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Manufacturing response to "no deal" Brexit vote 14/03/2019

Simon Howes, MD of the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) has commented on last night’s vote on a “no deal” Brexit.

“Even with a No Deal Brexit off the table, the government must recognise the possible further harm the UK’s SME manufacturers face. An extension to Article 50 plus the continued uncertainty as MPs decide between Theresa May’s deal or no Brexit means businesses are being forced to waste resources at the risk of missing opportunities.

“The UK’s SME manufacturers make up 98% of the nation’s 80,000 or so manufacturing businesses – they are a significant contributor to the UK’s economy. However, our latest SWMAS Manufacturing Barometer survey confirms that our small and medium manufacturers are holding back on investing in machinery and premises, delaying recruitment of new staff and many are stockpiling whilst they await clarification.

“This should not be viewed as a temporary inconvenience or delay to be recovered once confidence returns. This lost opportunity is best illustrated by the Barometer’s finding that whilst some businesses (11%) are considering moving their production out of the UK many more (26%) are thinking of sourcing more of their manufacturing needs from UK based suppliers. This represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers but there is little or no focus on understanding, supporting and delivering this due to a lack of attention at all levels, from a distracted and inward-looking political system, to actual businesses who don’t have the resources to hedge or speculate by investing precious resources in multiple scenarios or things which may not actually happen. 

“SME manufacturers are tired of the political impasse and urgently need clarity on our future relationship with the EU. The damage is already being done to the sector and whilst we hear of the impact on larger firms, particularly in the UK car industry, the impact on smaller and privately owned businesses is equally as real.

“This chaos has been created by politicians and they must now come together to sort it out or further harm is certain. No more running the clock down, no more party before the people – we need real leadership, a realistic shared vision, compromise and progress. It’s not too late.”

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Machinest severely-injured when hand becomes entangled in bench drill 13/03/2019

A Norfolk-based foundry has been fined after a part-time machinist suffered life-changing injuries whilst drilling holes into aluminium castings.

Norwich Crown Court heard how, on 13 February 2017, the worker was working at Moore’s Industrial Estate in Stalham wearing heavy duty gloves as specified by company policy, when her hand came into contact with a moving drill bit. The worker’s hand became entangled with the machinery resulting in severe tendon injuries, and the partial de-gloving and severing of the left thumb.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Edward Flitton, trading as Hever Ironworks, had neither a safe system of work in place for employees using the drilling and tapping machines, nor Employers Compulsory Liability Insurance at the time of the incident. In addition, the incident was not reported to HSE by Edward Flitton but brought to HSE’s attention in September 2017 by a third party.

Edward Flitton of Moores Yard, Stalham, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Regulation 4(1)(b) of the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 and breaching Regulation 1(1) of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Regulations 1998. Mr Flitton has been sentenced to a community order of 120 hours of unpaid work and fined £300.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Ivan Brooke said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by implementing appropriate control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.

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Make UK announce partnership with Vauban Group- Cyber Security Specialists                12/03/2019

Make UK (www.makeuk.org) has announced a new partnership with Vauban Group (www.vaubangroup.com) to develop and deliver new cyber security services to its members. 


Manufacturing companies are the third most frequent victim to cybercrime, behind only banks and Government departments, yet they are the least protected of all sectors against attack, the consequences of which can be devastating. 

With manufacturing on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, the imperative to get this right has never been greater. Advances in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are already impacting upon every aspect of manufacturing. This represents a huge opportunity for UK businesses if they are able to exploit these technological advances, but a massive security risk if they do not.

Yet we know from talking to our members, that growing concern over cyber-attacks can be an inhibitor to investment in digital technology. And with half of manufacturers telling us that they have at some time been subject to cyber-attack, this vulnerability is ever more real. Responding to these concerns, Make UK's and Vauban's new services have been designed to specifically meet the needs of the manufacturing community, helping businesses quantify their risk and take affirmative action to mitigate against it. Our new services will also help members demonstrate their cyber security safeguards to customers and suppliers, an ever more necessary requirement for businesses to operate in our sector.

