UK manufacturers are preparing for a no-deal Brexit says Sheffield Hallam research

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A new report from Sheffield Hallam University and SSG Insight has found that 83% of British manufacturers are preparing for a hard Brexit and actively forging new relationships with ‘Rest of the World’ territories.

Nearly half of manufacturing companies have identified Asia (44%), as well as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East as focus areas for the future. The proactive, global outlook is helping to cement what could be viewed as a bullish mood among British manufacturers about their prospects post Brexit, despite an expected dramatic drop in orders from EU-based countries.

This latest industry snapshot draws on extensive research amongst the UK’s leading manufacturing executives. The report, Harnessing Brexit, Technology and Insight: British Manufacturers, a Competitive Edge in an Age of Uncertainty and Opportunity, is co-authored by Dr Hongwei Zhang and Professor Sameh Saad from Sheffield Hallam University and Jon Moody of SSG Insight, an asset management company.

It discusses the optimism and concern around two of the most critical challenges facing modern Britain: Brexit and the relentless rise of technology, particularly in the form of Industry 4.0.

The report reveals that manufacturers are more than twice as likely to point to global competition than Brexit when asked what they consider to be the biggest challenge disrupting the industry, closely followed by the Internet of Things and capability to handle data from connected technologies.

With a requirement to scale up volume easily to meet demand from Rest of World territories, Brexit and the shift of focus beyond the EU is expected to accelerate the use of AI and automation on UK factory floors, driving down the cost of production and speeding up product development on the route to new markets.

As such, more than half (59%) of UK manufacturers are intending to invest in smart, connected technology to drive forward international growth. This compares to 20% planning to invest in machinery and hardware, 18% investing in research and development and 17% investing in sales and marketing.

Dr Zhang, principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “With numerous Brexit scenarios on the horizon and hard Brexit a very real threat, our research has found that Britain’s manufacturing sector is showing determination to remain resilient through this tumultuous period.”

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Manufacturers should plan for the most disruptive Brexit outcome to mitigate the immediate structural changes triggered by the UK leaving the EU
  • Technology should be harnessed to ensure that British manufacturers compete and thrive with their new trading partners
  • Strategies for the continuous upskilling of employees should be developed to ensure British manufacturers keep pace with technological innovation

Jon Moody, chief product officer at SSG Insight, said: “It’s clear from our research that British manufacturers are resolute as the UK enters a new era. Although there are concerns over tariff rates and regulatory barriers, many are actively forging relationships with new territories throughout the world. A confidence is very much emerging from the uncertainty.”