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Reality Check: The State Of UK Manufacturing

18th December 2018

People around the globe are quick to laud Britain for its prowess in the likes of financial services, education and media. But few are willing to accept that the nation is a world leader in manufacturing.

People around the globe are quick to laud Britain for its prowess in the likes of financial services, education and media. But few are willing to accept that the nation is a world leader in manufacturing.

Despite having remained in the top 11 production countries for the past decade, UK manufacturing is widely regarded as one of the weakest according to recent research by the EEF.

Britain is the 9th biggest manufacturer right now but, curiously, the manufacturers’ association revealed that most people believe we’re 56th.

It’s time for a reality check about the UK’s industry. Manufacturing on a large scale might be primarily associated with countries like China, Japan and South Korea, but Britain is, in fact, among the most important international manufacturers on the planet.

Why the bad rep?

If UK manufacturing is as successful as the stats suggest, why is its reputation limping so far behind?

One of the reasons appears to be the fact that manufacturing isn’t as visible in the country as it used to be. In years gone by, factories would sit in the centre of British cities and adopt a tangible presence in communities. Nowadays, these production facilities are relocated out of sight on industrial estates – hidden from the view of typical commuters.

But manufacturing hasn’t disappeared in Britain. Far from it. It’s simply moved to the outskirts of populated places – and it continues to play a pivotal role in both the national and international economies.

What has the industry achieved?

Investigations into the true strength of British manufacturing have revealed some telling statistics with regards to its economic contributions.

Taking all subsectors and indirect impact into account, manufacturing makes up an astonishing 23% of GDP. Almost a quarter of the country’s revenue is generated by an arm of manufacturing – which has also created as many as 7.5 million jobs for people working in the UK.

The British manufacturing industry also pumps an incredible £6.7 trillion into the global economy and is currently responsible for almost half of all UK exports. The automotive sector alone contributes £12.4 billion, pharmaceuticals and chemicals add £15.2 billion, and steel production provides £9.5 billion.

What can we expect from the future?

The future looks bright for UK manufacturing. Excitingly, the country is set to become the world leader in composites in 2019 – with The National Composites Centre announcing a major R&D investment programme designed to enhance the speed and progress of composite manufacturing processes.

If the current trends continue, UK manufacturing isn’t set to slide down the world league tables anytime soon either. In fact, Britain could end up breaking into the top five world powers over the next three years – especially given how rapidly R&D investment is increasing.

It’s time for the UK to start being recognised as the prominent force it truly is. If the country’s immense contributions continue, hopefully it is merely a matter of time before the tables start to turn…


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The Manufacturing Institute are actively involved in the Shingo prize for excellence - an award widely considered to be the Nobel Prize of manufacturing. With our help, organisations can grow and develop to the point where they meet, and even surpass, Shingo prize criteria standards.



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