Make UK has selected Vauban as our partner because they are dedicated to delivering world-class, business-centric and risk-led solutions that address current, and mitigate against future cyber security threats. Today we begin the pilot phase of our new services, with 100 Make UK members having been selected at random to participate. Members selected for the pilot are being offered a free cyber security assessment to identify specific risks to their organisation and will receive a report with recommendations against it. If you have not been selected but would nevertheless like to participate in the pilot programme, please contact Sarah Stein on sstein@makeuk.org

Commenting Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, The manufacturers’ organisation said:

“With the risk of cyber-attack ever burgeoning, manufacturers need to be urgently take steps to protect themselves. As a sector, if we fail to get this right it could cost UK economy many millions of pounds in lost revenue and missed opportunity”

“Recognising Make UK’s vital role in supporting manufacturers to meet this challenge, I am pleased to announce our new partnership with Vauban Group. Vauban are experts in delivering tailored cyber security solutions to their customers and we have been working with them to develop tools and services that are bespoke to manufacturing, providing our members with new levels of confidence that they can comprehensively and efficiently address this risk”

Commenting, Mitch Scherr, CEO of Vauban Group, said:

“As we enter into the fourth industrial revolution it is imperative that UK manufacturers have effective cyber defences in place to mitigate against the increasingly sophisticated cyber threats we’re seeing today. We congratulate Make UK for their  leadership in this area and look forward to working with them to protect their members, all who positively contribute towards the UK’s future growth and prosperity.

“Working closely with Make UK, Vauban Group will design and deliver services and solutions that will meet both the business and cyber security needs of all manufacturers, including SMEs, ultimately improving the resilience of the UK’s manufacturing industry."

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Let’s get more women into engineering  07/03/2019

Attracting more women into construction and engineering must become a higher priority for government and employers, according to Develop Training Ltd (DTL).

The training company says redressing the gender imbalance is not just desirable from an ideological viewpoint but also a means of helping to tackle the chronic skills shortage afflicting the industry. Two thirds of employers say a shortage of engineers is a threat to their business.

DTL, whose customers include household names in the utilities and energy sectors, are highlighting the issue to coincide with International Women’s Day on Friday March 8.

This year, International Women’s Day kicks off a year-long campaign with the theme #BalanceForBetter. Organisers say: “Balance is not a women's issue, it's a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, a gender-balance of employees... Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”

John Kerr, DTL’s Director of Education & Training, said: “The industries we serve are among the most male-dominated in the country. Only nine per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, and we have the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe.”

He said the challenges included improving the way construction and engineering were portrayed in schools, encouraging girls and young women to study engineering-related subjects and changing perceptions of working in the industry.

“In many ways, the obstacles to bringing more women into the sector are the same as we face in attracting young people,” said Mr Kerr. “The industry offers well-paid, secure and skilled work with great career prospects, but it still encounters prejudiced ideas of dirty manual labour. There are a number of excellent initiatives to attract women into engineering and construction, and some great role models, and we hope that broader changes in society will also play a part in breaking down barriers. We support International Women’s Day and the Balance For Better campaign in their efforts to make a difference.”

One female role model is DTL’s own Nicola Smith, who swapped life as a stockbroker to become an engineer.

 Nicola has been a Lecturer in Smart Meter installation with DTL since February 2017, passing on the skills and knowledge she developed during her time as a hands-on installer to others. Having started work as a cashier for a building society, she quickly progressed in the financial services sector, eventually becoming a stockbroker based in London’s Canary Wharf, but she had a nagging feeling that she wanted to do something else.

At age 19, she applied for a mechanics course, but the man she spoke to about it put her off. Years later, when an apprenticeship at British Gas came up, she grabbed the opportunity.

“At that time British Gas were one of the few companies offering to pay people while they learned,” Nicola recalls. “Fortunately, many more companies offer apprenticeships today.”

Nicola said she was completely accepted by her team-mates, but she had to challenge public perceptions that engineers were men. “Customers would say to me ‘but when will the engineer be here?’ and I’d have to explain that I was the engineer,” she says.

