Manufacturing key to new renaissance

EAST Ham MP Stephen Timms discusses manufacturing, in his latest exclusive Recorder column. He writes: BEFORE the recession, the Engineering Employers Federation was speaking of a renaissance in UK manufacturing. The Government s Manufacturing Advisor

EAST Ham MP Stephen Timms discusses manufacturing, in his latest exclusive Recorder column.

He writes:

BEFORE the recession, the Engineering Employers Federation was speaking of a "renaissance" in UK manufacturing.

The Government's Manufacturing Advisory Service had helped thousands of companies to modernise.


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We were making almost twice as many cars in Britain as 25 years ago.

Production in Britain was rising fast, but it didn't feel much like a comeback, because the number of manufacturing workers was still falling. But is that about to change?

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This summer, at Florentia Clothing Village, Tottenham, I saw revived textile manufacturing. Their problem is bolstering the depleted workforce, and finding enough skilled people.

Jenny Holloway is running Stitch in Time, a course funded by Haringey Council, to train 75 unemployed people.

Jenny says retailers need to offer new and unique products, to high standards of quality and design.

With the UK's main competitors in the European Union, and new minimum wage rules, UK firms are finding they can compete again. "Retailers are beginning to clamour for reliable small units that can provide newness for top store ranging," she says, "but high standard of service is a must."

One manager I met on the visit was from a long established leather gloves manufacturer.

He highlighted another change making life easier since the economic crisis hit: the cheaper pound compared to the Euro and the dollar. It's helping make UK manufacturing more competitive.

Sortex has been making high tech sorting machines in East London since 1947. I visited their factory in Stratford soon after it opened in the 1980s - and then I officially opened their new factory in Beckton two years ago.

Managing Director Bruno Kilshaw showed me around again last month. The factory started making 200 machines per year, mainly for export. This year its making 400. The cheaper pound is helping them too.

Ford's Dagenham factory is a world centre for diesel engines. I recently visited the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME) - the modern building with the curved roof on the right of the A13, just beyond the Ford Plant.

Ford apprentices train there. CEME runs courses about manufacturing for school teachers. Bill Williamson, CEME's Director, says they are often amazed how much is still manufactured in London.

He says more and more companies which used to manufacture overseas have returned to the UK - for better quality, or supply punctuality.

Being able to turn new research into products fast is crucial - so, for Ford, having 1000 people working in engine research nearby at Warley is key to Dagenham's success.

In Sunderland, Nissan has the most productive car plant in Europe. It recently announced it will be making its new electric car power sources there - typical of the opportunities in a new wave of "green" manufacturing where Britain can do well.

Financial services have taken a heavy blow in the credit crunch.

Perhaps we will see manufacturing providing an increasing share of the jobs we need in the future.

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