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Why now is the time for UK manufacturers to invest in digitalisation

By Ian Isaac, Managing Director, Lombard

 

In talking to manufacturers about digitalisation, we at Lombard tend to hear two reasons why some businesses are holding off investing in new technology. 

1.       Cost – isn’t this emerging technology too expensive? Is it too difficult to get funding for new technology?

2.       Future concerns – with all this political uncertainty, shouldn’t we wait to make any upgrades?

However, conversely many customers tell us that, for these very same factors, now is the time to invest in digitalisation, and they are turning to us to assist with their growth plans. 

 

Funding

As with any new technology, when robotics and other ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ technology was launched, it was expensive. However, over time these bespoke systems only available to large companies, have moved to off-the-shelf options. In fact, as EEF’s Business Growth Consultant Martin Strutt pointed out in a recent podcast, “There has really never been a better time to invest in 4IR technologies as the cost has never been lower.”

This technology is now accessible to many companies and, as our customers have found when we work with them on costing models, the payback can be surprisingly quick.

Although traditional funding models often don’t look favourably on emerging technologies, Lombard’s Technology team have developed a finance scheme designed specifically for this type of technology. It covers a broad range of technology assets and enables businesses to cover that initial outlay through cashflow over an extended period.

As one example, Bowers & Wilkins, creators and manufacturers of world famous speaker systems, wanted to increase automation in their production processes, so they initially approached us for asset finance to enable them to acquire two FANUC painting and sanding robots, along with other plant and machinery. The company built an automated production line that will produce far more output per month as well as improve the consistency of that output. Now, we are currently exploring how our Software Licensing Solution could help them unlock investment in their proprietary software.

Companies that are interested in seeing what is possible should consider some ‘industrial tourism’ where they visit other companies that have already started their digitalisation journey. Another option is to visit EEF’s Technology Hub near Birmingham, which has the latest technology on site.

 

Brexit

The EEF/BDO Manufacturing Outlook 2017 for Q4 found that manufacturers are ending the year with a bang on the back of continued improvement in global demand and increased export performance. The, uncertainty about the exact political situation in the coming years is not stopping companies from moving forward. 

No matter the outcome from Brexit, UK makers will still be competing against companies from around the world. The goal will always be how to ensure Britain is considered the number one place for value-added, quality manufacturing. If UK companies wait too long to access the productivity boost available through automation and artificial intelligence, the cost of playing catch-up will be too high. 

In working with manufacturers on investing in new technology, we’ve found that no one is precluded from being part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The important thing is to be brave, have confidence in the quality of the products you make, and explore how technology investment can improve your business and secure your future.

 

Lombard is the headline sponsor of the National Manufacturing Conference on 20 February 2018, which brings together 800+ manufacturing leaders from across the UK. In addition to high profile speakers, including Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, the conference features four workshop panels of peers and experts on the themes of cyber-security, trade, employment post-Brexit and energy savings. Register for tickets (with an early bird discount) here.

What top OEMs are looking for in their supply chain

by coneill@eef.org.uk 13. December 2017 16:58

 

By Rosa Wilkinson, Director of Communications, HVM Catapult

HVM Catapult is a sponsor of the EEF National Manufacturing Conference in London on 20 February 2018. As a supporter of UK manufacturing and innovation, HVM Catapult provided some insights into some of the themes of the conference, which include the Fourth Industrial Revolution, innovation, supply chains, and productivity. 

 

Debate around the Fourth Industrial Revolution in UK manufacturing is no longer around when it will happen, but around which companies will spot the opportunities created and those which will choose to ignore them. My message to manufacturers is don’t get left behind. Against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, our economic outlook is changing. Companies that embrace the potential of 4th industrial revolution technologies, will position themselves better to succeed in a future, potentially very different landscape. Businesses that want to maintain their competitiveness to secure their place in the supply chains of major OEMs need to act now to develop, test and implement the technologies that will improve their long-term productivity, access to data and connectivity.

 

Already some of the UK’s larger manufacturers are telling us that they see too few companies in their supply chain taking advantage of the technologies available (and expected) today. They want their suppliers of goods and services to be sharing real-time digital information that is a replica of their products and operations - the so-called digital twin. They want to see the power of data used to alert staff when a machine needs maintenance or cut down the administrative time and expense needed to maintain stock levels. They want their supply chain to take advantage of the latest sensor technologies and metrology to improve accuracy and cut down waste. They want the firms that feed them to make full use of the tools which will increase supply chain certainty, drive up efficiency, keep costs competitive and put the OEM ahead of rival businesses in challenging global markets. 

 

Should we spurn the opportunities created by 4th industrial revolution technologies, we can look forward to dwindling order books, shrinking incomes, falling manufacturing employment and the loss of the UK’s reputation as the best place to invest in Europe. Major companies will move facilities to be close to the suppliers that provide the best service and goods, and today that means the best integrated processes and technology. It doesn’t have to be like that. The UK’s manufacturers are extraordinarily resilient and have a readiness to take on fresh challenges. If they adapt they will win through, beat off the competition and grow. Our future will be bright. 

 

It doesn’t have to be a painful transition. At the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, we help companies of all sizes think through how they can exploit the new technologies, maintain and improve on existing supply chain contracts and expand their markets. We know translating new technologies into the workplace can be scary – and costly. By providing access to the specialist equipment and expertise needed to investigate new technologies and processes we help strip away the risk of innovation, deferring investment decisions until a firm’s leadership can see that ideas can be scaled up to deliver on a commercial scale. We help manufacturers feel that they’re not alone in their quest for growth. We ease their transition to a new world. 