Nicola hopes that at DTL, she can play a part in encouraging women into engineering: “I’m a massive advocate of encouraging more women into the industry.  I really want to encourage women to see it as a career choice. There’s genuinely nothing a man can do that we can’t. With practice, you become just as capable as your male colleagues. I really can’t shout loudly enough about it.”

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Automation to affect job quality in Northern Ireland 14/03/2019

Automation is likely to have a major impact on the quality of work in Northern Ireland and policy intervention is needed to improve this situation, according to a new report from the Nevin Economic Research Institute.

The Future of Work: The impact of automation technologies for job quality in Northern Ireland says: "Rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics and other forms of automation technologies have led to a re-emergence of ‘automation anxiety’ and concerns about the future of work. While automation may destroy some jobs, an equal or greater number of jobs will likely be created in the aftermath."

Neri says: "To-date, technological advancements and other megatrends such as globalisation have reduced employment across advanced economies in sectors such as manufacturing and occupations, predominantly characterised by routine tasks. While the economy has since created enough new jobs to avoid net losses, it has not necessarily been replacing like with like."

The report sets out to evaluate job quality of previous employment in order to understand the impact automation has on job quality in the future.   

Neri says: "We find that the trend of occupational polarisation is likely to continue as routine-biased technological change spreads throughout the economy. We also find that some of the industries and occupations with the lowest risk of automation are more susceptible to lower levels of job quality in Northern Ireland. The commodification of labour in some of these poor-quality jobs prevents an upward revaluation of this work and thus, making it is unlikely that job quality will improve without some direct policy intervention."

Download the full report at: www.nerinstitute.net

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Green jobs need to be more than a figment of politicians' imagination, says GMB 07/03/2019

GMB, the energy union, has responded to a Government announcement on offshore jobs.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy today said the number of green collar jobs in offshore wind was set to triple to 27,000 by 2030.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “Trade unions are all about jobs, so any initiative that leads to more work, particularly for women who are currently underrepresented in the energy sector, is welcome. 

"The truth however is that to date the so-called 'green jobs revolution' has largely been a figment of the imagination of politicians of all parties and those pushing for an over reliance on renewables - with all the risks to our future energy supply and economic competitiveness.

“The track record so far has been one of work for foreign companies or poorly paid, casualised employment. Just ask the workers at BiFab in Fife about new green jobs and a just transition.

“If Claire Perry’s vision is actually to be achieved with decent, well-paid and skilled jobs, then the Government will need new rules about renewable energy sources.

"Companies in receipt of taxpayer subsidy must be required to source the work and jobs in the UK, with a strict condition they cannot be registered in tax havens.  

"The sector will also need to be covered by collective bargaining agreements.”

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Welding breakthrough for manufacturing industry 06/03/2019

A method of welding glass and metal using an ultrafast laser system, developed by EPSRC-funded scientists at Heriot-Watt University, has been described as a breakthrough for the manufacturing industry.

The materials are fused together using very short pulses of infrared light; the pulses last only a few picoseconds - a picosecond to a second is like a second compared to 30,000 years. To weld the two materials, the laser creates a microplasma - described as a tiny ball of lightning - between them.

The process could have direct applications in the aerospace, defence, optical technology and healthcare fields.

Professor Duncan Hand, Director of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said: Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties - the high temperatures and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter.

Being able to weld glass and metals together will be a huge step forward in manufacturing and design flexibility.

Various optical materials such as quartz, borosilicate glass and sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like aluminium, titanium and stainless steel using the laser system.

The welds remained intact when tested at -50C and 90C. So we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions,said Professor Hand.

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Safety stars sought 06/03/2019

The national search is on for champions in design and construction health and safety risk management. The annual awards of the Association for Project Safety [APS] aim to harness the power of industry leaders to help reduce deaths, accidents and ill-health associated with construction by highlighting best practice in construction, design and management.

