How the impossible became possible, the lessons learnt during COVID from a Manufacturing perspective
Manufacturing during COVID and beyond
2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for all businesses. However, the Manufacturing & Engineering sector has shown its characteristic resilience and flexibility to minimise the impact and keep on trading.
One good thing to come out of the crisis was that it forced manufacturers to challenge the way they did things and take a fresh look at ways of working that had become the norm.
With a vaccine now approved and the end possibly in sight, now is the time to take advantage of these new ways of working and business practices which were implemented in reaction to the pandemic - let’s focus on the wins rather than the losses.
One such area is the Supply chain. With many manufactures reliant on supply chains from the Far East, these had to be quickly assessed in the early days of the pandemic when the region shut down, and later, as various quarantine rules for entering the UK were implemented. Others realised that they needed to diversify their supply chain as suppliers struggled to meet demand under lockdown conditions.
These key changes have made UK manufacturers more resilient to supply chain issues and given them the impetus to challenge their traditional models. It has also increased demand for some, as customers have looked to onshore their supply. This will become even more important as we face the next challenge on the road, Brexit and its possible we’ll see an even larger shift to onshoring from the sector.
Another fundamental change has been around remote working. The idea of remote working and manufacturing seemed incompatible this time last year, but we have all become used to working from home and video calls. Whilst the physical manufacturing and engineering must remain on site, there have been real gains in terms of better collaboration across geographically diverse teams, together with the cost and time savings from reduced travel.
Additionally, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of looking at cashflow. As a result of the pressures they have experienced many businesses have had no choice but to take a hard look at their working capital cycles to maximise cashflow, and they should ensure that these improved practices are not allowed to slip as we emerge from the pandemic.
Similarly, manufacturers have reviewed their production processes, factory workflows and other efficiency gains and in many cases have made changes leading to improved productivity. This coupled with labour utilisation gains should also be carried on and improved post COVID, especially with the risk of labour becoming scarcer post Brexit.
The sector has also looked to revisit (or even create) disaster recovery plans to ensure resilience and capitalise on the lessons learnt from this extraordinary year, which can only be a good thing for the sector moving forward.
Finally, for a limited period funding remains cheap and available with CBILS and CLBILS still available with low interest rates. This along with the Chancellor’s decision to extend the Annual Investment Allowance limit of £1 for a further year to the end of 2021 means that there are good opportunities for investment which businesses should take advantage of. Sadly, not all businesses have weathered the storm and managed to thrive so there may be acquisition opportunities that can be taken on.
So, while this has been an extremely testing year for the sector, happily there are some real wins to be taken from the hardship that will stand the sector in good stead for 2021 and hopefully beyond.
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To discuss this and how we can help your manufacturing business, please get in touch with a member of our specialist team.