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What Does 2021 Hold for Manufacturing in Wales?

The key thoughts from members of Manufacturing Wales …

Despite the extraordinary events of last year and the ongoing challenges being experienced across all sectors, 2020 finished with more than a few silver linings visible for manufacturers in Wales – and notable investments, expansions, contract wins and growth in employment all being achieved. Brexit notwithstanding, 2021 began with cautious signs of longer-term optimism, with research from Siemens Financial Services estimating that digitalisation could add £2.1 billion to Manufacturers’ Revenues in Wales, through improvements in manufacturing productivity.

“Digitalisation could add £2.1 billion to Manufacturers’ Revenues in Wales”

Greater agility, productivity and supply chain resilience are sure to be key themes for 2021; and as a further feel of the pulse, we asked some of our founder members what else they expect this year to bring …

Paul Byard, Managing Director at FSG Tool and Die Ltd, is confident that “Wales has already demonstrated our ability to bring products and services to the market; and with the right ambition and actions we can expect this to help rebalance our economy on a strong and stable manufacturing base. Our sector is incredibly diverse and represents a highly innovative wealth-creating opportunity for Wales as a whole – and with the right investment and support, we’re able to create sustainable high-quality jobs for generations to come.”

“With the right investment, we’re able to create sustainable high-quality jobs for generations to come”

For Gian Bianchi, Sales Director of Penderyn, the pandemic “has posed a range of structural challenges within the drinks manufacturing sector, with a whole raft of restaurants, bars and hotels experiencing a dramatic contraction. This has forced the sector to partly reinvent itself with a strong focus on online events and ecommerce to harness and retain the interest of a new as well as existing customer base. We expect this to continue well into the first half of 2021 – with one welcome side effect of the pandemic being a strong impetus for consumers to discover new, independent brands – and especially those based locally in Wales. It’s vital for all Welsh food and drink manufacturers to tap into this local support, as that’s key to driving a brand’s development and profile well beyond our borders.”

“It’s vital to tap into the local customer-base, to support a brand’s development and profile well beyond our borders.”  

Oliver Conger, MD of Rototherm, saw his company transform to become one of Europe’s leading suppliers of PPE in 2020 in a “thriving manufacturing sector that continues to show its ability to be agile and creative” – and sees 2021 as presenting “even more opportunities for us to make greater use of the technology available, further adapting to the environment we’re working within – and continuing to innovate with a greater focus on manufacturing products locally.”

“Even more opportunities to make greater use of the technology available”

At Pro-Steel Engineering, Director Richard Selby sees “a real opportunity for manufacturing in Wales to thrive in 2021 – though we do need to adapt and be agile to overcome some of the recent obstacles; and be open minded about collaborating with others to bring success in new markets. If we do that, we’ll exploit new opportunities that may not have existed previously.”

“If we’re agile and we adapt, we’ll exploit new opportunities that didn’t exist previously”

Andrew Evans, Senior Director from SPTS Technologies Ltd., views 2020 as a year of learning: “By understanding these challenges, working collaboratively and – in particular – sharing best practices in implementing safety protocols and wellbeing initiatives, the manufacturing sector can strengthen its position throughout 2021.” Like many others, Andrew believes “technology is the key driver, with remote working, connectivity, healthcare, data and the drive towards carbon zero presenting multiple opportunities for organic growth and inward investment too.”

 “We’ll strengthen throughout 2021 by working collaboratively and sharing best practices ”

Chris Meadows, PMO at IQE, concurs with the resilience shown and the opportunities ahead: “High value manufacturing across the technology sector has proven to be robust throughout the challenges faced during 2020. Technology has played an essential role in allowing us to adapt to those challenges, from increased connectivity through to healthcare technologies, many of which are enabled by products manufactured in Wales. That will continue to grow and Wales is well positioned to capitalise on its successes in 2021 and beyond.”

“Companies will be better at the end of 2021 than they were at the start of 2020”

“Manufacturers in Wales have set up Covid-secure environments to protect their employees and business continuity” says Alison Orrells, CEO & MD of The Safety Letterbox Company “and that will enable the progression of strategies and collaboration between business, academia and government. So it’s time to shout about our ability to face challenges with tenacity and versatility; and our talent for innovation and diversification. The last 12 months has seen a shift in the unity and respect within the respect – and our ability to be a catalyst for employment and prosperity. 2021 gives us an opportunity to further raise the profile of an industry that’s been underestimated in the past.”

“It’s time to shout about our ability to face challenges with tenacity and versatility; and our talent for innovation and diversification.”

And a final thought from Tony Trussell, Corporate Development Director of Creo Medical, which saw strong growth in 2020, culminating in equity investment from Cardiff Capital Region: “2021 should mark a swing back towards normality. But that will be a revised normality – one where organisations adapt the whole chain from materials to the end-customer, to be better at the end of 2012 than they were at the start of 2020, in terms of resilience, skills, technology and sustainability.”

A big thanks to the founding members of Manufacturing Wales who contributed their thoughts and insights. Next week we’ll be looking at why organisations should join those members in the collaborative community at Manufacturing Wales– and if you would like to know more in the meantime, go to www.manufacturingwales.com

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