Manufacturing is the engine room of Scotland’s economy - responsible for most of our exports, R&D and innovation and it will be a critical enabler of Scotland’s drive towards a net zero economy. Pre-COVID figures show that manufacturing was worth £12.5bn to the Scottish economy - around 13% of total GVA. The sector employed 170,000 people and generated £30bn in exports.
Like in many parts of the world, Scottish manufacturing has been deeply affected by the pandemic, with output contracting more than 20% over the past 12 months and nearly half of industrial businesses reporting a decrease in turnover as a result.
In response, the Scottish Government, in partnership with its enterprise and skills agencies, industry partners, trades unions and academics, has developed a Manufacturing Recovery Plan to support the sector over the course of this year.
It recognises the significant impact COVID-19 has had on the manufacturing sector in Scotland and focuses on four priority areas: collaboration and networks, supply chains and competitiveness, adaptation and transformation, and skills and workforce.
Adjusting to this new normal for businesses has been a challenge over the last year. Our experience is that businesses who had transitioned to using automation and cloud-based systems were able to navigate the impact of the pandemic more easily than those who had yet to make those decisions. The advent of the pandemic has highlighted another benefit to the automation of manufacturing and business processes - resilience.
As manufacturers now emerge from the COVID crisis they have an opportunity to re-imagine a business resilient future. The cost of entry for many digital tools and technologies continues to fall so why wouldn’t businesses consider new technologies that will not only help them become more resilient but make them more efficient and productive?
Scotland is also building up its world class infrastructure of support for manufacturing. The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre are currently under construction next to Glasgow Airport. The facilities will help drive innovation and investment in manufacturing. Additionally, £15.8m of investment has been made in 12 Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF) projects across Scotland. These will offer free support services for small and medium-sized enterprises to develop their manufacturing capabilities. And at the heart of this ecosystem of support is the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service, continuing to help businesses improve productivity and competitiveness.
It’s been a year like no other– the world has changed and so too must manufacturing. Supply chain resilience, technology adoption, leadership, operational excellence and sustainability are all areas where manufacturers need to focus to gain competitive advantage.
Join me at this year’s SMAS National Manufacturing Conference, where we will bring together world leading professionals, manufacturing best practice and a raft of organisations who will share their experience and knowledge on how to capitalise on the opportunities that exist to ensure we can all make the most of Scotland’s manufacturing future.