 

The value of events like the EEF National Manufacturing Conference is that by coming together, manufacturing leaders can better define the challenges they face and the help they need to tackle them. Britain has never been afraid of change but by sharing insight and experience we are better able to master it. The High Value Manufacturing Catapult is here to help and make sure the UK remains the best place in the world for innovative makers.

 

To find out more about how HVM Catapult can help companies innovate for productivity and growth, stop by their stand at the EEF National Manufacturing Conference on 20 February 2018. Register your place at the conference and read more about the programme (including speakers such as Jeremy Corbyn, Lush Cosmetics, and Toyota UK) here.

5 reasons why your brand will pack a punch this February!

by coneill@eef.org.uk 13. December 2017 10:44

 

Get your New Year marketing and sales generation off to a strong start by exhibiting at the EEF National Manufacturing Conference & Exhibition. It is the top event for senior manufacturing decisionmakers each year. 

Here’s why you need to be there as an exhibitor:

 

1. Get your brand in front of an unprecedented number of key decision-makers. 
We’re talking CEOs, MD, FDs, and operations directors – a whopping 800 senior-level delegates with direct access to the purse strings. And not a gatekeeper in sight.

 

2. An effortless windfall of lucrative, highly targeted business leads.

Generate direct sales, lay foundations for ongoing partnerships and boost brand awareness for your business.

 

3. Align your brand with EEF, a trusted and renowned organisation.

EEF has been supporting the industry since 1896. It’s the go-to place for advice, resources and is the representative voice of British manufacturing.

 

4. Unparalleled exposure for your business.

Your business won’t just grab attention at the exhibition. It’ll also be featured across our range of media channels, from EEF’s Insights magazine through to the website, social media and a dedicated conference app.

 

5. Learn while you earn.

Your exhibitor’s pass grants access to the entire conference and its jam-packed programme of workshops, networking and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

 

This is a great value opportunity for businesses that serve UK manufacturers. Don’t miss out on one of the exhibitor spaces – and there’s only a small number available. Get in touch with the conference team for more details.

Addressing the skilled worker shortage through modern technology

By Infor

The shortage of skilled workers has become a major obstacle for manufacturers, one that is interfering with potential growth and generating considerable frustration. While there are no simple answers to this problem, modern technology does offer some tools to help cope with the day-to-day challenges as well as some strategies which will help long-term resolution of the underlying problems. 

Discuss these strategies in more detail with experts and peers at the EEF National Manufacturing Conferenceon 20 February 2018 – an event Infor is sponsoring. 

 

How did we get here?

Addressing the worker shortage starts with understanding the driving forces. Today’s current severe shortage of skilled workers did not happen overnight, generated by one trigger incident. Multiple factors converged at once to escalate and intensify the issues, also making them difficult to counteract. Now, the self-perpetuating skills gap crises could possibly derail industry recovery—or at least severely dampen optimism when it’s needed most. The critical question remains: How can manufacturers step up and seize unfolding opportunities when the existing workforce is stretched past capacity and open positions are going unfilled because of lack of qualified applicants? 

 

Let’s look at the top influencers first:

-The aging population. Workers that made the post war industrial era thrive are now reaching retirement age. And we haven’t hit the peak yet. A McKinsey reports says that by 2030, there will be at least 300 million more people aged 65 years and older than there were in 2014. An aging population means fewer workers available for employment.

-Manufacturing has lost its luster. Today’s millennial generation tends to think manufacturing plants are dark, dirty, scary places to work with little future. Waves of plant closings and lay-offs during the global recession generated skepticism among potential workers. Even as the global economy improves, lack of stability is still a concern, keeping some job candidates from considering careers in manufacturing.

-Fear of automation. The hype around automation, robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence is a doubled-edged sword. On one side, these technologies portray manufacturing as exciting and innovative. But, on the flip side, automation seems to put the workforce at risk. What jobs are safe from becoming automated?  

-Not enough STEM graduates. Education experienced a shift in focus away from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses and toward liberal arts programs. This 20-year pendulum swing generated fewer design engineering graduates. At the same time, the phenomenal growth in computer science and technology fields put graduates in those fields in high demand. There just are not enough to go around.

-The lost art of vocational schools, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training. These programs, once a critical part of sustaining the workforce, have faded away, replaced by the perception that a three-year degree from a traditional university is the only route to a rewarding career. 

 

What can manufacturers do?

Of the five factors mentioned here, some, such as the aging population, are simply beyond the control of individual manufacturers. Changing perceptions and educating the public are major endeavors that will take collective efforts of many groups, from unions to trade associations. Manufacturers can support and contribute to these efforts, though, helping to portray the industry in its best possible light.  

Some of the influencing factors can be tackled by manufacturers. Reviving apprenticeships is one example. Manufacturers can enact programs to up-skill existing workers, cross-training, and mentor recent graduates. 

Put technology to use. Technology offers manufacturers two main ways to counteract the shortage of skills workers. First, technology can help stretch current resources further, making the current workforce as productive and efficient as possible. Secondly, technology can help manufacturers recruit and retain the best of the job candidates, including millennials. Let’s look closer at the role technology can play on overcoming the worker shortage.

Streamline processes. Eliminating extra steps, ending redundancy, and preventing delays and gaps in communication will go a long way in making your lean organization ultra-efficient. Modern ERP solutions push relevant contextual data to users, speeding decision-making. Users no longer have to hunt for forms or rely on memorizing best practices and procedures. Workflows and escalation procedures can be built into the system so much of the process control, compliance, quality control, and tracking or monitoring for details can happen automatically. 

