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Annual Manufacturing Report 2020

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Daniel Kirmatzis

The Manufacturer’s Annual Manufacturing Report – The Search for Stability was launched this week – February 24 2020. The report is a barometer of how manufacturers view the forthcoming year in several areas including; Smart Factories; Cybersecurity; Business Transformation; Financing Investment and People and Skills.

The last four years have not been easy for the manufacturing sector – Brexit has destabilised manufacturing businesses across the UK as false starts and political stalemate provided no clear pathway for future planning. And what of today in 2020? With the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU still undetermined, with months of negotiations ahead to finalise our future trading terms, manufacturers are still unable to plan with complete confidence without knowing what they’d like to know – i.e. what will our relationship with the EU look like? We can only hope that by January 2021 the sector finally gets some answers.

So here are some interesting takeaways from this year’s Annual Manufacturing Report.

Smart Factory

Of those surveyed the majority of manufacturers understand the importance of adopting digital technologies and embracing the technologies which form Industry 4.0 but sentiment and adoption are quite separate things and there is still some way to go until the factory of the future becomes a reality for the majority of manufacturing businesses.


Similarly, most manufacturers understand the importance of having a cybersecurity strategy in place, although this should be all. Cybersecurity attacks can be disastrous for small companies – especially those who haven’t enough reserves to mitigate their IT systems and operations being offline for days on end. The report suggests that not all manufacturing businesses surveyed enforce their cybersecurity policies on their connected supply chains.

Business Transformation

The majority of manufacturers are aware that they need to take a holistic approach to transforming their businesses but it should be seen as an evolution not a revolution – you can’t change everything at once – you need to take a step back – assess your business and look at opportunities to improve your operations.

Manufacturers are used to adapting – look at the changes the industry has been through in the last half-century – but new challenges presented by the pace of technological changes means that failure to recognise the need to adapt will result in many businesses simply failing. It’s is also crystal clear that the last 4 years of Brexit inaction has had a severe impact on forward planning and manufacturers require a clear understanding of what our future relationship with the EU will be.

By and large manufacturers believe they are ready for the export challenge facing the UK but the reality is that they need government to step up to the plate and provide clear direction and the Annual Manufacturing Report clearly indicates that manufacturers want the government to do much more in promoting UK manufacturing overseas. It’s an era of unprecedented challenges and the industry needs government to be a beacon in the storm – guiding them into calm waters.

Financing Investment

The UK is an ideas nation, but all too often foreign companies take those ideas, put cash behind them and drive them forward – and that’s a real lost opportunity. There’s a real dearth of knowledge and understanding in the banking sector about how to support UK manufacturing businesses – especially smaller manufacturers.  

People and Skills

There isn’t just a skills gap – there is a de facto skills crisis in the UK. Competition for school leavers and a results driven school culture has resulted in manufacturers lacking the right skills funnel needed to move their businesses forward.

Manufacturers know the importance of apprenticeships, but the government hasn’t provided the vision needed to give more young people the opportunity of starting a career in manufacturing. The message should have been clear by now that university and academic learning isn’t for every child – and too many young people are languishing – the ONS figures show that 792,000 young people between the ages of 16-24 in the period April-June 2019 were classed as NEETs- Not in education, employment or training. That’s a national scandal and one wonders how many of them could have been in training or employment if given the chance of starting an apprenticeship or being shown that was even an option whilst at school?

Let us know your thoughts about the Annual Manufacturing Report – The Search for Stability by commenting below.

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