Report aims to dispell manufacturing myths

Britain needs to develop a better understanding of the benefits of manufacturing if it is to be in a position to compete with Asian economies as the world comes out of recession, according to a new study.

"Forget the Dickensian image of workhouses and cotton mills or the 1970s picture of striking car plant workers," said Professor Andy Neely, deputy director of the Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research who led the project. "Today, manufacturers are not just producers they are also inventors, innovators, supply chain managers and service providers."

The downloadable study - Ten Myths about Manufacturing, the Future of Manufacturing - grew out of a forum convened by AIM and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Neely added. He said that the responses of senior representatives attending the forum highlighted ten major myths or misunderstandings about UK manufacturing:

   - Manufacturing is a homogenous sector
   - The UK can flourish without manufacturing
   - Manufacturing equals production
   - Value only lies in products
   - High-value manufacturing can only be pursued in developed economies such the UK
   - R&D must remain in the UK to capture value
   - Manufacturing capabilities can be developed quickly
   - Manufacturing is low-skilled
   - We know the skills needed for the future
   - Government is needed mainly to procure wisely and bail out failing companies.

"It is essential for the future of the UK economy that these myths are dispelled," said Professor Neely, explaining that the report instead outlined the reality behind the myths.

Manufacturing encompasses increasingly global, inter-connected, multi-partner and multi-business elements, he said. In order to compete with places such as China, UK firms must set their R&D strategy in a global context, and adapt their business models, product offerings, processes and service systems to deliver higher value manufacturing.

Rather than believing that the UK can survive as a service economy alone, manufacturing and services need to become more integrated, developing technologies and new business models to address the provision of services related to their products.

Rather than focusing solely on short-term performance goals, manufacturers should invest in assets, metrics, operations and practices that have the potential to generate growth when the economy recovers.

Modern manufacturing involves the application of scientific principles, new technologies and the latest management thinking, requiring a highly-educated, mobile workforce, which industry, Government and educational institutions need to work together to provide, along with training to keep up with changing skills needs.

"To prepare for the economic upturn, the government must develop policies to enhance the performance and competitiveness of manufacturing, and proactively monitor the economic conditions for manufacturing in the UK" Neely concluded.

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