Optimize tools. Technology has brought many new tools to manufacturing, drastically changing the amount of time and effort involved in completing some tasks. Examples of dramatic time savers:

-Configure-Price-Quote tools for speeding quotes and design of highly configured products
-Product Life Cycle Management for speeding product launches
-Warehouse Management Solutions for improving efficiency in managing inventory
-Mobility Solutions so that your workforce can access data 24/7, from virtually anywhere
-Enterprise Asset Management Solutions for managing preventive maintenance of plant assets

Support and train existing employees. Manufacturers can also use technology to train, cross-train, and support the existing force so that employees can build on existing skills, become certified in new areas, and play more than one role, when needed. Look for modern ERP solutions with knowledge banks, learning modules, and ways to store/access support aids like videos and help files.

Work the way we live. Workers today expect to find the same technology in their workplace as they use in their everyday lives. They expect the software they use to be as intuitive as their phone, and as insightful as the ecommerce sites they visit. Outdated ERP solutions with cumbersome user interfaces will frustrate employees.

 

Concluding thoughts

While the shortage of skilled workers will not be resolved quickly, manufacturers can take steps to alleviate the critical symptoms. It starts with showing employees and job candidates there is an interest in providing them with tools for learning and expanding their skills, especially in digital technologies. While manufacturers may ask workers to wear more than one hat at times or fill in to cover vacancies, there are also tools to help every employee be as efficient as possible. Giving employees these time-saving tools will prevent burn-out. And, providing workers with software with a consumer-like interface will also help create a positive work environment, empowering workers, encouraging them to be highly engaged.   

Register for the EEF National Manufacturing Conference, sponsored by Infor, to secure your spot at your choice of four peer learning workshops on themes of cybersecurity, securing your post-Brexit workforce, smart energy and trade.

Three examples of manufacturers who saved energy to boost competitiveness

The EEF National Manufacturing Conference 2018 features four workshops featuring experts and manufacturing peers discussing cybersecurity, trade, Brexit workforce and energy. One of the panellists for The Smart Energy Revolution workshop is Hiten Sonpal, a Business Green Award winner and Head of Specialist Sectors at Lombard, the conference’s headline sponsor. In this blog, Hiten shares three examples of manufacturers he has worked with to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint as part of a strategy to increase productivity and competitiveness. 

While manufacturers have long had their eye on process improvements to increase productivity, many are missing out on a significant way to decrease costs. It’s all about energy and sustainability.

For the past seven years, the Lombard team has worked with manufacturers to identify and implement proven ways to reduce the energy use of their sites and even generate additional income from generating more power than they use.

Here are three examples of how manufacturers can think differently about energy improvements with short ROIs that can make a company more competitive and future fit:

1.    Energy audit + new equipment

A few years ago, I met a manufacturer who was proud of his manufacturing facility and the fact that many of his machines were two decades old, but still seemed to be chugging along fine. However, a digitised energy audit looked at every plug load in the building and determined that the old machines were using double the energy compared with newer models.

He realised that by replacing the machines, the energy savings would pay for 50% of the finance payments for the new machines in the first year. Just as you’ll realise savings in your petrol costs when you trade in a 20 year old car for a newer version with a better miles per gallon design, strategically upgrading machines for more efficient models is a win.

The manufacturer not only replaced the inefficient machines, but he used the opportunity to find new options that could do several new processes that he previously outsourced (at a cost to his profit margin). Now he offers those services as turnkey solutions to his customers, leading to a larger return to his business and ensuring quicker service that doesn’t rely on third parties.

To find out more about energy audits, see a blog I recently wrote on ‘going green’.

 

2.    Renewable heat

A woodworking company specialising in retail shop fit outs attended a Lombard seminar on energy savings. Their business obviously created a significant amount of wood waste, which required them to pay for hiring a skip, transporting the skip to the landfill, and leaving the waste there. At the seminar they heard about renewable energy technologies that work for manufacturers.

We worked with them to select a biomass boiler to heat their premises and generate hot water, while also mitigating the cost of dealing with wood waste. This positively impacted their cost margin, while also receiving a Renewable Heat Incentive from the government. The payback for their biomass system was just three years and they were able to pass savings onto their customers to keep competitive. 

Additionally, the owner was so happy with this improvement, he worked with Lombard to identify other energy opportunities, including retrofitting their facility with LED lighting and rooftop solar panels as well as installing a building management system to identify energy wastage going forward.

See our full infogaphic on sustainability in manufacturing here.

resource-efficiency-infographic

3.    Think small

Some manufacturers don’t even consider potential energy solutions because they are worried about the capital investment required. Part of my job at Lombard is to not only bring energy savings to life for my customers by showing them real life examples of what’s possible, but to show them how easy it can be. 
One of these simple solutions is replacing lighting with LEDs. We have customers who have reduced their lighting bill by 85% and achieved a two year payback from this change alone.

The government also provides enhanced capital allowances where companies can offset 100% of the costs of their LED lights in taxable profits in the first year. Why spend your profit on taxes when you can invest for efficiency?

Another no-brainer is utilising manufacturers’ flat roofs and open spaces to install solar panels. Why buy energy at 10 pence/unit when you can generate your own power and even sell it back to the grid?

At Lombard, we don’t just want to be known as an asset funder for plants and machinery, but as an impartial expert resource for our clients across a range of sectors, including energy. When productivity and margins are so important to manufacturers today, they can’t risk falling behind by not making simple improvements that prevent energy costs from eating into their bottom line.

 

The EEF National Manufacturing Conference is on 20 February 2018 in London. In addition to the four themed workshops (which are booked first come, first served when purchasing a conference ticket), political and industry heavyweights will be speaking, including Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Book your early bird discount for tickets today.

 

Author

 
Hiten Sonpal

Head of Specialist Sectors - Lombard

EEF National Manufacturing Conference looks to the future

The EEF National Manufacturing Conference and Dinner 2017 brought hundreds of UK leaders in manufacturing to London for a day of inspiring speeches, panels by peers and luminaries and industry networking. 

