Following an event held at Ricardo’s new innovation centre in Shoreham organised by RSM to help local manufacturers to plan for the future, Zoë Rudling, head of RSM’s manufacturing team in the South East said:
‘The consensus among local manufacturers is that the next decade will bring huge challenges as well as huge opportunities.
‘Top of mind at the moment is the impact of Brexit. While the devaluation of the pound in the aftermath of the referendum has provided a boost to the sector, the current uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future trading relationships is proving unhelpful. However, manufacturers are remaining optimistic.
‘Many companies are sensibly trying to do some contingency planning around different trading arrangements. Currently there are 140,000 companies in the UK which export to the EU but have no experience of trading outside of Europe. Many may need to broaden their horizons.
Mike Thornton, RSM's national head of manufacturing added:
‘One of the biggest Brexit-related risks is around access to skilled labour. Already manufacturing firms are finding its harder to recruit the right talent - a problem which could be exacerbated by any curbs on European workers’ rights to work in the UK.
Now is the time to plan ahead to ensure a future pipeline of talent. In simple terms, we need to encourage greater numbers of bright people into entry level positions. Manufacturers need to do more to engage with local schools and persuade students to consider manufacturing as a rewarding career path.
‘The government is doing its part by pressing ahead with its plans for T-levels due to be available from 2020. This is a very important development which will hopefully help change attitudes towards working in industry.
‘We also need to attract many more women into the sector. Women have been under-represented in the manufacturing sector for too long. Businesses benefit from having as wide a talent pool as possible. By embracing a diverse workforce, businesses are better placed to meet the diverse needs of their customers.
‘Finally, manufacturers need to tackle the productivity gap. Productivity in the UK has been flat for almost a decade and there is now an urgent need for investment. New digital technologies like big data, cloud computing, the internet of things and artificial intelligence all have the potential to transform UK manufacturing. However, many operators are watching and waiting. Once they have a clearer vision of the post-Brexit landscape, we may well see the investment taps being turned on.’
Zoe Rudling presenting to local manufacturers.