October 2020

COMMENT n SHAPING A NEW FUTURE FOR MANUFACTURING So, here we are, almost two months after the UK went into lockdown to ward off the worst effects of the Coronavirus, and one thing is certain – how uncertain the future looks. We can only guess at what life will be like in one or two years’time, let alone in a decade from now. But we can start to discern some of the ways that the pandemic will impact the way that we live and work in future. For one thing, it will have made the public – and, perhaps more importantly, politicians – appreciate the importance of the UK’s manufacturing sector. For too long, manufacturing has had to play second fiddle to the all-powerful services sector. But in our hour of crisis, the services sector has not been able to do much to help the nation. The UK’s manufacturers, on the other hand, have shown that they can bury their rivalries to work around the clock on projects vital to the national interest. They have demonstrated their ingenuity and their versatility by applying their considerable skills in fields that they knew nothing about previously. And, as a result, lives have been saved. Hopefully, this new-found respect for the manufacturing sector will last far beyond the pandemic and will help to shape the policies of future governments, resulting in a more balanced economy. Problems such as skills shortages will persist, but there will be a real commitment to solving them – not just lipservice. Boosting this renaissance of British manufacturing will be to a reluctance to rely on supply chains from the Far East to the same extent has we have done in recent years. The realisation that the UK no longer has the manufacturing capacity or capabilities to produce relatively simple things such as personal protective equipment will have been an eye-opener to many and we won’t want to risk finding ourselves in a similar situation again. But, if we are going to rebuild our manufacturing sector, it will need to work in new ways and take full advantage of the benefits offered by digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution. Manufacturing in the era of social distancing will be different. We will no longer want to risk disruption to our production processes by the need to keep shopfloor workers a safe distance apart from each other. And this is where automation and robotics will play a vital role. In many industries, the only way to ensure that production will not be disrupted by any future pandemics or other unforeseen emergencies, will be to reduce the human element. This will be controversial and the“robots are stealing our jobs”lobby will have a field day. But without higher levels of automation, there may not be any manufacturing jobs at all in some sectors. All of which is potentially good news for the future of manufacturing – and automation – in the UK. The huge pity is that the pandemic will have taken its toll on many well-run and experienced manufacturers and automation suppliers that simply did not have the resources to survive the onslaught of a microscopic organism that has brought the planet’s most so phisticated lifeform to its knees. We must not forget them. Tony Sacks, Editor Contact us at Drives & Controls Damien Oxlee 01732 370342 damien.oxlee@dfamedia.co.uk Andy Wylie 01732 370341 andy.wylie@dfamedia.co.uk IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN SO ARE 60,000+ ENGINEERS. IMAGINE THE IMPACT YOUR ADVERTISEMENT COULD HAVE.