What can the manufacturing sector expect in 2018?

Mike Thornton, head of manufacturing at RSM, looks ahead to what 2018 has in store for the sector.

People pressure

The skills shortage in the manufacturing sector could reach a pinch point in 2018. The combination of less flexibility due to reduced migrant workers, increased competition for jobs and the need for new roles to support digital investment, will mean that it will be harder for manufacturers to recruit the best people. This will not only impact productivity and efficiency, but the additional recruitment costs will apply further financial pressure on the sector.

Implementing a better strategy to attract, and more importantly retain, key talent will be increasingly more important next year.

A digital revolution

Innovation will transform the UK manufacturing sector in 2018. Whether its harnessing the opportunity of cloud computing, big data, digital software, robotics or the internet of things – it looks like automation will play a greater part in manufacturing in the future.

Manufacturers will need to ensure they have the right IT skills within the business and at board level to implement an effective IT strategy to replace outdated systems and drive through significant technological investment. A more digital approach could open manufacturers up to more risk, such as cybercrime, so measures will need to be put in place to mitigate any potential hazards.

Trade deal clarity

The continued apathy amongst people who are frustrated with what seems like a lack of progress regarding trade agreements in the Brexit negotiations may change in 2018, as we could see more clarity on what this will look like post-Brexit and it might even look a lot like the customs unions we have now.

Although if favourable trade agreements are reached, businesses who have got used to the base rate kick from a weak pound may get a shock if it swing the other way.