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President’s Speech 2019 - The Manufacturing Technologies Association’s Centenary Dinner

Good evening and welcome to this extra special occasion - The Manufacturing Technologies Association’s Centenary Dinner.

We are delighted to be generously supported once again by Close Brothers Asset Finance who have such a great history of supporting our sector.

I started in this industry 40 years ago, and as a 20 year old production engineer trying to improve machine tool productivity, I could not have possibly imagined that I would be making this speech tonight. I am extremely proud to be your president in the 100th year of our association.

It is fun and informative to look back over our history and to enable you to do just that we have published an excellent book  - “At the Heart of Manufacturing” – It is a good read put together by an enthusiastic team under the  leadership of Guy Mollart. 

The primary lesson from our history is that members that have prospered are those that have understood what is happening around them, embraced the new opportunities, and adapted their businesses.

Inevitably a lot of our history is also about great companies that failed to adapt and invest quickly enough. I remember being told by a senior executive in the MT industry that…. CNC was just a passing fad

Our challenges were also exacerbated by successive Governments that did not understand the importance of our sector, had no interest in any “industrial strategy” and failed to encourage investment. It was commonplace to hear our leaders talking up “de-industrialisation” if not as a policy objective, then as an inevitable and welcome outcome.

Well…how wrong they were.

We have been through a lot and we are now on the cusp of something new.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, successive governments accepted the need for a UK industrial strategy and have taken more seriously the importance of manufacturing in a balanced economy. The old catchphrase of “We don’t make anything anymore” isn’t dead, but it is becoming a lot less prevalent.

But Government and Opposition must ensure there is consensus on a long-term industrial strategy. You need industry to generate the wealth required to support the ambitions of whatever party you represent

Brexit has caused policy paralysis, created massive uncertainty, and delayed or cancelled investment.

“No Deal” would be a reckless act of self-harm …. because it means no transition.

The next two weeks are critical. MP’s must now act in the National Interest. Factional party politics has already damaged the UK too much. If Parliament rejects the PM’s final deal MP’s must stop the uncertainty of “No Deal” and act swiftly to find consensus on a direction that guarantees a transition and supports our manufacturing sector.

Why?

Manufacturing is capable of driving an economy forward like no other sector.

Last year the MTA commissioned  ground breaking research which showed the true impact of manufacturing.

Our study showed that in addition to the direct impact of 9% of GDP and 2.6m jobs there is an additional impact from suppliers of services to the sector of 6% of GDP . When the total economic impact of the sector is taken into account the report concludes that manufacturing is underpinning 7.5 million jobs. A conclusion that has been accepted by government as credible.

I am proud that through MTA action we are finally nailing the lie that manufacturing is just a small part of the national economic picture. MTA has definitely moved this debate forward.

And that’s good news for a country like ours which faces a productivity challenge.

Our report showed that Manufacturing has a higher level of productivity than most other sectors. A strong and developing manufacturing sector will therefore benefit the whole economy.

We do have world class companies in the UK but many of our businesses can significantly improve their productivity levels.

We in this room have a massive opportunity. MTA members are the champions of productivity improvement. We provide the equipment, ideas and expertise for our customers to transform their productivity. We are the key to move UK productivity forward.

The secret to improving productivity is Investment.

The UK has not had the same culture of investment as some of our peers, notably Japan and Germany. We have got to change this.

As a young engineer in the UK, I had to justify capital investment based on high interest rates and low wages, meaning productivity gains were relatively low with long pay-backs.

In Germany the opposite was true. Low interest rates and high labour costs made such investments much more attractive AND unlike in the UK, the decision makers were often engineers. No wonder that Germany continued to invest strongly in manufacturing and quality throughout that period.

Continuous long-term investment is vital to build competitiveness as my more recent experience with Mazak has taught me.

The UK does not yet have the necessary culture of investment, but we are beginning to win the battle to change this…

Last year the MTA was massively influential in the Government’s decision to increase capital allowances from £200,000 to £1,000,000 in the budget. The MTA has moved policy forward.

When I talk about investment I do not just mean in technology – Investment in our people is more important and attracting the best talent will be vital to our success.

This year at MACH we hosted 500 young people, mostly girls, on a special day to show them that the old perception of engineering is no longer true.

We as a sector, and individually, can all do more. I have personally encouraged local primary school children to visit Mazak and experience the importance of engineering to their lives. I have also championed the Industrial Cadets programme to give enthusiastic young people a taste of engineering and manufacturing. I would urge everyone in this room to do the same.

I am constantly motivated by some of the initiatives and efforts that are being made in education,

Recently one of my friends told me that his 12 year old son had been given homework  to use an online “app” to suggest possible future careers. –– he then had to research how the 4th industrial revolution might change that career throughout his life. 12 years old remember. Have you or your company analysed systematically how the 4IR is going to change your world?

I’ve seen too, pioneering outreach carried out by Warwick Manufacturing Group, where girls and boys as young as 9 &10 (in primary school)… are using 3D CAD to design products, Augmented Reality to evaluate their designs and 3D printing to manufacture their product..

Education is moving forward; we can support that too.

MTA is actively pushing government on policy and we will support our members to increase their efforts to inspire our next generation of engineers. Together we can make a big difference to move this forward

We need to attract the next generation and invest in re-training to take full advantage of the significant investment we are all going to make in technology.

The technologies products and services that MTA members are providing for our customers today offer unparalleled improvements in productivity.

Never in our history has our membership been so diverse, covering all aspects of advanced manufacturing systems properly reflecting our name – Manufacturing Technologies Association.

We in this room have everything that is needed to move UK productivity forward.

The MTA has become the “go to” trade association for Additive Manufacturing. We have led the agenda in the UK - and also through the organisation CECIMO we are championing this sector at a European level.

Digitalisation is going to dominate the future of our industry – in fact manufacturing is being recast as a digital industry.

We can see that in the transformation of MACH, the UK’s premier show for manufacturing technology. MACH is now as much about “bytes” as it is “bits”. MACH 2020 will undoubtedly continue this trend and be the UK’s most significant showcase for future manufacturing.

The Made Smarter Review anticipated this change. This ground-breaking work,  led by Juergen Maier, analysed the challenges and opportunities of adopting digital technologies with the aim to build a nationwide infrastructure to support companies on their digital journey.

I am proud that the MTA has been influential within Made Smarter. We will continue to actively support Made Smarter to help the initiative roll-out nationally and ensure that SME’s and our members benefit.

So to conclude we are on the cusp of change with huge opportunities.

It will not be business as usual.

I am proud that the MTA has put manufacturing at the heart of the National Agenda

We will do our utmost to motivate the next generation to want to be part of our future

We will increase our efforts to change the culture of Investment in People and Technologies by influencing government priorities

We will continue at the heart of Made Smarter recognising the need to embrace digital technologies and support our member’s vital role in the UK’s digital future

The Manufacturing Technologies Association is the organisation for Productivity Solutions

And You, our members, have the know-how, the technologies and products to support future manufacturing.

Together, we are what is needed to move forward.

Thank you and enjoy the evening.