Britain’s manufacturers are calling on the Government to work with industry and take whatever steps are necessary to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on supply chains on the back of a survey showing exports have slumped to their lowest level in three years. The Q1 Manufacturing Outlook survey published

by Make UK and business advisory firm BDO LLP, taken before the recent escalation of the economic situation, confirms that the sector had ground to a standstill at the end of 2019 as the stockpiles from a potential October EU exit wound down. And, while the domestic picture had begun to improve slightly, exports had already fallen sharply in response to a downturn in world trade, a situation likely to be exacerbated by current events. In addition, a separate snap poll of companies conducted by Make UK showed that over a third of companies (36%) say EU customer sentiment has worsened since exiting the EU, indicating European customers are now looking away from the UK, further threatening exports to the UK’s major market.

coronavirus may not yet have been recorded but the next few weeks should shed some light on how the sector is responding to disruptions that are set to send shockwaves through industry supply chains. Seamus Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, said:

“After the rollercoaster ride of the last twelve months and a series of stockpiling highs and investment lows the election result had at least provided some degree of political certainty and a prospect of a return to cyclical economic normality, but the escalation of coronavirus is likely to knock that off course. “Even before the current situation, the shocking

drop in exports could not have come at a worse time ahead of potentially difficult trade talks where the clock is running down fast. It is now vital that Government works with industry to limit the damage to industry and take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard skills in particular.” Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO,

added: “As coronavirus fears take hold and the impact on the sector’s crucial supply chains remains

largely unknown, businesses should be preparing themselves for more volatility this year. “The dramatic fall in exports only exacerbates

the challenges to come. There is no doubt that the sector needs the Government to step up and deliver a clear and supportive industrial strategy to help navigate the choppy waters ahead.” Key findings of the survey include: - Output fell sharply on back of weak orders and Autumn stockpiles wound down - Domestic orders improve but still negative for three successive quarters, worst run since 2015 - Export orders turn negative for first time since Q4 2016

- Evidence EU customer sentiment turning away from UK - Electronics turns negative for first time since 2015 as access to semi-conductors and other components dry up - Northern Ireland least optimistic area of the UK - Manufacturing forecast to contract in 2020 by -2.1%

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It may be difficult to envisage anything good coming out of this terrible crisis we are facing right now, but the availability and use of technology and how it might help us get through the coming months may be that one good thing. In fact, this event may fundamentally change the way we all work. Remote/home working will

become much more common for those who are both office/plant based. Google Hangouts Meet and Zoom Rooms will allow us to interact with colleagues, while smart manufacturing technology and networks will mean we can keep the production lines going from wherever we are. AI will help us manage logistics and delivery networks, and 3D printing means we may not have to wait for replacement parts for machine repair. And the role of technology in urgent medical research and treatment cannot be overstated. Michelle Lea


Maintenance and supply are impeding greater uptake of alternative fuels despite industry appearing to fully embrace environmental targets according to a new report, ‘Bridging the Gap to Net Zero: Solutions towards the net zero challenge’, from Aggreko. In a bid to help industry reach net zero targets effectively, Aggreko continues to question energy professionals about their use of on- site equipment. The latest insights come from 200 energy professionals across industries such as construction and manufacturing. Specifically, ‘Bridging the Gap to Net Zero’ aims to gauge corporate appetite for change and uptake of alternative fuels.

Results of the survey: • 96% said their company’s

environmental impact was a ‘medium- to high-priority’ • Environmental impact is a more

important factor than price when businesses purchase fuel • Diesel is still the fuel of choice for 85% of respondent’s on-site

equipment • 82% of respondents have used

alternative fuels to reduce corporate impact • 62% of companies Aggreko

polled that said they had considered using GTL, while a further 61% said they had explored use of natural gas as an alternative

The report then advises on the

immediate changes that businesses can make in order to inch closer to net zero. Solutions explored include Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Gas-to-liquid (GTL), Combined Heat and Power (CHP), battery and raising the efficiency of existing technologies.

Novotek UK and Ireland has launched an online calculator to help engineers and plant managers calculate the cost savings of subscribing to use its Proficy Historian software. The Historian calculator is available to use on the Novotek UK and Ireland website, where engineers can assess the costs of collecting and storing data tags across a three-year period. The launch of the calculator follows Novotek UK and Ireland partnering with GE Digital to offer a subscription- based model for the Proficy Historian software. The annual subscription allows plant engineers to collect and store up to 500,000 data tags – used to log and retrieve historic production and process records – and report on and visualise up to 200 of those tags. The calculator allows engineers to select the sources of the data they wish to connect to the Historian, whether OPC data access automation systems, or text and XML files. They can enter the volume of data tags they would like to store and use, and then assess how affordable the Proficy Historian software would be.



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