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Industry gathers at manufacturing conference

14 March 2019

This year's National Manufacturing and Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition, held at the Citywest Exhibition Centre, Dublin, set new records in terms of its scale and visitor numbers.

More than 5,000 people from all over Ireland attended the 2019 National Manufacturing and Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition, which incorporated a comprehensive conference programme featuring 220 speakers along with 400 exhibition stands displaying the latest technological solutions and business services available, making it largest event of its kind in the country.

Now in its sixth year, The National Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition serves as a national forum for manufacturers and operators involved throughout the associated supply chains from across Ireland - North and South - to gather to discuss pressing issues facing Irish industry. It is now firmly established as an All-Ireland ‘must-attend’ annual event, which successfully connects key stakeholders across the full spectrum of Irish manufacturing, including the food, pharmaceutical, medical, chemical, life sciences and electronics sectors.

In addition to Brexit, other issues high on the agenda at the event included the challenges and opportunities provided by constantly changing consumer demands, the rapid pace of technological advances in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and robotics, along with heightening environmental concerns and intensifying competition both domestically and in international markets.

The theme for the 2019 exhibition and conference was: ‘Maintaining Ireland as a High Value, Sustainable and Competitive Manufacturing Location’.

Manufacturing represents almost one third of the economy

The Irish manufacturing sector employs over 250,000 people and accounts for 32% of Ireland’s GDP – significantly higher than the European average of 15% and Germany at 21%, according to Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, who was a keynote speaker at the National Manufacturing and Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition. Manufacturing also plays a key role in helping to address the regional imbalance in the Irish economy with more than 80% of operations outside of Dublin.

The Irish manufacturing sector is characterised by a wide diversity of activities and “Ireland punches well above its weight in supplying international markets,” he pointed out. “Ireland is globally recognised as an innovation hub across many sectors.”

Indeed, the Irish economy has been the fastest growing in the Euro zone for the past four years and employment at 2.25 million is currently at record levels. Ireland’s strong economic track record, political stability and talent base are all important factors in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

However, the disruptive changes generated by the unfolding fourth Industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) create both challenges and opportunities for Irish industry. “There is an opportunity for Ireland to be a global leader in advanced manufacturing,” he said, “but Irish companies must evolve and adapt new technologies and skill sets.”

To take advantage of this opportunity, the IDA is encouraging greater interplay between multinational and indigenous companies. To plug a significant gap in Ireland’s industrial infrastructure, an Advanced Manufacturing Centre is planned for Limerick, which will provide “a collaborative environment focused on core technologies,” Martin Shanahan explained. The IDA Ireland head continued: “The State must continue to invest in advanced manufacturing technology.”

Brexit also provides opportunities and threats. IDA Ireland has been successful in securing a substantial number of Brexit-related investments with 55 companies choosing Ireland entailing 4,500+ associated jobs. However, he urged Irish business to prepare for the worst case scenario. “Planning should be based on a ‘no deal’ Brexit as it is still a distinct possibility,” he warned.

Co-located events

The 2019 National Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition incorporated a number of complementary, co-located events including: the Automation and Robotics Event; the IOT & Industry 4.0 Expo; 3 D Printing Expo; Lab2Cleanroom Live; Jobs Expo; the National Sustainability Summit; the National Medtech & Biotech Summit; the National Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Expo; the National Procurement Summit; the Plastics, Printing & Packaging Show; the Supply Chain & Logistics Expo; and the Lean, the Productivity and Continuous Improvement Summit.

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