See the summary of the day's events as seen on Twitter:

#EEF2017 Twitter Contest

Want to win a Ferrari goodie bag valued at £350 donated by Infor? Simply tweet about why you love UK manufacturing or tweet a photo capturing the conference day and you could win.

 ferrari

Rules

  • you must be at the conference to be eligible and accept your prize (presented at the conclusion of the day)
  • use the conference hashtag #EEF2017 in your tweet to submit an entry
  • tweets containing profanity or inappropriate language or imagery will be disqualified
  • EEF employees are not eligible to win
  • Contest runs between 7:30am and 2:30pm UTC on 22 February 2017

Time to grow

February 2017 14:11

 
 
Ian Isaac, Managing Director of Lombard

When the government merged two departments last year to create the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it was a sign that it wanted to highlight the importance of industry to the UK economy. And its recently published green paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ does just that – placing industry and manufacturing at the heart of government’s priorities over the coming decade.   

One of the criticisms of the economy has long been that it is unbalanced and skewed towards London, in particular the financial services sector in the City. Although this is undeniably an important area for the UK, and one that gives much prominence to the country globally, our manufacturing prowess also deserves to be recognised. 

In some areas of this we are considered to be global leaders. The aerospace industry, with its advanced manufacturing capabilities, has made the UK home to Airbus, Rolls Royce and BAE. The automotive sector is also performing very well.

The government has recognised the strengths and weaknesses of the manufacturing sector, and is supporting its growth. Last November, the Prime Minister announced the Industrial Strategy Fund to back leading-edge technologies such as robotics, advanced materials manufacturing and satellites. 

The fund is run by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which took over from various existing research bodies last summer to create a more joined-up approach to innovation. It is not only concerned with new developments, but with creating the means to successfully commercialise them. Ensuring that British manufacturing capabilities remain successful long after their initial development must be a priority.

 

Solving the Productivity Puzzle 

We’re all aware of this long-standing industrial conundrum. Regions outside London lag behind the national average and, as a country, our productivity overall is 20% behind that of both France and Germany. It is estimated that if rural economies were boosted, an additional £28bn a year could be added to output. 

Various factors contribute to this slow economic growth, and EEF’s report, ‘Manufacturing a Solution to the Productivity Crisis’, points to a number of them. Long-term underinvestment and considerable growth in self-employment are two factors that are clear to see, as is the fact that we are still dealing with the fallout from the financial crisis. 

The investment in manufacturing that has been laid out by the government promises to reverse these trends. Manufacturing has a good track record in productivity levels compared to the national average, and developments in manufacturing have a positive knock-on effect on the economy as a whole. The sector supports the development of new technologies, modern machinery and computer systems that are later taken up by other industries.

The split in growth across different areas of the country is well documented, and it’s not only about the South East versus the North. Cardiff, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are all in many senses thriving but the Scottish and Welsh economies are performing below the national average. And where many city centres across Britain are prospering, their outlying areas often lag behind. 

An integrated strategy for stimulating the economy is needed, one that encourages companies, universities and regions to operate as local ecosystems. The government has introduced a number of ways to boost regional initiatives, including fostering expertise through Local Enterprise Partnerships, introducing City Deals and devolving power to mayors. These measures all enable the people who most understand the needs of different areas to make key decisions.

 

Investing in skills and training 

The government is also investing in education, which is critical to boosting the country’s manufacturing capabilities. New institutes of technology will be established to deliver training in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and boost opportunities for young people who don’t go to university. The government also wants to link regional businesses, financial institutions and local authorities to provide the training, employment and funding needed to spearhead regional centres of manufacturing. 

If the country succeeds with this integrated approach, we can look forward to the continued success of a robust manufacturing sector.

 

This and other topics of business interest to UK manufacturers will be discussed at the National Manufacturing Conference on 22 February 2017. Follow the events of the day on Twitter with #EEF2017.

The technology investment required for a 21st century supply chain

 

 Nick Harrison, Partner, KPMG in the UK

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the Internet of Things and industrial automation being the biggest buzzwords in 21st century manufacturing, how does the supply chain fit into this picture of disruptive technologies driving new productivity and growth?

 

While new technology can provide a solution for some, often it’s the processes and systems that prove the barrier to improvement. Technology isn’t a silver bullet to solve every challenge.

 In working with UK manufacturers, I know that 4IR and improving their supply chain are some of the biggest challenges they are wrestling with. However, many are confused about what 4IR actually means and where they should start.

The first step for organisations in this position is to take a detailed look at operations and how their systems and processes connect with their supply chain and customers. How visible is customer demand? How is that integrated into production schedules? How quickly can they predict and adjust based on new demand? How can downtime be minimised on machinery? How can shift patterns be optimised? What information can be drawn from the endless supply of data?

Often, the business growth isn’t hampered by internal operations, but by a lack of customer focus. This can come down to the wrong pricing strategy, too many customer touch points before the customer can make a purchase, or a complicated and inefficient website or ordering system. From back-office transformations to software upgrades, there are solutions available.

Getting buy-in for these types of changes is generally not the challenging part. Typically, the problem lies in the ‘stickiness’ of the solutions and the managing the change. How will these improvements continue over the long-term as people go back to focusing on their day jobs? As a strategic partner with manufacturers working on these challenges, we help our clients develop processes to embed a culture of change and improvement.  

