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23 April 2013

Investing in North West Manufacturing...

Nigel Dove is Head of Development at The Manufacturing Institute, the independent charity which aims to inspire, educate and improve manufacturing companies and their people.


Manufacturing has always, and continues to be, very important to the North West. It's the most productive industrial grouping, contributing £20 billion of GVA, supporting 390,000 jobs and generating £25 billion in exports for the regional economy.

From aerospace and automotive to chemicals and precision engineering, the North West is at the cutting edge of manufacturing and advanced manufacturing, and we're home to some major manufacturing success stories including Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Siemens.

Whilst the economic downturn had a major effect on the manufacturing sector in the
North West, the region as a whole has been more resilient than others, and that's in no small part due to the sheer diversity of our manufacturing base and the fact that export demand has so far remained healthy.

Manufacturers across the North West are seeking out new opportunities and there is evidence to suggest local manufacturers are bucking the trend, increasing headcount and generally seeing an improvement in UK sales and orders.

Despite this, it's clear that there are still major challenges for 2013 and beyond.

We know from speaking to the thousands of manufacturing companies we work with that one of the biggest threats they face is around the continuing loss of skills and shortage of skilled workers that meet the requirements of a modern manufacturing business.  The future of manufacturing therefore clearly relies upon investment in people, which is just one of the reasons why we are keen to work closely with organisations like The North West Fund.

At the Manufacturing Institute, we understand the unique challenges of running a successful manufacturing operation. Whether it's equipping manufacturing leaders with the skills required to create global advantage, creating team supervisors who can improve operational performance or teaching the fundamentals of lean manufacturing to transform results on the shop floor, our programmes have been developed to enable manufacturers to apply skills and knowledge directly to their business, as quickly as possible, to improve operational performance and bottom-line. The manufacturers we're working with have seen significant success - leading railway wheel manufacturer Lucchini UK Ltd has achieved cost savings of 20% and increased output by up to 25% as a direct result of our Accelerated Route to Lean programme, while Lancashire-based Aurora Manufacturing improved shift output by 25% after applying learning from our Team Leader Development Programme.

Of course, in times of uncertainty, the most successful companies are those with a clear game plan to grow their business. That's why we're focusing on helping small and medium sized manufacturing companies in the North West to find and deliver growth opportunities, as part of a brand new business support programme.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), our Growth Programme helps manufacturers to find and win new customers, develop new products and markets, maximise sales and profitability, and, importantly, stay ahead of the competition.

Our Growth programme includes four days on-site support from one of our experienced and highly-skilled manufacturing practitioners, a series of high-quality, practical, local master classes and additional input from established manufacturing entrepreneurs who have a proven track record of building successful manufacturing businesses. You can find out more about the Growth Programme by visiting www.manufacturinginstitute.co.uk/growth

The training and support we provide allows manufacturing companies to grow their businesses and, often, they will reach a stage where funding is required to maximise this growth. Working in conjunction with The North West Fund means we are also able to advise manufacturers when they are seeking funding, ensuring that they are investment ready and referring them on to the relevant fund managers when the time comes. In the face of ongoing uncertainty, our focus for 2013 must be to continue to support our manufacturers to pinpoint new market opportunities to become stronger and healthier.  The sector must fulfil its potential if the North West is to remain a real power in UK, and global, manufacturing. With the right investment, skills and innovation, this is what we can deliver.

Nigel Dove

Head of Development at The Manufacturing Institute

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