacturing in the UK. In the second episode, we looked at some of the big success stories from manufacturing in 2022. 

And in terms of, you mentioned that it's interesting cloud technology, this has been a shift in... There's probably been a shift in a lot of areas about cloud and security concerns, which are still rear their, I wouldn't say they're ugly hair, but these concerns do keep appearing. Is that something that's either reflected in reporting or from your experience, Jim, are people still reluctant to embrace cloud? Is that still reluctance there?

Jim Davison, Make UK:  I think you can't generalize, Niall. Yeah, some industries, absolutely-

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: No, true.

Jim Davison, Make UK: ... will not ever adopt cloud technology. So if you're into defense supply chains, then that's an absolute no, no, you can't do it. But the reality is, I think particularly a lot of those small and medium sized firms, actually, they're recognizing that it is the way forward and they are starting to embrace those technologies. They are taking steps to make sure that they can protect data as well as you can. So taking very seriously cyber threats and making sure that they're protected to minimize the negative impacts of those challenges. But ultimately a lot of it comes down to human beings, and making sure that you've trained your staff not to fall for those phishing email requests. And ultimately often it's a human being that's the weakest link in the chain. So making sure that your teams are skilled and understand to spot a threat is really key.

And it is just keeping an eye out for those slightly... What's the word I'm looking for? Slightly unbelievable requests that you get either from your CEO. Sending you an email and you're thinking, "That just doesn't look right." There's no way that he's going to send something in that way, or from your bank, it's just been a little bit canny and making sure you update all of those defenses as well as you can. So the short answer is I think more, and more companies are starting to embrace that, those kind of cloud solutions and technologies.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye:  Yeah. I mean, I would say I'm fair to absolutely be vigilant, but they're getting more and more sophisticated even though obviously you get texts from people pretending to be delivery companies and we all have deliveries and we lose track of which carrier or whatever's doing it and you think, "Oh, that looks quite real, actually." But then yeah, again it's about... Because sometimes when you're busy as well, you just stop thinking are you so, no. Absolutely. Absolutely. I wanted to... Because we've talked a lot about some of the big challenges in manufacturing so far. There are obviously plenty as we've discussed. I wanted just to look at whether there's example, and I'm sure they're right. Actually, the examples of big successes in manufacturing like manufacture, being able to innovate in times of great challenge. I don't know if you've got any examples even if you'd like to share on that front.

Jim Davison, Make UK: Yeah. I think for me, Niall, it's the challenges that we've had with supply chains be it fact that China's locked down because of ongoing COVVID responses or ironically as a ship getting stranded in the Suez Canal, the reality is resilience within supply chains is very important, and actually a result of increasing resilience within supply chains has been a reevaluation of where you source products from. So there's a lot more French shoring or reshoring happening. A lot of companies are fundamentally looking and reevaluating their supply chain activities and making those more robust. And that has resulted in opportunities for UK manufacturing. So I think that that's a big positive.

I think the fact that they're still trading is not an insignificant result genuinely. The headwinds that companies have faced now for the best part of three years is phenomenal. And the way that companies have been able to reorganize deal with working from home, deal with coming back from lockdowns, dealing with high requirements from suppliers and being able to respond to those is truly fascinating. And I guess one of the factors that I heard most recently is Airbus are looking to ramp up their production from 40 aircraft a month to 75. So that's a big example where demand has massively bounced back, and then UK supply chains in aerospace are being asked to respond and address that big requirement. But the challenge is making sure that you have the people, the technology, and the materials to reliably be able to respond to that, which I have to say many companies have had to work very hard to compensate for those issues, but they're doing it. So for me that is a huge positive outcome for this year.

Nina Gryf, Make UK: And if I can pick on two things. If I could just mention two things, add on to Jim's, great roundup. I think the energy efficiency, so the rising cost of energy motivated manufacturers even more to decarbonize and put some strategies in place, how to deal with the rising costs, and which will help decarbonizes of the sector. And also, I think the way we work and the way we can work remotely and some factories with the labor shortage, they have to come up with some very new innovative ideas of how to attract new labor. Some manufacturers change the shifts into accommodate working parents, which for me was like, "Wow, it's such a kind of... It's probably complex to do for a company to rearrange the working scheme so far, but it worked and they were managed to get a lot of new employees because of that." And that will change dramatically for women who are working and taking care of children, or men, or parents in general, or any kind of care. So I think this is a very good news.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: So is that part of a sec, we talked a little bit earlier, mentioned earlier about a culture shift. Is that what starting to happen in manufacturing maybe driven by events such as the pandemic and COVID. You talked about a good example, Jim, what you said about remote working. Is that what's driving the culture shift that Nina was sort of describing then in terms of offering this more flexibility? Or is it just a necessity as well, maybe they're just having to move with the times?