Brexit’s impact

Brexit’s impact on the manufacturing supply chain is going to be bigger than imagined. Just look at the automotive industry. A typical vehicle takes approximately 3,000 parts, sourced from an integrated, international supply chain that took 20-30 years to build. A typical car takes seven years to develop and everyone in the supply chain is working towards that date (and has to be able to supply replacement parts for the life of that vehicle after that date). How will UK manufacturers adapt their supply chain given a new trade reality?

Brexit will also impact processes, raising compliance issues, such as requiring two separate systems for UK and EU supply chains. How do manufacturers ensure these systems are integrated, but hold separate product codes and data?

These are significant issues that very few people fully understand yet. 

Disruptors on the horizon

In every industry we’re seeing the rise of more disruptors, such as Tesla in the automotive industry.

While many people believe the technology-driven shop floor is the key one they should consider, the switch to the cloud may be an overlooked solution. Companies are moving away from investing in physical assets that need to be updated every two years. Instead, they are putting their data in the cloud. This type of storage also helps create one secure, master set of data rather than relying on separate spreadsheets and data stored on separate systems across the company.

No matter where a manufacturer is on their journey to adopt 4IR and grow their supply chain, there is no doubt change is happening faster than ever. The key is to take the first step to identify solutions that suit your business.

This and other topics of business interest to UK manufacturers will be discussed at the National Manufacturing Conference on 22 February 2017. KPMG’s own Stephen Cooper, Partner and Head of Industrial Manufacturing, will be presenting as part of a panel on ‘Making Britain the best place to do manufacturing – a global perspective’. Tickets are available now.

A bright future for UK Manufacturing

Today's Guest Blog is from Dick Elsy, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult

 

If UK media are to be believed, the March of the Makers has – very quickly – turned into a slow walk. Whilst the data shows that manufacturing output has faltered and gone into recession, I strongly disagree with the media positioning of this. Surely, the recent dip in manufacturing output and outlook should not come as a shock. Indeed, it would have been naïve to expect UK manufacturing to be immune from the impact of global economic turmoil, dropping oil and gas prices, a very strong Pound and uncertainty in the Eurozone.

UK industry has the ingredients to recover quickly and to continue to perform strongly, particularly in the manufacture of high value, high technology products. Within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult we have a unique insight into the pipeline of innovation in manufacturing in the UK and from what we see, the future looks bright.

The important aerospace, automotive and pharmaceuticals sectors are set to continue to grow and create more jobs in 2016, in spite of the current challenging market conditions. This is no coincidence. These sectors have a track record of technology innovation through investment in capital equipment, research and development, and workforce development. They enjoy high (and rising) productivity as a result.

The benefits of such investment can and should be accessed by all manufacturing sectors, and by companies of all sizes. Technology innovation is critical to achieving step changes in productivity, and to accelerating the process of commercialising innovations.

High cost and high risk are industry’s main barriers to technology innovation. Recognising the issue, UK government supports the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult to reduce that risk. Our seven centres across the country help companies of all sizes bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation. In 2014-15, we worked with over 1,500 companies (over 40% of whom were SMEs) and we achieved £15 net economic benefits for every £1 of government funding received.

Government now seems to fully understand the importance of long-term support for manufacturing technology innovation, as illustrated by the strong endorsement of the HVM Catapult in the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review. This is very good news for UK industry.

Since the inception of the HVM Catapult 4.5 years ago, business demand for our services has far exceeded expectation and the sheer volume and quality of the innovation work that we do with industry is a very positive bellwether for the future health of UK advanced manufacturing,

I am very aware, however, that we need to continue to reach out to those companies and sectors that have not yet fully exploited the benefits that we can bring to them. Working closely with EEF helps us to broaden our reach and best understand the needs of engineering employers and manufacturers. Our close involvement in the 2016 Annual Manufacturing Conference illustrates the value we see in this positive partnership. I hope to welcome many delegates to our stand at the event, both those who already know us and those who are less familiar with our work. I look forward to an uplifting event, where we face our challenges with open eyes, and chart our way towards the bright future ahead of us.

Productivity in people: Fostering collaboration and improving decision making

Today's Guest Blog is from Phil Lewis, Vice President of Solution Consulting for Europe, Infor

 

 

 

Technology sounds like a natural solution for streamlining products and production, but it also helps boost the all-important ‘people’ aspect of productivity. At Infor, we work with businesses to implement technology that speeds and informs smart decision making and enables collaborative behaviour.

 

Big data, better decisions

Most manufacturers understand that better data means better decision making by their managers and employees. However, sometimes the challenge is having too much information and no way to combine this unstructured data into one place and in the right context. Today’s software solutions can assemble data – from machine use to shift schedules – into meaningful analytics delivered at point of decision to the right person.

 

Collaborative social ecosystems

Internal networks can also be formed with technology serving as the connection. For example, as soon as a customer places an order, a message can be sent to the right manager who can use contextual analytics to see if the product is in stock, make sourcing decisions immediately and send the message for the product to be immediately taken off the shelf and shipped.

Based on a familiar social-media paradigm a sales manager can ‘follow’ their customers and receive updates (tweets) about the status of orders for example, or to share information with others in the organisation. This collaboration is enabled by an online tool like Infor Ming.le where everyone is encouraged to proactively manage the business and use the data at their fingertips to become predictive, and make the best possible decisions.

"It is especially important to have a flexible infrastructure to ensure a fast response to customer demand - which often changes even during construction phase." Roberto Altena, Head of Information Systems Management of Marchesini Group.

 

Streamlining the human work chain

One of the biggest drains on ‘people’ productivity is latency in the decision making process. Busy managers often cause avoidable delays by not providing approval in a timely manner. Enterprise focused collaboration tools can provide a solution that increases human efficiency – like Infor Ming.le.