Entries must be submitted by midnight on Friday 10 May 2019 and the winners will be announced at the association’s annual conference in Sheffield on 4 September 2019. There are three professional award categories: Health and Safety Initiative of the Year; Project of the Year; and CDM duty holder of the year. There is a separate competition for student designers open to anyone in full-time education studying a construction discipline. Entries are welcomed from members and non-members of the APS.

Association for Project Safety chief executive, Lesley McLeod said: “The Association for Project Safety’s [APS] national awards recognise professional excellence in design and construction health and safety risk management.  The four categories - three for professionals and another for student designers - serve a very serious purpose by setting an acknowledged industry-wide benchmark of excellence and highlighting how good design can help cut deaths, injury and ill-health. 

“The APS awards are the only national awards to celebrate inspirational good practice in design and construction health and safety risk management. They are always a time for celebration but our awards are also much more than that - professionals and students put their best work forward and provide a living example of ways to make construction safer, and healthier, for everyone. 

“Winners have to be the very best to beat the competition and we are looking forward to seeing all the skill, innovation and problem solving the entries will, undoubtedly, demonstrate.”

The shortlist will be announced in June 2019.

Professional awards 

Health, wellbeing and safety initiative of the year

About the award: This award recognises initiatives that have successfully advanced health, safety and/or wellbeing standards within the construction industry. Entries are welcome from across the sector and could be an example of an innovative solution to a specific problem or for a whole project. These solutions may be in response to various design/construction risks, public safety hazards, personnel wellbeing or the mental health of stakeholders and employees. Judges are looking for evidence that illustrates creative and effective approaches to raising health, safety and wellbeing standards. Applicants must be able to clearly demonstrate the success of the initiative.

Project of the year

About the award:  This is about demonstrating successful design risk management and effective coordination of all duty holders and other relevant parties from project conception to completion.   Judges are looking for a project that showcases proportionate and effective design risk management that takes into account buildability, maintainability and usability issues. They are also looking for the effective management of and engagement with stakeholders.

CDM duty holder of the year

About the award: This award is looking for a CDM dutyholder that has shown transparent and unswerving commitment to the control of construction health and safety risk management.  Entrants need to be able to demonstrate the efficient and effective planning of work and coordination with other dutyholders so the risks involved are managed from start to finish. Evidence of this can include testimonials, processes and policies, hazard identification and risk mitigation as well as your written entry.

Student Award

Student Designer Award

About the award: The award is open to all students studying construction related disciplines including design and health and safety. The award scheme is intended to introduce students to the issues of buildability, maintainability and usability and their responsibilities in terms of construction health and safety risk management.


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Almost a third of SME manufacturers moving supplier base from EU to UK, according to new research 05/03/2019

The latest quarterly insight into the SME manufacturing sector from SWMAS and partner Economic Growth Solutions, the UK SME Manufacturing Barometer, shows how the challenging economic and industrial climate is pushing UK manufacturers to carry significant risks as they move their supplier base out of the EU and invest precious cash reserves in stockpiling raw materials.

While actual and forecast performance both show a slight recovery from the previous quarter, the number of SME manufacturers reporting an increase in turnover, profits, staffing and investment in new machinery and premises are all down compared to the same period in 2017.

Projections for the next six months are also at a much lower level than this time a year ago and although some manufacturers indicate a desire to invest in their businesses, many continue to hold off, waiting for clarity on the future.

Taking a closer look at actual performance, 51% said turnover had risen in the last six months, 10% down on the previous year.

Profits are also affected, though not as dramatically, with 42% reporting an increase compared to 45% the year before.

Investment in new machinery and premises is crucial for any manufacturing business in order to stay competitive, but this saw another steep decline with just 37% increasing spending in this area compared to the previous year’s 46%.

When asked about staff numbers, 37% of manufacturers said they had taken on more people in the last six months, a slight increase on the previous quarter but down 7% on the previous year.

The SME Manufacturing Barometer also asked manufacturers to look ahead to the next six months.

While 55% expect sales turnover to increase during the first half of 2019, that’s a full 17% down on the previous year. Fewer than half (45%) expect an increase in profits, down 14% year on year.

