Above: EDM engineers simultaneously work on multiple door trainer types for a variety of airline clients. (Credit: At Work, taken by Steve Morgan at EDM Ltd in Manchester. Highly Commended in the Professional

The North-West region, with its two powerhouse centres of Manchester and Liverpool, continues to lead the way for UK manufacturing and is determined to build on its proud heritage. By Mark Venables

The North West has always been a region of firsts. The world’s first electronic computer was developed at Manchester University in 1948; the UK’s first motorway was opened near Preston ten years later; and, in 2010, the Nobel Prize was awarded for advancements in graphene, the wonder material with seemingly unlimited applications. The region has 15,000 manufacturing businesses employing 352,000 people directly (10% of the working population) and 746,000 across the supply chain (22% of the working population. The economic value of all that activity tops £21bn. “Much of the current strength can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, where the combination of geography, geology and grit made the region the perfect place for the factory of the world to develop,” Stephen Fitzsimons, member manager – North West EEF says. “The determination of the Lancashire workers exploited the soft water conditions to make products that were exported globally from the Port of Liverpool.”

Hot Topics

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Diverse manufacturing base

The modern manufacturing landscape spans many sectors. The chemical sector is well represented in Runcorn by Tata Chemicals and BASF in Cheshire, pharmaceutical companies such as Astra Zeneca can also trace their roots back to those early days, before demerging from the mighty ICI in the early 90s. Despite the recent announcement of jobs losses from Astra Zeneca’s Cheshire headquarters, the sector continues to prosper across the North, creating £10.5bn of economic value.
BAE Systems recently announced Its aerospace bases at Warton, where parts for the Typhoon are made and assembled, and Samlesbury in Lancashire, which together employ 10,000 people, will see 750 job losses, twice as many as in 2015. Despite this the aerospace sector in the region continues to thrive.
The aerospace and defence sector contributes a third of the total UK value from companies located in the North West, such as BAE, APPH and Airbus. Although the last is just over the border into Wales, the hundreds of North West companies in the supply chain continue to manufacture sophisticated, premium components to a market where quality cannot be compromised.

Export drive

Alstom’s new facility in Widnes, near Liverpool, has won a £28 million contract to repaint Virgn West Coast’s Pendolino fleet


Manufacturing success is often based on export potential and there is no better example of that than the Range Rover Evoque, which sees a model rolling off the assembly line every 70 seconds. The story at Bentley in Crewe is similarly impressive with key markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).
Another sector that continues to defy a sluggish economy is food and drink. Kellogg’s has just celebrated 75 years manufacturing at Tra ord Park where they still employ over 700 people. Many of Heinz’ famous 57 varieties are produced by the 1,000-strong workforce in Wigan. Drinks companies such as Halewood International, JW Lees and Thwaites all contribute to the estimated £9.5bn value to the economy.
The rail industry in the region received a huge boost when Alstom opened the biggest and most sophisticated centre for train modernisation ever in the UK in summer 2017. With over 13,000 square metres of space, the facility at Widnes, on the north bank of the Mersey, a few miles south east of Liverpool, will be the largest rolling stock modernisation facility in the UK. It already has a £28 million contract to re-paint the 56-strong fleet of Class 390 ‘tilting’ Pendolino trains, used by Virgin on the West Coast Main Line. Industry 4.0 features of the contract include innovative Virtual Reality painting simulators that the team will be trained on and will use to validate the work.
Liverpool City Region (LCR) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has aspirations to bring rail manufacturing back to Saint Helens, the birthplace of the railway industry in the UK.

News in Brief

IT STARTED WITH A GIN
The gin revolution continues to sweep through the UK. One couple from Manchester went from a simple date over G&T to international acclaim as the founders of Manchester Gin. Seb and Jen, who – in their own words – knew ‘nothing about gin making’ have, in the space of two years, learned how to distil and craft their own recipe. In the last three months they have won a Great Taste award, a gold at the Spirit Masters and a gold medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, a feat that only 20 other gins in the world were awarded. Manchester Gin is now producing over 1,000 bottles a week. Until just a few weeks ago, every bottle was made from the dining room. Now, its home is a 1400sq foot railway arch in the centre of Manchester – on the ironically-named Temperance Street.
AVIATION GROWTH
Founded in 1971, Manchester-based EDM has grown to become a world-leader in the manufacture of training simulators for the civil aviation and defence markets. It began constructing an additional, £1.3m 20,000 square feet facility in 2016, adjacent to the existing premises. It was completed Summer 2017 and now houses 50 new staff. They have also leased and refurbished a 15,000 square feet facility in Hyde, which houses 30 staff. They have invested over £1m in five CNC machines and, in addition, have launched an apprenticeship scheme for young engineers and an internship programme for undergraduate engineers.
QUICK SHOES
The UK’s biggest manufacturer of footwear, Hotter, are set to make a record 2.2 million pairs in their Lancashire factory in 2017. The company, a winner of The Queen’s Award for Enterprise, currently makes a pair of shoes every 20 seconds and plans to produce even more. Established in 1959 as a slipper manufacturer, Hotter have expanded their collection and now make stylish, comfortable shoes for both men and women.

Hotter Shoes is the UK’s largest manufacturer of footwear

Chain reaction

The nuclear supply chain continues to provide well paid and highly skilled job opportunities. Sellafield is the mostwell-known driver in this area, helping to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to West Cumbria and responsible for 10,000 direct jobs. Half of the economic value of the local area is provided by the operation and the rest of the manufacturing sector. However, the former BNFL presence at Birchwood in Warrington also delivers significant return, with up to 4,000 workers involved in the nuclear sector.

