The positive atmosphere at EEF’s inaugural Midlands Manufacturing Dinner held recently at Woodland Grange was evident, underlining the sector’s confidence despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations.
The message that came across very clearly to me was manufacturers’ aspirations to continue to move their businesses forward, make decisions, innovate and look to the future.
This aspiration is echoed in our 2017 Steps to Growth Report, in which manufacturers were the most ambitious sector surveyed, with 100% wanting to grow their businesses. Seventy-three percent reported having a strong appetite for growth and, just as importantly, a plan to make it happen.
This statistic came to mind while I was listening to the presentations by Tony Dale, Director, Body Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover and Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine, who both emphasised the absolutely critical role of long-term planning. Jaguar Land Rover is planning ahead to 2040 and Midlands Engine has recently published its ‘vision for growth’, which sets out its ambitions for the Midlands of 2030.
Of course long term strategic planning also demands long term financial planning, and working alongside successful management teams in manufacturing businesses has shown that the earlier we’re involved with those decisions the better the outcome will be. Investment in plant, processes and people is essential to driving every manufacturing business forward and we’ve recently funded both new capital equipment and associated training expenditure to help customers retain their competitive advantage.
With many manufacturers experiencing difficulty recruiting workers with the right skills at the moment there is a huge requirement for staff to be retrained in order to approach design and production differently, embracing the latest technology so that businesses remain competitive. It is imperative that, alongside financial planning, manufacturers possess a long-term talent strategy and that lifelong learning is integrated into the business culture.
Earlier this year, fellow manufacturing sector team members and I at Allied Irish Bank (GB) built on our existing knowledge by working with the Warwick Manufacturing Group. This gave us further insight into new manufacturing principles and practices including the latest thinking on lean manufacturing processes, complex supply chains and cash conversion cycles. This experience has been brought to bear in our subsequent conversations with manufacturing clients and given us an even deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges ahead for them.
The final message I took away from the EEF Dinner was the need for us all to work more closely together across the Midlands region. Sir John Peace was keen to stress the importance of the region marketing itself as even more attractive to Foreign Direct Investment and with Brexit looming large on the horizon there’s never been a better time to promote ourselves on a wider global stage.
There is much to be proud of in the Midlands, regarded by many as the beating heart of the UK’s manufacturing sector. Yes, there are undoubted challenges ahead, but with purpose and a plan to make it happen there are so many reasons to be positive.
About Allied Irish Bank (GB)
Allied Irish Bank (GB) is a niche, sector focused business bank which specialises in delivering relationship driven service to medium to large sized businesses. It operates from 16 locations in major business centres across Great Britain, employing over 600 staff. AIB (GB) has been supporting businesses in Britain for over 40 years. During this time, the bank has grown organically with more than half of new business coming from existing customer recommendations.
AIB (GB) is committed to supporting successful management teams and helping to shape success for manufacturing companies. It has partnered with the EEF to work together to support businesses in this sector, supporting its manufacturing dinners in Yorkshire, the Midlands and the North West.
The AIB logo, Allied Irish Bank (GB) and Allied Irish Bank (GB) Savings Direct are trade marks used under licence by AIB Group (UK) p.l.c. incorporated in Northern Ireland. Registered Office 92 Ann Street, Belfast BT1 3HH. Registered Number NI018800. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.