Jim Davison, Make UK: So I think it's a combination of both now. I think there is a change in expectation, and people did have the opportunity over lockdowns and furloughs to actually reevaluate their work-life balances, and were able to think about is it good to have to commute for two hours each way a day on top of a full day's work? Probably not with the benefit of hindsight. So technology has definitely been the key to unlock some of those changes. Culturally, I think it takes a huge recognition of the fact that you can and need to do that in some cases. I think culturally you have to make those changes in a way that is seen to be fair and equitable. So the last thing you want is all of these factory support office staff to be working from home. And if you're required to operate machinery on the shop floor, you have to go into the workplace.

So culturally you have to be very sensitive to those issues, and you need to be quite creative as to how you can mitigate some of those potential negatives. And some examples are when it comes to training staff, if you can do that on an online way and actually give somebody a laptop to use at home while they're training and they're a shop floor person, then do you know what that seemed to be, that's a good example of a win-win. Some organizations have introduced the four-day working week within the manufacturing company. So Monday to Thursday they have slightly longer days. Friday is not a workday, but then there's always the opportunity to introduce overtime if required. And again, some factories have been very early adopters of that change, and they've seen benefits from it. So it really is picking up the strands that are relevant and workable for your organization.

And then the very important bit about how do you engage with your work, your teams, and how do you make it a positive thing, how do you make it work? And some companies have been very, very successful as Nina said. Others are more resistant to it. They see that well if people don't come together regularly, then you miss out on the interactions and some of the teamwork that is definitely better and easier, more effective when you do meet being face to face. But again, that doesn't mean you have to be in the office every day or in the factory every day. You build a routine where enough people are together enough of the week to be able to strike that balance that works for an employee but also works for a company and it's customers, and there's no silver bullet. It has to be what works for your organization and the kind of business that you run.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah. No, absolutely. I think the key word in everything you were saying summarize would be flexibility really. It's not about saying you need to-

Nina Gryf, Make UK: Exactly 

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: ... lift up everything you've been doing and change everything, but it's about just being more flexible. And it could be in very, very small ways, like you said, maybe a day at home or just allowing flexible work hours for new parents or whatever it might be. Its small steps that direction that actually make the biggest difference and can attract help try and fill those skill gaps. But I mean, what other challenges I guess are there in attracting new talent? Or what more do manufacturers maybe need to do so attract that talent? Because I know that was an interesting point we covered a little bit earlier on.

Jim Davison, Make UK: So for me, it's helping people in society recognize the amazing opportunities that exist within the engineering and manufacturing sectors. I think the themes that Nina mentioned around clean and green technologies, again, yes, manufacturers do often or are often energy intensive compared to say an office building. But the reality is actually it's those companies that will design, manufacture, and install the technologies that will solve this challenge for humankind. So for me that is something that we need to message in a way that raises the awareness of our potential new workforces be that. Women, people from other minority groups, the next generation of young people opening their eyes to the amazing opportunities that exist within the sector is key. I think that whole digitalization piece again means that young people and others that have an interest in those technologies will suddenly start to see that could be a really, really exciting industry to get involved in. And I can still be very tech savvy.

But I think the whole piece is around communication and helping the wider population recognize and understand. One of the amazing factories that exist isn't all dark satanic type furnaces and steel mills, actually modern manufacturing facilities are very clean, they're nice environments to work in and they achieved some amazing outcomes. So for me, that's why Make UK introduced the first national manufacturing day this year, which was for a first event and first attempt was a great success. Ironically, the prime minister, Boris Johnson decided to resign that day. So it meant there was a lot of background noise kind of in the media and politically, but actually lots of people still came to visit factories that had opened their doors. So the vision is we will do that again every year and we're going to build on that foundation, but it's all about raising the awareness of people within a locality to come in and see these factories and see what amazing opportunities there are for while there.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: So maybe actually I think that's a really fantastic initiative I have to say. Could you maybe just briefly just explain that a bit more detail? I know you covered it a little bit there, Jim, but that national... Well, actually happens who gets invited to it, et cetera. I think that's quite an interesting point. 