Similarly, just 45% expect to invest in new machinery or premises, 11% down on the corresponding quarter in 2017, and even fewer, 43%, believe they will increase staff numbers in the next six months, down 5% on the previous year.

Simon Howes, CEO of Exelin Group (encompassing SWMAS), said: “Previous Manufacturing Barometers have demonstrated the characteristic determination and pragmatic approach shown by UK SME manufacturers in uncertain times, yet we must acknowledge that performance is down compared to this time last year and this is being driven by a lack of clarity on the future.”

Dean Barnes, regional director of Economic Growth Solutions, said: “Compared to last quarter’s forward projections we have seen a partial recovery in the number of manufacturers anticipating sales, profits, capital investment and recruitment to increase in the next six months.

“However, it is still a reduction across the board when compared to the same period last year.”

In this run up to Brexit, the Manufacturing Barometer also asked respondents what they are doing to secure and develop their supplier base.

Specifically, they were asked whether, within the next 12 months, they intended to relocate any of their supplier base for raw materials and components, sub-assemblies and bought-in part-finished or finished goods.

Over a quarter (27%) said they were considering relocating supply currently sourced in the EU to elsewhere – importantly, nearly 20% of this figure said they could instead seek these suppliers in the UK.

There is more opportunity for the UK too with 8% of UK SME manufacturers saying they could relocate suppliers currently based outside the EU to the UK.

“The effort of sourcing and securing new suppliers indicates UK SME manufacturers are investing a significant amount of time and resource as they identify and establish relationships with them,” said Simon Howes.

“Interestingly, the finding that nearly a third of respondents say they’re looking to move suppliers to the UK also suggests a significant opportunity for the UK market to capitalise on meeting the supply needs of home-grown manufacturers.”

The Manufacturing Barometer also explored manufacturers’ specific plans to stockpile – an intention that first came to light in the previous Manufacturing Barometer. Amidst the continued Brexit uncertainty, more than two thirds (69%) said they were using cash reserves to buy up and store raw materials and components.

Dean Barnes said: “Stockpiling creates its own issues, for example if the business can’t finance this activity or because suppliers’ stock levels are running low.

“While stockpiling is a popular strategy to try to head off Brexit uncertainty, it could be high-risk as it ties up a company’s cash reserves which are needed for running costs and to pay employees.”

Simon Howes added: “As we head into the final weeks before the scheduled Brexit date UK SME manufacturers are doing what they can to adapt their businesses.

“Our research highlights that around half are holding back on investment and recruitment and struggling to increase sales and profits.

“Brexit is clearly amplifying the pressures manufacturers have to manage and whilst SMEs can be more agile they also have fewer resources to navigate and manage change.

“The latest Barometer shows the challenges of securing the supplier base and cost of addressing stock levels are diverting these limited resources from the sector. The UK’s SME manufacturers need support at this vital time to ensure any business casualties are minimised and that they have the resources to grasp any emerging opportunities.”

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Proposals for packaging producers to pay full recycling costs 26/02/2019

A series of consultations intended to ‘overhaul’ the UK’s waste system have been launched by the government.

They will focus on making packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with waste, a plastic packaging tax, introducing a consistent set of materials collected across England for recycling and bringing in a deposit return scheme (DRS).

The changes will make up a key part of the government’s upcoming Environment Bill, which will be introduced before the summer holidays.

Consultation details will include consistent labelling on packaging for consumers to fully understand what can and cannot be recycled.

Costs of managing packaging waste will be funded by industry through a packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system. This will see industry pay higher fees if their packaging is harder to reuse or recycle and will raise between £800 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.

Separate weekly food waste collections are planned to be introduced, and could include free garden waste collections for households with gardens.

Two different models for a DRS, “all-in” or “on-the-go”, will be considered, as well as a tax on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content.

This will be introduced from April 2022.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Through our plans we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling.

“We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

Defra will seek views on its plans for 12 weeks from when the consultations were launched on 18th February.

The consultations are based on plans set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, published in December 2018.

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