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Future Trends

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Since 1998, there has been a steady decline in the numbers employed in the sector as a whole and the number of workplaces, but productivity in the sector has continued to increase over the same period.

January 2011 figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show total manufacturing output increased by 5.6% in November 2010 compared with November 2009. This was the highest growth rate for 16 years.

Output increased in most manufacturing areas - large growth areas include an increase of:

  • 20% in the machinery and equipment manufacturing industries
  • 11.6% in the basic metals and metal products sector
  • 8.7% in the food and drink industries

The only decline was in chemicals and manmade fibres with a decrease of 2.8%

The Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) predicts that manufacturing will continue to grow in 2011 at an average 3.5%

By 2017, 587,000 new workers will need to be recruited into the manufacturing sector.

However the profile of workers is predicted to change. Overall, almost 47% of all employees in 2017 will be at associate professional level or higher, compared with just over 32% in 1987.

Growth in 2011 has been based on solid growth in orders for exports - particularly to emerging markets based on a weaker pound which is boosting demand from overseas. This may affect growth if the pound becomes stronger.

There are significant changes taking place in manufacturing which is driving the need for workers at higher rather than lower levels as IT and electronics increases productivity and efficiency. Modern working practices and advances in technology in the sector will mean that businesses will become more automated over the coming years.

Operatives increasingly need to be able to multi-task so they may not only be on the production line but also be dealing with quality control checking and/or machinery maintenance.

New inventions and also older technologies become more affordable also will continue to impact on the market. For example 3D printing - a way of fabricating objects designed on the computer - has become more affordable and advanced recently and is set to make manufacturing more possible on a smaller scale and news reports have recently predicted manufacturing taking place in the home! 

One scheme that is looking to use this technology is RepRap - short for Replicating Rapid Prototyping - which offers a cheap way of replicating objects including the printer itself.  The 3D printer - currently the size of a microwave - can print out parts that can then be assembled.

The ability to produce specially designed objects from a computer will make it possible to manufacture on a smaller scale. These printers work with a whole range of different materials including plastics and certain types of metals.   The US army have experimented using rapid prototyping to create parts for broken tanks, guns and other hardware in combat situations.

Sources: Proskills AACS LMI Report 2010 and Proskills Sector Skills Assessment 2010.

Food and drink Manufacturing...

  • Job losses are expected to be concentrated within low and mid-skill level occupations, including Skilled Trades and Operative roles.
  • Expanding numbers of high-skill level occupations are predicted, including Managers and Senior Officials and Professionals.
  • 44,000 high-skill level jobs are forecast to be needed between 2007-2017 and 54,000 low-skill level jobs.
  • Across the sector as a whole, recruitment issues are primarily in technical and skilled jobs, such as engineering, food scientists and technologists, quality assurance, bakers, millers, fish-filleters and smokehouse operators. 

New and emerging occupations include:

  • Operational Level Jobs - Production control operations increasingly include machinery maintenance activities.  Operation roles increasingly include quality monitoring and reporting tasks.
  • First Line Management - Team leadership roles are now replacing supervisor roles within flat management structures.
  • Environmental Control and Sustainability Roles - These roles are now being developed at junior/middle management level.
  • Productivity and Improvements Roles - These are increasingly becoming important at junior/middle management levels.
  • Corporate, Social Responsibility Roles - Senior management level roles are increasingly linked to environmental and sustainability agendas. 

Sources: Improve AACS LMI report 2010 Projection figures from 'Working Futures 2007 -2017' Warwick Institute of Employment Research - November 2008.