Jim Davison, Make UK: Yeah. So Make UK has been working with our colleagues or our sister organization in North America, and for years now they have had an annual day where manufacturing businesses of all shapes and sizes basically have an open day. They encourage the local community, local schools, local colleges, local universities, visitors to come and see their factories. So Make UK coordinated the first event this year, which was on the 7th of July, and it was very much about helping organizations want to share the fact that they were opening their doors, helping them with sort of communication materials to invite stakeholders to come along. So we got local politicians, we got local schools, we got local school children, colleges, universities, other manufacturers to come along and see those factories and then share those experiences on social media, which again got great traction, lots of interest.

But as I said to you now, that wasn't a one-off. We are going to do it again next year, very imminently, we're going to share the dates and the collateral again and engage more and more companies to do that. But yeah, it was a great result considering it was the first time it was done in the country. So yeah, really looking forward to promote that next year. The other key pieces are national manufacturing awards. So again, celebrating regionally then nationally encouraging companies and their workers to come together to celebrate the amazing success that they've had in the year. Have a celebration evening, but again, share in the media, share in social media and really just get people excited and interested in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Okay. Fantastic. Yeah, from a personal point of view, Maggie, doing a fantastic job drive driving that visibility of manufacturing and from what and change your perceptions let's say, I think is also like I say, quite an important part of it. So no, really good. I was wanting to shift our interview now, and we can focus this more obviously on your report as well, but wanted to look ahead to 2023, which a bit of considering the last few years, it might be a little bit tricky to navigate into predict. So I just wanted to ask you both about what you feel either based on these trends or based on your conversations, what the key sort of trends that can have the biggest impact in manufacturing over in 2023?

Jim Davison, Make UK: So I think now that the fact that the world appears to be about or has entered a recession is going to be absolutely critical. Now, I think manufacturing will feel the impact of that later than say hospitality businesses and retail because I think those are the industries where are often the first to feel the effect of recession and then often the first bounce back. I think businesses have got to protect their margins. We've talked already about price inflation, energy cost inflation, it's mitigating your company from as many of those external factors as you can, but also keeping an eye on the price, which is actually adopting a lot of the technologies that we talked about to make sure that short term you can mitigate some of these risks and impacts the negative impacts of the external factors we talked about. But two, really, really position yourself to bounce back positively and quickly from that.

So for me, that is where I'm still picking up that lots of companies are looking to invest in automation, et cetera. The challenge is some of those companies are in a financially less cash rich position than they would've been say two years ago or even a year ago. So I think that's where ultimately the government has a part to play. The chancellor has talked about getting stability, getting financial stability, getting on top of inflation, getting on top of interest rate rises, but they have to be cognizant to the fact that actually then business needs to be encouraged to invest in future proofing their organization's future growth to make sure that when we bounce back we really, really hit the ground running hard. So for me that they're probably the key factors that I see.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Absolutely. And, Nina, from your perspective.

Nina Gryf, Make UK: From my perspective, there's nothing just probably the same in more kind of focusing, just kind of saying, doubling on what Jim said. So it's like automation, it's going to definitely accelerate to address some of the challenges like labor shortages and increased productivity, which is very, very important for manufacturers, is very important for the government, which talks about productivity and how to increase private investment as well in innovation. But manufacturers will definitely need government support and we are calling to expand, made smarter program across all of the regions. They've done very quietly now to the fourth one, the East Midlands as well. So this is the good news, but SMEs need support in terms of advice. What is it that's going to be useful for them because it's not always the big expensive technologies. They might be some lean manufacturing answers for them. And then how to decarbonize, how to manage energy efficiency, waste management that can be assisted by technologies.

It's very difficult to know from the SME perspective where to go, who will give the impartial advice. So I think it's very important to have this regional advisory scheme for SMEs that would give a consistent advice, impartial advice for businesses. So we definitely need that and also for the manufacturers, and I think it's about when we are talking about investing in digital technologies, how to attract and retain new talent is the vision. When you ask the manufacturers during our survey, what are the lessons they've learned, why adopting digital technologies, and on like a 30% of manufacturers agreed that there was no clear vision from the decision makers within the company. What is it that they actually wanted to achieve, but investing in these technologies. So I think the vision where they want to be, what they want to achieve, what kind of issues, challenges they're trying to solve is very, very important.



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