Eight manufacturing SMEs have responded to what they describe as the lack of a coherent industrial strategy in the UK by launching their own MANifesto.
The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), which comprises seven sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency, has responded to what it perceives to be the government’s faltering strategic vision for industry by delivering its own blueprint for making the country globally competitive.
The network’s leaders believe that the four pillars of investment, people, international trade and sustainability and net zero should lead the overarching approach and will form the guiding principles for the individual businesses that make up the collective. They’re now calling on the government to facilitate growth by providing tailored support and removing some of the bureaucratic barriers that they say are currently in place.
‘UK manufacturing has come through Brexit and Covid-19 in remarkably good shape, but this has more to do with our innovation, our technical expertise and our quality than it has to do with a clear industrial strategy,’ said Austin Owens, founder of Grove Design and co-chair of MAN. ‘We got tired of waiting for government to develop a vision like they benefit from in other countries, so we decided to create our own MANifesto that will guide the future development of the eight firms and, in our opinion, the sector as a whole.
‘These four pillars have been developed in partnership with members and focus on people (developing skills, attracting the next generation of engineers and ensuring safe and supportive workplaces) and boosting international trade through easier access to funded export support, a government commitment to boost reshoring and ringfencing infrastructure spend so the UK benefits,’ he continued.
The third pillar of the MANifesto is a commitment to investment, including specialist assistance to accelerate automation, digitalisation and technology, not to mention more funding support for R&D/product development and dedicated assistance to help energy-intensive industries upgrade equipment.
Sustainability and net zero is the final element of the vision and arguably the biggest talking point in business at the moment. There are two main strands to this pillar, including supporting UK manufacturing to commercialise greener products and technologies, and the potential for a specialist fund to make factories more sustainable and to accelerate decarbonisation.
‘This isn’t eight manufacturers coming out with a begging bowl for government to fill; in fact, it’s the opposite,’ said Peter Davies, CEO of James Lister & Sons and co-chair of MAN Group. ‘We believe the MANifesto outlines clear, short- and long-term objectives, and many of these we can achieve on our own. We’re just asking for a level playing field to compete on and some simple enablers to ensure our competitiveness. In fact, we’d love nothing more than for ministers to get in touch and work with us on developing some of our pillars into something more sustainable for industry as a whole.’
The Manufacturing Assembly Network works together to encourage collaboration and best practice sharing, and to promote UK manufacturing. It’s made up of Alucast, Brandauer, Grove Design, James Lister & Sons, KimberMills International, Muller Holdings, Nemco and PP Control & Automation. Collectively, the group boasts annual sales in excess of £95million, employs more than 1,000 people and exports products to more than 50 countries from its 20+ factories.
MAN can also call upon the R&D and technological expertise of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), which has been an associate member since 2014. This leverages the best in academia with the best in industry and is an important partnership in helping companies develop new markets and explore new opportunities, as well as providing a ready-made proving ground for WMG’s business support offering.