Importance of technological investment

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Manufacturing is facing a tough time in the UK. According to the latest report from manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF, the sector accounts for around half of UK exports, but export orders fell by almost a fifth last year and there were similar challenges in the home market

The bright spot has been the automotive sector. UK car manufacturing reached a 10-year high last year and we exported more cars than ever before.

At the same time, commercial vehicle production grew by a third and almost half of the commercial vehicles produced in the UK were exported.

Set against that sort of background, and with further declines in overall manufacturing exports and UK orders expected during the current quarter, it might seem to be an odd time to talk about opportunities.

But, there are opportunities for manufacturers that are able to make the right investments in new products, technology and training to meet changing market demands, improve competitiveness and productivity and maintain a skilled workforce.

Choosing appropriate technologies, developing new manufacturing processes and ensuring staff have the right skills to make the most of both isn’t easy, but help is available through the Catapult centres and their members like the AMRC with Boeing and Nuclear AMRC.

Helping manufacturing meet its needs is fuelling the AMRC’s continuing growth. The organisation has grown by 12 per cent a year since it was founded almost 15 years ago and now has 560 employees, a turnover approaching £50 million and a full order book for the next 18 months.

During the last year, we have launched a joint venture in Korea and become involved in talks that could lead to the AMRC brand being taken to other regions of the UK and other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, projects are already under way inside Factory 2050, the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility, designed for collaborative research.

At the same time, opportunities are opening up for further expansion on the Advanced Manufacturing Campus, which is home to Factory 2050.

Past growth and the opportunities we see for further growth prompted us to unveil a new corporate structure towards the end of last year and led to the appointment of Colin Sirett, the former head of research for Airbus in the UK, who joined in February as chief executive officer of the AMRC with Boeing.