2022 UK manufacturing outlook: sustainability, robots and 5G
Posted on: February 4th 2022 · read
MHA Partner, Alastair Wilson believes 2022 could be the year that UK manufacturers should seize the opportunity to adopt more sustainable operations and connected technologies to enhance their competitiveness, as supply chain issues will continue to pose a multitude of challenges across the sector:
Sustainability: adapt or be left behind
“Sustainability will sit high on the list of priorities for UK manufacturers as we enter 2022. It is no longer enough for manufacturers to pay lip service to adopting more sustainable business and operating models. Following the highly-publicised UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year, businesses are under increasing pressure to follow through with, and report upon, their sustainability plans, particularly curbing the production of carbon and methane. As companies across the value chain transition towards a sustainable business mindset, those that fail to adapt risk being left behind and the future prospects for their business will undeniably dim.
“What’s more, the introduction of the UK Plastic Packaging Tax from 1 April 2022 (which is calculated at £200 per metric tonne to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic) will further sharpen the need to manufacturers to operate with sustainability firmly in mind, regardless of the inevitable 'scramble' to pre-order as much non-compliant packaging as possible before the deadline.
‘Cobots’ will rule: 5G revolution, AI and data analytics to drive growth
“2022 will also mark the 5G revolution in UK manufacturing, driving new growth and greater adoption of ‘connected’ technology and robotics across the sector. As businesses continue to battle labour shortages while maintaining high productivity, 5G will enable them to upgrade their automation and integration, and embrace connected technologies that will deliver greater control and oversight into real time production, without the need for human intervention.
Alongside the continued adoption of cloud based technology, data analytics and automation software that we expect to see next year, 2022 will also see greater investment in collaborative robots (“cobots”) which can be acquired at relatively low cost and be moved from task to task as required. Manufacturers increasingly view automation as a highly cost effective solution as the time period required to pay back the return on investment shortens, and the appearance of cobots and connected technology will become commonplace in manufacturing facilities across the UK."
Supply chain challenges remain a hurdle as so do post-Brexit changes
“Finally, the supply chain crisis will continue to hamper manufacturers in 2022. The inability to source raw materials or components, increased cost of materials, and customs delays will force businesses to further review and shorten their supply chains where possible, bringing about possible implications for existing contracts. Following a weak autumn budget statement, the sector requires government’s support to address these issues. Focus should be on greater investment in training programmes to equip staff with the required skills, and the resolution of the cross-border problems - particularly those involving Europe and Northern Ireland which are key export markets.”