In one of the first major events addressing these issues, Lloyds Bank hosted a panel discussion looking at macro economic drivers surrounding the manufacturing sector.
Chaired by Peter Marsh, manufacturing editor of the Financial Times, the panel comprised:
- James Newman, chairman of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership
- Hugh Facey MBE, executive chairman of Gripple
- Adam Chester, head of UK Macro Economics
- Graham Honeyman, Sheffield Forgemasters International
- Brian McKenzie, vice president of Firth Rixson
The message from industry leaders, in no uncertain terms, was that the focus should be on investment and not government intervention.
Hugh Facey, executive chairman of Gripple, which currently has a turnover of £30m, brought the issue into focus: “It is nothing to do with government, it is to do with manufacturing. There needs to be a focus on research and development, on ideas and innovation. You have to invest in new products, that’s how you grow a business – keep investing in ideas and innovation and keep investing in people.
“You don’t need bureaucracy – we have no HR department, no health and safety committees and no management chart. We concentrate on getting on with the job.”
The speakers outlined their demands on government and eyes were firmly focused on the Chancellor’s Budget announcement next week.
In a viewpoint that has been long communicated across the private sector, the speakers said government must take a step back and reduce red-tape in order to allow more autonomy within the industry.
Cuts to corporation tax were dismissed as useless – coming after profit is earned and not before – with a recommendation that government support should instead be on capital allowance tax-cuts, which the panellists argued would boost investment and create wealth.The key challenge facing the industry is clearly that of a skills-shortage, which Brian McKenzie, vice president of Firth Rixson referred to as “very real”. He argued that there was a need to boost apprenticeships and encourage young people to get into manufacturing.Perhaps it is a culture of “getting the job done” that has contributed to the manufacturing industries growth – at its highest in 16 years.
However its clear that without publicity for the industry and wider recognition of the opportunities this growth provides, the next-generation of manufacturers could be waiting in the wings and the growing challenge of a skills-gap will continue to linger.
The Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield is a week-long celebration of the manufacturing industry. The festival, in association with the Financial Times, The Manufacturer and EEF, brings together senior leaders from Boeing, Siemens UK, Tata Steel, Westinghouse, Proskills, Bloodhound, Virgin Formula 1, the Nuclear Industry Association and more to address key issues such as emerging international markets, the UK skills strategy for manufacturing, opportunities in the nuclear sector and the key growth area of advanced manufacturing. Events will be shaped around the key themes: education, celebration, improvement, innovation, community and growth.