What were the highlights of the MAKE UK conference?

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May’s MAKE UK National Manufacturing Conference is a key event for UK manufacturers – a chance to see what the best and brightest in this £180 billion sector are up to, and discover the latest technologies and trends.

As a leading provider of SaaS software for manufacturers, Unleashed attended the 2022 event at the QEII Centre in London. Here’s our digest of the event’s most important highlights.

“Labour scarcity is now the dominant feature of the global economy”

The BBC’s Andrew Neil spoke to the new realities faced by manufacturers, putting the current environment of price rises and higher interest rates in the context of late-stage globalisation.

“There are 11 million vacancies in the US, Neil noted. “Why has the plentiful supply of cheap labour dried up?”

Prices were subdued during the 2000s, says Neil, and wages stagnated with businesses preferring to take advantage of this cheap labour rather than invest. But that is now all over, he says.

Andrew Neil

“There are no more Chinas. Even China is running out of labour. Labour scarcity is starting to emerge quickly, and with it – increased bargaining power even for those not in the EU. The result of this is that the short-term inflation we have seen is now being baked into the system by pay rises – and it is set to continue.”

Neil’s conclusion? “Robotics, AI, batteries, digital tech, will all do for the 2020s what electric dishwashers and washing machines did for the 1920s. Now is the time to invest in technologies. Interest rates are rising but they are still currently close to 0%”

Our view: Enhancing manufacturing labour productivity is key to success for UK manufacturers, as is using cost-effective technology like cloud manufacturing software that reduces the admin burden on employees and improves efficiency.

Nearshoring is key for supply chain resilience

Fergus McReynolds, the Director of EU & International Affairs at MAKE UK spoke to the shifting balance between efficiency and resilience in UK supply chains.

“We’ve seen a real stagnation in-between growth and resilience in supply chains,” said McReynolds. “We’ve identified how to run supply chains more efficiently, but is that efficiency resulting in a loss of resilience?

“Manufacturers have complex supply chains. Over half of manufacturers have over 50 suppliers in their supply chain and many have considerably more than that. We are starting to see a shift in pattern of supply chains. We’re seeing more nearshoring to bring supply chains closer.”

“We’re also seeing companies investing in technology, looking at how we can understand how tech can help us manage resilience and volatility.”

McReynolds’ conclusion? The UK is seeing a new trading order emerge and has fundamentally changed its trading relationship with the EU. Shorter supply chains are a direct result, and technology is critical to powering that change.

Our view: Supply chain resilience is the new JIT. Catch our Supply Chain Resilience Roundtable series to hear how UK SMEs are navigating this change.

Adopt cloud-based supply chain software for new levels of oversight

Andrew Kinder, the VP of Industry & Solution Strategy at Infor points to cloud technology as the answer to UK supply chain woes.

“In the last decade there has been a development of cloud-based supply chain software which has made it easier to have greater visibility,” said Kinder.

And that dramatically helps. Layering that visibility with intelligent software lets businesses – and their supply chain partners – get more predictability with things like lead time, says Kinder.

“It’s this combination of data visibility and intelligence that allows us to do some pretty sharp things in our supply chain, especially in vertical supply chains.”

For example, you may not have access to freight forwarders as an SME, says Kinder. “But a large manufacturing corporation may start a system where you can share supplier information and an SME could join that platform. There would be an onboarding cost but that’s it. There’s no additional cost to see the information – it’s just permissions based.”

Kinder’s conclusion? Smart software and information sharing are the future.

Our view: Good supply chain management starts with good data – which is why Unleashed built its revolutionary Business Intelligence module.

Cost saving will drive the move to net zero manufacturing

Brigitte Amoruso, the Climate Change, Energy & Environment Senior specialist at MAKE UK, pointed to the other major theme to emerge at the conference: the shift to net zero manufacturing.

The UK is now committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, which means the manufacturing sector will need to evolve quickly.

However this will be more of an opportunity for the sector than a burden, says Amoruso.

UK manufacturers report that saving money by improving process efficiency and productivity is seen as the main opportunity in relation to the net zero economy, says Amoruso – with 42% of companies seeing opportunities in a net zero economy.

She also reported that over a third (35%) of manufacturers said achieving net zero is a high priority right now. That 9 in 10 manufacturers are planning further action on net zero in the next 12 months. And that almost two-thirds (65%) have already taken positive action towards their net zero target in the past 12 months.

Amoruso’s conclusion? Energy efficiency is the focus of net zero strategies within the factory.

More about the author:

Bethanie Hawkins - Unleashed Software
Bethanie Hawkins

Bethanie is a partnerships manager in the Northern Hemisphere – collaborating with Unleashed's network of accountants, advisors, and integrated apps. She has spent the majority of her career working in the Xero ecosystem, having spent almost six years working for Xero – both with customers and advisors. Outside of tech, her life revolves around her cat, Dimitri and food festivals.

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