Managers can now receive tasks in real time, on their phones or computers (no matter where they are or what they’re doing), and then immediately sign off on a proposed task. The system can then move forward to the next step of an agreed upon activity stream.

 

Case study:  Marchesini Group

Marchesini Group is a leader in the packaging manufacturing industry. In 2002, Marchesini Group decided to upgrade its Infor ERP. The new Infor software provides the opportunity to 'surf' the data / information in a completely new way. Infor Ming.le allows all employees of the various business units to communicate and collaborate by sharing information such as documents, projects and photos. Then connecting processes structured and unstructured Infor Ming.le allows a significant increase in productivity levels.

The new IT system has enabled more people to use it. The previous system had 250 users, but today, thanks to the integration that characterises the new system, there are around 1,500 users amongst designers, engineers and other professionals, who can access Infor LN.

To hear more about technology’s potential for boosting productivity, attend the EEF National Manufacturing Conference in London on 24 February 2016.

Exporting is growing for UK manufacturing

Today's guest blog is from Alan Ainsbury, Head of Trade and Supply Chain, NatWest Transaction Services

 

There is widespread recognition that export is the key to securing long-term UK growth, and despite what was previously seen as a high-risk venture, a changing environment is seeing more manufacturers than ever exploring overseas markets.

What is clear is that early engagement with your financial provider is key to overcoming perceived barriers, reducing risk and to identifying the funding options and strategic relationships that will help your business to succeed.

If you want to find out more about effective management of a supply chain and choosing the right suppliers, we’ll be running a lunchtime workshop and answering questions in the Panel discussion that follows.

The Global Trade Challenge

Today's guest blog is from Edward Naylor, CEO, Naylor Industries plc

 

 

 

 

 

At Naylor, our Global Trade Challenge has been quite simple: we made brittle, commodity products (clay sewer pipes) which were too low value to export economically. But UK infrastructure was mature and UK construction activity too unpredictable: we needed global reach. With the help of UK universities, we set to work on developing higher value products with unique performance characteristics, focusing on two areas:

  1. Chemical Resistance
  2. Strong pipes which could be installed without digging trenches
The resultant products - the Hathernware chemical pipe and the Denlok jacking pipe - have now been used on every continent and in 65 different markets, and we now have recognised world expertise in chemical drainage and trenchless technology.

How technology is increasing productivity in UK manufacturing

Today's guest blog is from Phil Lewis, Vice President of Solution Consulting for Europe, Infor

We hear a lot in the media about UK manufacturing lagging behind its Eurozone counterparts when it comes to productivity. Certainly this shouldn’t be the case – the UK sector should be leading the way globally. So what does the industry have to do to address this shortfall?

A traditional view is simply trying to do more with less as measured by GDP per employee. Many UK manufacturers understandably feel they have made all the productivity improvements to their processes that they can, implementing best practices in terms of Lean and Six Sigma strategies. However, just looking at the process side of productivity is a one dimensional view as it misses other facets of productivity that go beyond production, the role of the entire supply chain and the potential for technology to enable a strategic and informed approach to productivity.

This evolving view of productivity is why it’s one of the main themes of the EEF National Manufacturing Conference on 24 February in London, an event that Infor sponsors. Lisa Pope, SVP of Infor’s Global Strategy and Sales, will address the role of technology in spurring productivity in the manufacturing sector during ‘The productivity challenge’ panel discussion moderated by Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

As a provider of enterprise applications, Infor provides solutions to help manufacturing companies boost what we call the 4 Ps of Productivity. In the next four blogs in this series we’ll address in detail each of the Ps: Product, People, Processes and Partnerships. We’ll also share some interesting case studies of how some of our manufacturing customers have used technology as an enabler for their holistic productivity strategy.

A few of the solutions we’ll share include:

  • Creating collaborative social ecosystems

  • Automating the human work chain

  • Moving to a make-to-order, customisation model rather than a build-it and stock-it model

  • Using the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 to predict problems and proactively solve them 

When each of the 4Ps is enhanced to meet the expectations of today’s supply chain and consumer, and is bolstered by the best technological solutions, we’ve seen manufacturers achieve real gains.

If you have questions or comments about this different approach to productivity, visit our booth on the conference exhibition floor or shoot me an email at phil.lewis@infor.com.

16 reasons to attend #EEF2016

by Kathy Riley, Director of National Partnerships 21. January 2016 09:45

 

Thinking about registering for the EEF National Manufacturing Conference on 24 February 2016 in London? Here are a few reasons why that's a great idea:

 

Mind the Productivity Gap

by Kathy Riley, Director of National Partnerships 21. January 2016 09:39

 

Productivity is one of the key themes at this year's National Manufacturing Conference. Here's why productivity matters:

 

In or Out? The UK’s future in the EU - Hear Both Sides

In - Damian Green MP, Chairman, Conservative European Mainstream Group

 

I believe Britain is stronger, safer and better off in the EU than we would be on our own.

Leaving Europe would risk our prosperity, threaten our safety in an increasingly dangerous world, and diminish our influence, especially with the new powers emerging in the world.

The benefits of being in clearly outweigh the costs, and the risks of pulling out from a group of friendly neighbouring democracies are potentially huge.

Europe needs reform badly but staying in gives us the best of both worlds; membership of the world’s largest economic bloc, and the freedom to trade everywhere.

 

Out - Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive, Vote Leave

 

The impact on the economy will be a central focus of the referendum debate. I believe that businesses - from manufacturers to financial services - will thrive outside the EU.

The UK has no control over trade negotiations with countries outside the European Union. The EU has spent years trying to complete trade discussions with India and the US. Meanwhile, Switzerland and Iceland - who are outside the EU - have signed free trade agreements with China.

