On February 19th, around 1,000 delegates gathered at London’s QEII Centre to debate the hottest manufacturing and engineering topics of the day. The prestigious annual Make UK Conference offered invaluable insight from manufacturing experts and leading politicians on the momentous challenges ahead. We took the opportunity to learn more about the burning issues and brought a group of customers along with us. We want to ensure that our customers are ready for whatever lies ahead and have as much information at their disposal as possible.
It’s an important year for UK manufacturing and we can’t afford to take our finger off the pulse. The annual National Manufacturing Conference provided a day of analysis and inspiration. Driven by the theme, “Facing the Future Together”, the event provided an arena to debate big-ticket topics changing the way our customers do business.
The event began with an address from EEF CEO Stephen Phipson where he explained the rebranding of the federation to Make UK. The new name reflects the extensive and dynamic nature of modern manufacturing which is undergoing seismic shifts.
As an organisation, Make UK represents the whole spectrum of manufacturing and its rebranding is designed to communicate the world-class innovation undertaken by its 20,000 members.
There has never been a more critical moment in time for Make UK to help shape the future of British manufacturing. It’s no surprise that the conference was dominated by debates on Brexit and what Britain’s future relationship with Europe might look like.
Business Secretary Greg Clark conceded the current climate is highly damaging and leaving the EU without a deal would be a disaster. It was apt that he spoke about the economic value of making things in the UK on the very day that Honda announced it would close its Swindon plant in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs.
Clark said: “A situation in which our manufacturers don’t have the certainty that they need about the terms under which over two-thirds of our trade will be conducted in less than 40 days’ time is unacceptable.”
Despite the cloud of Brexit, our clients recognise that with the right fundamentals, the UK is poised to exploit huge opportunities within the global market. They will be encouraged by Greg Clark’s insistence that the government remains committed to putting manufacturing at the heart of its industrial strategy.
The Made Smarter initiative is designed to support the diffusion of cutting-edge technologies to make our manufacturing businesses more competitive and Clark talked about a pilot to assist companies across the North West in embracing the benefits of digitalisation.
The record number of delegates attending this year’s conference understand that to reap the benefit of Industry 4.0, the UK needs to focus much more closely on filling the skills gap.
Our team attended a Generation Z workshop which focused on how to encourage more young people to choose a career in STEM. During a brainstorming sessions, teams of delegates were introduced to apprentices and recent graduates who offered valuable insight into what excites and motivates our next generation of workers.
Key speakers also engaged with the skills debate. Richard Harrington, Minister for Business and Industry, told delegates the government was committed to fixing problems associated with the Apprenticeship Levy, whilst Greg Clark said government initiatives including the National Retraining Scheme, would help address skills shortages across manufacturing,
Yet Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn told the conference that the current government had damaged UK manufacturing with years of unnecessary austerity and said that if Labour came to power, they would create a new Commission on Lifelong Learning.
Whatever their differences in priority and approach, it was encouraging to see major political figures take time out to engage with delegates. Our customers will welcome the fact that the challenges facing manufacturers are now high on the political agenda.
For us at K3 Syspro, that willingness to engage with issues surrounding manufacturing is a key component of our customer service offering. The event taught us a lot about the day-to-day challenges that businesses face and that helps shape our toolkit of ERP solutions. We are not simply there to implement new systems but to form a partnership. On the digitalisation journey, we’re there every step of the way.