The Master Cutler looks forward to a productive 2018
Despite all the gloom, despondency and talk of recession being delivered by some, most manufactures I have spoken to say the last 12 months have been productive and busy.
All the indicators have shown that exports are booming with the highest level since records began, productivity is increasing, there are high levels of employment, more people in work and high recruitment levels. Yes, part of that may have been created by the favourable exchange rates but I believe that whatever the future changes are, we are demonstrating our excellent quality, expertise, work ethic and building a level of trust that will stand us in good stead for the future outside the EU.
It seems that Brexit is all we read about and see on our screens but, sadly, it is inevitable that all this conjecture is bad for confidence and investment. In reality manufacturing companies have to play the cards they hold in their hands and just do the best they can. If we can say, with any certainty, that we will be leaving the EU in 2019, companies exporting will need to cover the eventuality of losing access to the single market but constructive negotiations are vital and, hopefully, all 27 countries can avoid self-harm.
I believe 2018 will be a year of transition as the long-term shift towards the extinction of the diesel engine and the push towards electric vehicles will cause huge changes in the market place and suppliers into those industries will be looking at options. The UK produces around 2.6 million diesel engines per year and already customers are being urged not to buy “dirty” vehicles, with talk of lower residual resale values, so the switch may be more rapid than we think.
Also, the run towards battery power could also disrupt other markets. We are already experiencing shortages of commodities which are used within lithium-ion batteries (for mobile phones and electric vehicles). This is creating extended lead times and increasing prices. The consequences spread far and wide but as long as we realise the potential threats we can try to react positively.
Looking locally, the Northern Powerhouse promises much but little has been delivered. Likewise transport in the North has not yet made a significant contribution to our economy but, on a constructive note, we should see a Regional Mayor in 2018. This move should give us a more effective voice nationally and hopefully the new Mayor will have an understanding of business needs and the requirement for a long term strategic plan for the Region.
As manufacturers, we will continue to adapt and re-invent and, as an important contributor to the country’s prosperity, I believe we have much to look forward too, so here’s to a productive 2018.