The UK has one of the most diverse manufacturing bases in the world. It has businesses with global reputations all the way from Aerospace and Defence to Textiles, taking in ceramics, food, pharmaceuticals and steel along the way.
In Aerospace, the UK is in the top rank of aircraft manufacturers. Airbus, BAE Systems and Bombardier have recently been joined by Boeing, which established its first European base in Sheffield.
Chemicals have been important since the days of the Roman Empire, which was attracted by the salt deposits of Cheshire and around Middlesbrough. They are still providing raw materials for the chemicals hubs in Northwich itself, as well as Runcorn, Widnes and Warrington.
The resurgence of the Automotive sector has, arguably, been the jewel in Britain’s manufacturing crown but the world is changing and the days of the internal combustion engine may be numbered. Advanced engineering firms like Williams, Unipart and the Warwick Manufacturing Group are treating the change as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
The steel and metals sector has also enjoyed a revival, from the brink of disappearance. Liberty House Group has brought the aluminium smelter at Lochaber, Scotland, back to life and is investing to make a plant producing automotive components the ‘greenest’ such manufacturing site in the world.
The Textiles sector is perhaps a surprising success story. It is worth £9 billion a year in GVA, exports are up nearly 28% in five years and it has seen the return of activities that seemed lost to low-cost areas in foreign fields. The ‘reshoring’ has been headlined by Clarks, which announced that it is to resume manufacturing at its historical home of Street, in Somerset.
While on the subject of reshoring, UKMR 2018 has a special report on the ceramics industry and the revival of its historic home turf of Stoke on Trent.