The UK needs to throw its doors wide open to global talent to fill the skills gaps in manufacturing. That was one of the major findings in the inaugural Manufacturing Outlook Report produced by national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe.
The report, supported by the Confederation of British Metalforming (CBM), reveals that a majority 85% of businesses surveyed think that employing foreign workers can be positive for their business.
While 21% considered the problem of recruiting and retaining appropriately skilled people was a main barrier to growth in the next 12 months, 44% commented that the problem in recruiting skilled employees was that they simply were not available locally.
Johnathan Dudley, National Head of Manufacturing at Crowe, said: “We are trailing behind many countries in investment and training, but as the report reveals, 64% of respondents say their main competitors are based abroad.”
Dudley pointed to figures showing that while the UK can count on 77 robots per 10,000 employees in factories, in Germany the figure is a staggering 308 robots per 10,000 employees.
Tim Warrington, Chief Executive Officer of automation specialists bots.co.uk, said: “In the next five years, we expect to see more changes in UK manufacturing than we have seen in the past 50 years. This means if you delay for 12 months, you are effectively 10 years behind your competitors who have responded.”
Warrington said that automation via robotics was not about taking human jobs out of the production system.
“In many cases, they will be doing jobs you can’t recruit employees for in any event.
“We need a change in mindset about automation and the understanding that robots are not just capable of doing one job, but can be programmed to fill many roles in the cycle.”
Transport manufacturing specialist Rachel Eade MBE told delegates at the launch of the report at CBM’s head office in West Bromwich that changing attitudes to transport and demographic changes would be key drivers in emerging industrial strategy.
Eade commented: “We have heard that the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars has been brought forward by the Government from 2040 to 2035, but another factor is that the younger generation don’t all see the need for cars at all.
“This is going to impact in a major way on the design and manufacture of the products we own.
“And environmental factors driven by global policy filtering down to local policy, will also be drivers for change in the transport and automation industries.
“How do we know what we are going to be manufacturing in 5, 10 or 15 years? We need to start thinking about it now,”.
Eade added that documents such as the West Midlands Transport Policy for the next 10 years envisage far greater connectivity in road, rail, air, sprint, metro and bus services.
“We need to see those principles at the forefront of all manufacturing innovation and design.”