The future of manufacturing in the UK

It is well known that the UK has far fewer jobs in manufacturing now compared to the past. About 20 years ago manufacturing accounted for 20% of UK employment, but by 1997 this had reduced to about 16%. The most recent data is for 2011, when manufacturing’s share of overall employment was only around 8.5%. Since 1997 around 1.3 million net jobs have been lost in this sector.

This is partly due to advances in manufacturing processes – so called ‘lean manufacturing’, but it also reflects the loss of some jobs to low cost locations elsewhere, such as Eastern Europe and Asia.

However, there are signs that cost-pressures and concerns about quality control are encouraging some manufacturers to consider bringing some manufacturing back to the UK. Companies as diverse as Aston Martin, TopShop, River Island, Trunki and Airfix have all recently announced plans to bring at least some production back to the UK.

It is also important to stress that the value of manufacturing – in terms of economic output – has remained strong in the UK, and the country remains one of the world’s most important manufacturing economies in terms of value.

We fully recognise the great importance of manufacturing to the UK, and this is one reason why we were pleased recently to help an important food manufacturing company – Morning Foods – resist an application for an inappropriately located housing development adjacent to their large factory site in Crewe, Cheshire.

The proposed housing scheme was considered to be a major threat both to the existing operations of the business and future expansion plans. Morning Foods has continued to expand its operations over the past decade, including during the recession, driven by rising demand for its oat-based breakfast products. The company is a major world player in oat-based foods, and exports to over 50 countries.

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