Chapter 5

An Appetite for Investment

Positively, despite the agility, supply chain and recruitment challenges being faced by many manufacturers, firms are pushing forward with and, in some cases advancing, their investments in key business areas. Our survey revealed that 78% of manufacturers have accelerated their investment plans in products, people, premises, and processes to mitigate recent world events (vs. 61% last year).

This is perhaps surprising given recent world events and other domestic factors. But what it does show is that there is still confidence in the manufacturing sector and industrial firms are willing to spend money now the dust from the pandemic has somewhat settled to stand themselves in better stead going forward.

One area where manufacturers are investing is digital technology. As the Chief of Digital Manufacturing at a global aerospace and defence firm said: “Investment in digital technology and business transformation have been critical areas of focus”. Such technological investments are a win-win for organisations as they can take advantage of the technologies’ primary benefits and attract talent in the process.

Recent graduates and younger generations in particular have the desire to utilise the latest technology in their roles. Organisations that persist with outdated processes and systems risk alienating themselves as potential employers from this tech-savvy cohort.

Throughout the pandemic, there was a huge focus on spending and reducing unnecessary spend. But during and since then we have invested heavily in the way in which we communicate to staff, including implementing new technologies so that employees could still engage while working from home.

Engineering Director at a UK Steel contractor

Meanwhile, other manufacturers are realising that technology investments do not need to be “big bang” and that a step-by-step approach is often just as intuitive. For one heavy engineering company, that want to introduce robotics and automation was frequently outweighed by the associated cost and training implications. This is a trend we often hear and it’s understandable. But the reality is that many companies are now benefiting from technology without the large investments that are perceived to be necessary.

For example, some digital investments can be delivered in weeks, not months or years. By starting simple, like a piece of automation that replaces a manual spreadsheet or process, companies can realise benefits quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. In terms of investment in people and premises, one senior executive we spoke
with outlined how they are in the middle of a new £3m facility project which is unlike anything they’ve embarked on before. That’s because it is heavily focused on the company’s people, with plenty of “creature comforts”.

With the ongoing battle for talent, manufacturing organisations need to do everything they can to attract and retain staff. Providing nice working environments with excellent facilities is one way to do this and transform the industry’s traditional image in the process. Manufacturers’ appetite for investment in premises and facilities was further highlighted in our follow-up discussions.

The Managing Director of a high-performance EMC/EMP filters and capacitor manufacturer said: “Our organisation was already in a period of investment in line with our company strategy. But with global sales increasing at a faster rate than forecasted, we have accelerated some planned internal facility and personnel investments”. For the Manufacturing Director of a large beverage company, facility investment directly benefits employees. “We’ve continued to invest significantly in our manufacturing sites across the UK to ensure we remain at the forefront of innovation and identify ways to further improve productivity while remaining focused on achieving our vital sustainability goals.

“Such investments also form a core part of our recruitment efforts, helping highlight that we are a business that invests in its people, even when times are perceived to be hard”, he said

Our site investments have also provided key opportunities for upskilling and learning & development for our colleagues, helping to create new technical roles and apprenticeships

Manufacturing Director of a large beverage comany