UK firms which don’t export still have to comply with reams of regulation from Brussels. Only 5% of UK businesses export to the EU, yet 100% have to adhere to burdensome rules which drive up costs and reduce productivity.

If we leave the EU, we can take back control of our trade agreements and negotiate terms that suit the needs of British business. Our politicians will become more accountable and can formulate policies which support business, enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Manufacturers need to make changes to meet the challenges ahead

Today's guest blog is from Ian Isaac, Head of Lombard

 

 

As we approach the EEF National Manufacturing Conference next month it is against a backdrop of inescapable change for UK industry. The rapid advances in technology, globalisation and growing digitalisation have created a new environment for manufacturing. It’s one that sees both opportunities and challenges across every aspect of the manufacturing sector.

 

We believe the UK is well placed to step up to the opportunity to create a globally competitive industry but this relies on manufacturers making the changes needed to meet the challenges ahead. In recognition of this and as part of NatWest, we’ve undertaken an extensive consultation exercise talking directly to manufacturers and key industry influencers in the sector to gain deep insight and understanding of what’s required, and how we can work together to make this happen. Our findings will be published at the Conference and will reflect on how we can work together to help you become ‘future fit’. 

 

Tackling productivity and winning globally are the key themes for this year’s event which will play key roles in delivering success. This means that investment in your future continues to be important. In my role as Head of Lombard, I want our team to work closely with you to help find the funding that will keep them at the forefront of this productivity drive. We want to make sure that UK manufacturing as a whole is able to make the most of its potential.

 

At Lombard and NatWest we’re fully committed to continuing to work with you to explore how we can support the sector through this period of change. Our focus is on making sure that we’re all future fit for the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

5 types of people can network with at EEF's National Manufacturing Conference

by Kathy Riley, Director of National Partnerships 4. December 2015 11:31

 

Grab your business cards. Hone your elevator pitch. It’s time to talk manufacturing and engineering with industry leaders and insiders.

EEF’s annual National Manufacturing Conference on 24 February 2016 is recognised as the must-attend event for UK manufacturing and engineering. Inspirational and high profile speakers as well as a larger-than-ever exhibition hall draw hundreds of industry delegates (and, therefore, networking opportunities).

Here are five types of people that will be out in full force at #EEF2016:

 

Senior Manufacturing Execs

 Groupreception

Unlike many other business and industry conferences, EEF’s National Manufacturing Conference really does attract top-level management. This is because the conference tackles the big picture policy and leadership issues that directly appeal to this audience. For one day a year, these leaders are all together in one building. Take the opportunity to meet and network with the people who have the power to make decisions.

 

Senior Civil Servants

SajidJavid 

The EEF policy team’s close connections with civil servants and policymakers ensures many of these connections will be at the conference as speakers and delegates. If you’re looking to get the attention of the leaders who work on business-related policy, seeing them speak or even talking to them at the conference is a good start. 

 

Trade Show Exhibitors

Booth 

You never know who you’ll meet at the ever-expanding exhibition hall. And, course, EEF will have its own booth, staffed with experts in HR, training, HSCE, productivity, management, and policy. Come by – we dare you to try and stump them with your toughest, most persistent manufacturing or business question!

 

Policy Experts

Leespeech

EEF’s policy experts author industry-leading research reports and campaign on behalf of UK manufacturing. Many of our top experts will be on hand at the conference to chat with delegates. Keep an eye out for them, or pop by EEF’s own booth, to talk manufacturing and policy.

As EEF stays abreast of key business and industry policy, best practices, and news (often shaping them through campaigning and committee work), our experts can provide insider guidance and advice.

 

Practitioners and Peers 

Chrismingling 

The impressive speaker line up isn’t your only opportunity to learn. Often chatting with peers facing the same day-to-day challenges is the best way to take home some tips and tricks. From CEOs to finance directors, there are so many professionals you’ll want to meet and collaborate with in the future.

Manufacturing smart: The transforming face of industry productivity

This blog post was published for the 2015 manufacturing conference

 

Today's guest blog is from Barrie Street, Customer Marketing Manager, Manufacturing, Canon UK & Europe

2014 was certainly a successful year for manufacturing and in Britain, we celebrated the 6th consecutive quarter of sector-wide growth according to the EEF’s chief economist, Lee Hopley. This is something that the entire industry should be proud of but continued success is all about change and building on momentum.


There are lots of labels that have been applied to this generational opportunity: the next Industrial Revolution; Industry 4.0; Industrial Internet of Things. Whichever label you choose to apply to it, digital technology and practises sit at the heart of the industry’s continued growth. 


The manufacturers that really capitalise on this opportunity will be the firms that are able to increase productivity, innovate information processes and accelerate their decision making. In short, smart manufactures need to find smart ways of working to capitalise on and maintain its current momentum. 

 


Automation took the industry a step forwards and today, connectivity amongst manufacturing processes is commonplace and has empowered an industry full of intelligent devices that produce huge amounts of data that can be collected and used to generate leaner operations, new business ideas and drive a new digital value chain. It’s not the factory of the future yet, but it’s getting there and the innovation shows no sign of stopping as inefficient or duplicated processes are eradicated. Increasing connectivity within these environments continues to transform how factories operate, buildings are managed, and entire logistical chains. But all of this automation and intelligent connectivity will require careful management to ensure that the technology delivers on its productivity promises.


Big data is already being used to optimise production schedules based on supplier, customer, machine availability and cost constraints, but this data is only useful if it can be utilised to increase productivity and efficiency. Manufacturers will continue to tackle increasing amounts of information across complex networks and supply chains, growing compliance standards and expanding customer demands - as they strive to increase productivity, maintain competitive advantage and be the best at what they do. The challenge then has evolved and ensuring that the right information reaches the right place and the right person at the right time is the key to operation efficiency within modern manufacturing. Linking and optimising essential processes, data and communications internally, across the supply chain and with customers and suppliers alike is enabling manufacturers to apply more intelligence across their operations, introducing efficiencies and reducing costs across the board.


