The credit crunch and subsequent recession proved to be a dark time for British manufacturing, with newspapers full of figures showing output was in the doldrums for many firms.
However, this part of the economy appears to be slowly emerging from the woods, with the latest release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing UK manufacturing output grew by one per cent between January and February 2014.
More positive figures
This was the biggest growth since September last year, proved to be well ahead of forecasts and measured 3.8 per cent higher than in the same month of 2013. Industrial output was particularly strong, climbing 0.9 per cent month-on-month.
Chief economist at the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation Lee Hopley said: “All manufacturing indicators are lining up for a strong first-quarter growth rate, highlighting that industry remains a vital cog in the UK’s continuing recovery.”
A promise from the government
Hot on the heels of that news came the announcement from business secretary Vince Cable that the government is to invest £100 million in helping English companies strengthen their domestic supply chains, providing “support for the increasing trend of reshoring, as companies bring manufacturing back to the UK from abroad”.
“A strong manufacturing sector is vital to a balanced economic recovery and I want to ensure that Britain’s supply chains are up to the task of supporting the sector in the long term,” he added at the manufacturing technology exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham.
Nevertheless, the manufacturing sector is still 8.2 per cent smaller than it was before the recession in early 2008, while pressure is also on to emerge from recovery yet also display environmental credentials.
Tough environmental targets
Indeed, Europe must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, as well as producing 27 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by the same date.
This is the toughest climate change target of any region of the world and has been put in place in a bid to avoid the dangerous consequences of global warning.
Therefore, while it is vital to continue innovating to drive economic growth, it is important this does not come at the expense of the environment. However, it’s also vital that it doesn’t come at the expense of a loss of skills too.
Striking a balance
In the past, it was assumed that the only way forward was to automate everything and make products in the cheapest way possible. We now know that’s not the case, as whilst technology can create enormous efficiencies, it cannot completely replace craftsmanship.
Within the stone industry, for a true understanding of quality it is essential that trades that have been practiced for hundreds of years are preserved and a new generation of apprentices take their predecessors’ places.
At J Rotherham, we know that striking a balance between innovation and tradition means you can enjoy a superior product, but do so in the knowledge that you’re supporting British industry, the economy and essential skills.
For example, we have been going from strength to strength for four generations – teaching the next generation as we go – and are one of the oldest and most respected stone masonry companies in the UK.
However, at the same time, we also have one of the largest and most advanced technology bases in the global industry, including Britain’s first robotic stone working CNC machine which can create free form masonry of virtually any shape, meaning you don’t have to wait around for your products.
In addition, we like to keep our minds firmly on green issues too, ensuring we remain as sustainable as possible by extracting raw materials from the best British quarries instead of transporting them thousands of miles across the world.
Hopefully, the increasingly positive news will continue for the manufacturing sector – and we can enjoy being part of a booming industry.