The manufacturing industry is a hugely important sector of the British economy. It has continued to grow — even throughout the difficulties of the past 12 months. As we approach 2022, it is now possible to take a step back and examine just how the resilient manufacturing industry has changed in 2021.
The manufacturing industry comprises some of the country’s most innovative minds looking to pioneer and push the sector forward. This year has seen all companies face various challenges, from supply chain disruptions to national lockdowns. These challenges have forced the industry to adapt and change in a way that even the most knowledgeable and experienced manufacturing minds couldn’t have predicted. Now, before we look forward to the fresh challenges that 2022 looks set to throw at us, let’s take a deeper look at how the industry changed in 2021.
Overcoming a Global Pandemic
Throughout 2021 we have had to contend with national and international restrictions thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The priority during the pandemic was to protect workers. This meant that social distancing, PPE and increased concentration on health surveillance became a major focus for companies. Despite the changes, manufacturing businesses quickly adapted to the challenge and found new ways of working since working from home obviously was not an option. Now that restrictions have been lifted, and life attempts to return to normal, it is essential to remain flexible and ready to adapt to any further developments.
We have also seen significant supply chain disruption throughout the UK and the rest of the world. This has meant that many businesses, especially those involved in the manufacture of essential supplies, have had to find other more reliable suppliers, negotiate new deals and even temporarily use inferior components until the supply shortages are addressed.
Health and Safety
Health and safety have always been high on the priority list when it comes to the manufacturing industry. That said, 2021 was extraordinarily difficult, with health and safety being taken to new levels. Instead of the more usual physical injuries, we were presented with the problem of a highly transmissible virus.
As previously mentioned, strict laws over social distancing and PPE have become the norm throughout the manufacturing industry. Although restrictions have been lifted, the risk of further outbreaks and infections is still high. This means that suitable PPE, hand sanitising stations and COVID-19 testing could all be here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Challenges of Brexit
This year also saw the full effects of Brexit take hold, and the manufacturing industry has been particularly vulnerable to these effects with a drop in exports. Even with the existing relationships and trade agreements, 2021 has required plenty of flexibility and adaptation.
Due to the new regulatory requirements and customs inspections, many supply chains have become far more complicated to deal with during this period. This has made trade with the EU far more complex and has left many companies looking for new, more competitive supply chains.
Another topic at the centre of most major companies is employee wellbeing. Employee wellbeing has become a hugely important aspect of a good office work culture over the last 20 years. However, 2021 has also seen significant changes in employee wellbeing focus.
The global pandemic has seen an increase in the number of mental health problems. These mental health problems are due to the isolation and loneliness felt throughout the national lockdowns and the stress surrounding job security, and the existential uncertainty of life throughout the pandemic. This has led to many businesses in the manufacturing sector implementing support schemes and employee assistance programmes.
Although much of the focus in 2021 was placed on the threat of coronavirus, climate change and the importance of sustainability has remained a key topic throughout the industry, and greener manufacturing methods are high on the priority list of many manufacturing firms.
Many firms have focussed on new technological solutions to improve sustainability because they know that the sustainable measures you implement today can have long-lasting effects on the environment and your business.
Automation Is Key
Automation has become essential in improving the efficiency of manufacturing firms, to the point that implementation can be the difference between success and failure.
By implementing state-of-the-art automated machinery, many firms have been able to future proof their operations, reduce human error and enforce better safety and compliance. This far more efficient way of working has made it easier for manufacturing to keep pace with the changes and restrictions brought about by the all-encompassing effects of the pandemic. In conclusion, automation has become the way forward and a must for any firm looking to survive the relentless competition that lies ahead in 2022.
Find more information on state-of-the-art computer numerical control (CNC) machining at Milo Tools.