If you’re interested in the changing face of modern manufacturing and the productivity benefits that digitally transformative processes can bring, why not follow our exclusive roundtable at this year’s National Manufacturing Conference on Twitter @CanonBusinessUK.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult – looking ahead

This blog post was published for the 2015 manufacturing conference

 

Today's guest blog is from Dick Elsy, Chief Executive of the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult

Dick Elsy

Manufacturing is now fully recognised as being key to a truly balanced economy in the UK. With an increase in factory output of 2.7% in 2014, UK manufacturing companies look to be in a better position than most to weather the ongoing turmoil in the global economy and the Eurozone in particular.

Maintaining such strong performance in times of more challenging trade conditions however, requires a long-term approach and ongoing commitment from the manufacturing industry, as well as UK government and our research base. 

The recent government Science and Innovation Strategy sets out an encouraging vision to support a balanced economy through the commercialisation of our world leading research. The HVM Catapult is seen a key player in the process of bridging the gap between invention and exploitation. 

 

I’m convinced that we have our offer right and this is evidenced by the very strong take-up of our services by industry. We therefore need to continue to focus on offering our technical capability – equipment, expertise, infrastructure – to  manufacturing companies of all sizes in the UK. Going forward we plan to increase our focus on innovation hungry SME’s where we see real opportunity to help to embed new value in the UK. We also plan to reach out to broader parts of the manufacturing sector, as textiles and food and drink – which have not yet fully exploited the competitive benefits they could derive from working with us. 

Another area of increased focus will be training and skills. Developing the skilled workforce of tomorrow, equipped with knowledge and understanding of emerging technologies, is essential to enabling UK industry to compete in global markets. The National College for Advanced Manufacturing – announced in December 2014 – is collaboration between the HVM Catapult and the EEF. It will identify the needs of industry and develop training provision to develop world-class practical skills to meet those needs.  

We have seen real success in advanced manufacturing in the UK over recent years and I strongly believe ongoing commitment from UK government, combined with collaborative work from industry and organisations such as EEF and the HVM Catapult will see manufacturing continuing to perform well in years to come.

Sparking Imagination

This blog post was published for the 2015 manufacturing conference

 

Today's guest blog is from Nicola Salter, HR Director, Williams

Nicola salter

 

With a declining interest in studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in schools, it is crucial that we reverse this trend and inspire the next generation of budding engineers to come through the ranks. This includes ensuring that young people have the skills needed to work and succeed in a competitive motorsport industry.

 

Williams Spark, the company’s corporate social responsibility programme, aims to harness this positive energy and spark change for good. Through a range of apprenticeships, work experience and student placement programmes, we can help young people from a wide range of backgrounds start a career in advanced engineering.

 

 

This year, Williams is teaming up with AUTOSPORT to create a new annual award that will name an engineering student from a UK university as a rising star of Formula One engineering. The winner will be selected from a list of nominees provided by eight of the country’s leading universities with strong track records in engineering, and supported by Williams with an accelerated career development programme.

 

We are also launching a new Engineering Academy in partnership with Randstad, which will mentor up to 10 students each year in a long term extra-curricular programme that will help guide a new generation of engineers towards a successful career, be that in Formula One or the broader engineering sector that Williams’ is increasingly branching out in to. The Academy will be global in nature, with students applying from all over the world.

 

But an interest in engineering must be sparked at an early age. It was for that reason that Williams formed a collaboration back in 2009 with Cambridge University Press that saw the creation of Race to Learn, a Formula One-themed interactive education software protect for use as a teaching tool for 9 to 11 year olds. Small groups created racing teams and worked together to design a racing car and pitch for sponsorship – all based on real Formula One team pursuits.

Through this collaborative approach and targeting young people at every age, Formula One has great potential to spark imagination and act as a catalyst for change.

 

 

 

Keep on moving on

This blog post was published for the 2015 manufacturing conference

 

Today's guest blog is from Paul Carreiro, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director, EMEA, Infor

Against a backdrop of a slow moving recovery, manufacturing is back as the lion of the British economy according to commentators.  

Of course this resurgence is a cause for celebration, but look underneath the bonnet and the growth in manufacturing is not quite as it seems.  Rather than, as predictions pointed to, manufacturing springing back into life simply because the pound had fallen against other currencies (this was always a little unrealistic), it has earned this resurgence through hard graft, innovative thinking and a sentiment focused on change.  

 

 

The onset of the economic downturn may have seen a period of battening down the hatches, but very quickly, manufacturers have responded to changes in their markets and invested in initiatives designed to protect market share in the short term, and then capitalise on growth in the medium term.  This thinking and associated agility built into their processes, has arguably stood manufacturers in good stead, and contributed to the current success in the sector.    

 

But we are by no means there yet.  The key to its continued success lays in the manufacturing sector’s ability to continually embrace change and redefine ways of working to keep pace with demand.  

 

Consider the fact that the definition of manufacturing is changing.  It is no longer about raw materials going in one door and finished product going out of another.  Today’s manufacturers must embrace higher value goods and services - whether that involves servicing contracts; supporting or complementing products; or  offering outcome or availability based contracts for products.  The next five years will inevitably bring new challenges and opportunities as markets evolve and innovation continues. 

 

The key to success in a changing market hinges on agility, and this means people making decisions based on quality information at their fingertips, no matter where they are situated at that time.  Infor is helping manufacturers to achieve this. 

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