Manufacturing is beset by a host of challenges, enough to shake all its off-shoot sectors to their very core.

The issues presented here are serious in nature. Unfortunately, car manufacturer Nissan furloughed their workers due to a parts shortage, unable to press on with their important work due to a global shortage of semiconductors. Of course, vehicle production was suspended at the start of the coronavirus restrictions too, and workers were subsequently furloughed there as well.

This stop start nature for auto manufacturing is far from a good thing, especially when these industries were already juggling a multitude of problems to begin with. So, what are the challenges that they’re all facing today, and can they be overcome?

Auto Industry Roadblocks

Manufacturers can only work if they’re given the supplies they need.

The global shortage of semiconductors in the auto industry also saw Honda face similar issues earlier this year too, facing temporary UK factory closures as a result of the same problems Nissan are experiencing. While manufacturing is affected to varying degrees of severity in the auto industry, all players would likely agree that the bottleneck on vital supplies needs to be widened here. Otherwise, the industry will continue to suffer stalls and setbacks for some time to come.

There is hope that supply chain issues may be abated now that the Brexit deal has attempted to iron out manufacturing creases in the auto industry. The agreement, according to Professor David Bailey of the Birmingham Business School, should “be enough for most car makers in the UK to avoid tariffs”, which should facilitate the exchange of supplies between the UK and EU in a more fluid fashion. It’s a silver lining, but whether it’s enough to turn the tide remains to be seen.   

Aerospace Setbacks

Unfortunately, a couple of trade perks in auto manufacturing are not enough to level the terrain across all manufacturing industries nationwide.

The Financial Times recently reported that UK manufacturers have lost revenue and business since all was made official, with a published survey showing that 33% of them have suffered things like increased costs as a result of unnecessary delays and ‘red tape’. Options and workarounds are seemingly becoming fewer, with a real sense of congestion affecting everything.

The aerospace industry is facing similar problems to the auto industry, in that many of their supplies are being delayed in transit or turned away at the border due to the wrong paperwork. Obviously, these impracticalities simply cannot continue if manufacturing on any level is hoping to thrive, as currently, the source above notes that the industry relies on ‘just in time deliveries’ to tide them over. For manufacturers, their continued functioning seems to be down to the wire daily.

Difficulties in Finding Skilled Staff

The manufacturing industry is propped up by qualified workers and innovative minds, and without them, everything can quickly descend into chaos.

For example, in 2019 UK manufacturers were grappling with their biggest skills shortage in 30 years, with 81% of manufacturing firms reporting difficulties in finding qualified workers. It’s hard to imagine the situation has improved in two short years with the addition of COVID too. Brexit received its fair share of blame also, but ultimately, recruiting the right workers seems to be like finding a needle in the haystack.

That said, help is to hand here via engineering recruitment agencies. Sigma Recruitment have a strong track record in resolving all the hiring issues that their manufacturing clients are dealing with. They work as fast as is humanely possible, and use their proprietary interview booking and checking systems to full effect. This means the best candidates will show up to interview in a timely manner, and dedicate themselves fully to the process, leaving manufacturing firms with nothing but favourable hiring options moving forward.

Dispassionate workers simply don’t work in manufacturing, and it’s not an industry whereby people can simply coast by with timid goals and an unassuming nature. Instead, it’s the battleground of experts in their craft, so having unwavering access to a rich talent pool is a sure-fire way to combat any lulls in the industry.

City-Wide Overhauls

Many UK cities were famed principally for their feats in manufacturing, but now that they’re struggling, some of them are having to sadly reassess their legacies.

A similar opinion is shared by Joanna Partridge, who stated last year that places like Derby are “having to imagine a future beyond manufacturing” after 9,000 job losses were incurred at Rolls Royce. Some seem to herald a figurative ‘end of days’ of sorts for waning manufacturing industries, as consumer trends change, and people reorganise their lifestyles for the harder times all are currently embroiled in.

For cities who have achieved historical renown for their manufacturing prowess, an identity crisis of sorts is at hand. Many of them simply cannot continue to pump out goods at the same rate or for the same reward. Big changes can be expected here, though in what form they take shape only time will tell.

Ella Woodward, contributing writer