The Manchester effect

Kellogg’s factory in Trafford Park, Manchester


According to Tim Newns, chief executive, MIDAS, Manchester’s inward investment agency, Greater Manchester attracts the UK’s second highest amount of FDI, with manufacturing being one of the strongest sectors, worth £7.7bn.
“As we operate internationally, this has increased competition with other high-calibre cities,” he says. “The uncertainty of Brexit has added to these challenges as companies have chosen to invest in non-UK locations.”
Greater Manchester is a long-established manufacuturing centre and some companies operate in aged facilities that are not fit for purpose – but there are simply not enough new premises to relocate them. There is also the issue of cost – modern premises are more expensive than older facilities.
“Manchester is driving a strong programme of innovation to play to our strengths in talent and property, and being at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse is advantageous as we are the gateway to national and international markets,” Newns adds. “To complement this, we have changed our strategic approach by increasing our presence in market and target sector-specific events and arrange meetings with key decision makers seeking potential investment opportunities.”
Greater Manchester has Europe’s largest centre for advanced materials and employs 114,000 people in manufacturing and engineering. Its access to talent and the supply chains has attracted major companies including BAE Systems, Kellogg’s, PZ Cussons, Procter & Gamble, McVities and Cargill. More recently BOC, the UK and Ireland’s largest industrial gas supplier, invested £10m to open a purification plant at Cargill’s existing site in autumn 2017.
“The region continues to set new standards for UK manufacturing in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals and bio manufacturing. It produces nine per cent of the UK’s total exports,” Samantha Nicholson, head of manufacturing, Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub explains. The region-within-a-region has no less than five Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). “We have a clear vision to create a more progressive and innovative mind-set with businesses across all manufacturing SMEs in the North West and support them with funding and access to our expert advisors, which will undoubtedly help enhance their productivity and growth.”

NORTH WEST IN NUMBERS

IN 2016, THE NORTH WEST ACCOUNTED FOR 10.4%OF THE UK’S MANUFACTURED EXPORTS; THE 3RD-HIGHEST OF ANY REGION

0%
Services as % of region total
0
MANUFACTURING JOBS IN THE NORTH WEST IN MARCH 2017 – 8.8% OF THE REGION’S TOTAL WORKFORCE.
0
MANUFACTURING AS % OF REGIONAL TOTAL
0%
Region’s productivity of the UK average
0%
OF TOTAL EXPORTS ARE TO THE EUROPEAN MARKET; THE LOWEST OF ANY REGION.
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GVA as % of UK

THE NORTH WEST HAS SEEN THE LARGEST DROP IN MANUFACTURING JOBS SINCE MARCH 2010 – OVER 17,000

The Mersey Beat

The LCR has a vibrant manufacturing economy, with over 3,000 companies employing more than 50,000 workers and producing 13% of the LCR economy; a higher proportion than the national average. Productivity is also seven per cent higher than the UK sector average and growth in manufacturing here is predicted to outstrip the national average as well: 22%, as opposed to 19%.
“In the LCR, a car is made every 80 seconds and we have the largest bio-manufacturing cluster in Europe,” Simon Reid, sector manager for advanced manufacturing at the Liverpool City Region LEP, says. “In the Materials Innovation Factory (a joint venture between Unilever and the University of Liverpool) the LCR will have the highest concentration of robotics for materials science in the World. On top of this we have a whole host of innovative, high growth SMEs pushing the boundaries of additive manufacture, composites, robotics, big data analytics and the industrial internet of things.”
Already one of the world’s most modern shipping terminals, expansion is continuing at the Port of Liverpool. Peel Ports Group, owner of the Port of Liverpool is to invest in equipment and port infrastructure works to expand the terminal and introduce further leading-edge port technology solutions at Liverpool2, the deep water container facility. This latest phase will include the installation of a further three-ship-to-shore cranes (STS) and ten cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes (CRMG). These will add to the existing five STS cranes and 12 CRMG cranes installed as part of Phase 1, which was opened in November last year. Liverpool2 will have the capacity to manage the unloading of two 380m vessels simultaneously.

Learning curve

In Liverpool City Region, a car is produced every 80 seconds Credit: JaguarLandRover.


In an attempt to drive innovation into the manufacturing sector, the Liverpool LEP has launched LCR 4.0, the first Industrial Digitisation business support programme in the UK. The plan is for small and medium manufacturing companies to have innovation involving digital manufacturing implemented into their business; it is fully funded by ERDF.
“The LEP’s role in this is to provide comprehensive business intelligence to partners, using the bespoke knowledge the advanced manufacturing team have acquired of the regional manufacturing business scope,” Reid says. “The academic institutions involved all bring unique skill sets in computing, digital design, hardware, software, robotics, materials, AI and sensory systems, allowing a strong, client-specific package of innovation to be constructed. At both the entry and exit point of the programme, the LEP’s ‘Growth Hub’ initiative, which runs parallel to the sector development duties of the LEP, will log the details of a client business’ journey; from an initial diagnostic of what may be suitable for the business and brokering the right support, to analysing the management cultural change required for adopting automation, to signposting and facilitating future opportunities for collaboration with academia and established big-name players in manufacturing”.

Mark Venables is a publisher, writer and editor with over 20 years of experience. He specialises in areas including design, manufacturing, sustainability and the built environment.