Here we are, 2018. If you could reflect on the past decade or so, what key things would come to mind? iPhone 1-10? Self-driving cars? Social Media? It's safe to say this has been the greatest decade for diversification, with new inventions and innovations year by year. The Engineering and Manufacturing sector has been no exception, with sectors such as Additive Manufacturing and IOT changing the way we design, produce and think about products. After an interview with our Managing Director, Phillip Hodson, we delved into what he has seen and how he has reacted to these changes within his different roles.
1. The 90's
I started my career in Manufacturing and Engineering back in 1996. The company I worked for supplied to a big company - B&Q. Although a very good client, it was however, their only client. From years of experience I have witnessed how detrimental it is to have a variety of clients as relying solely on one can put you at a disadvantage if anything was to happen to the company.
Back in the 90's, it was evident how important the shop floor was to a company - it was where all the 'magic' happened and employees really used this place to shine and progress. Upon reflection, I realise the level of skill I gained from that first job, which helped get me to the place I am today. I would definitely suggest that graduates or industry beginners get that experience early, because it will add real value throughout the rest of their career.
The North West of the UK was a real pioneer for manufacturing in the 90's, and I think it's important to understand how critical this was to our economic status, and the ability it gave us to compete globally - this is something we should really be proud of.
2. What's changed?
Due to many factors, there has been a shift in skills, particularly over the past 4 years with the introduction of data and connectivity. Data is driving the creation of new products, consumerism is quicker than ever before and is key, as businesses must understand how their products connect with their consumers. The analysis of data allows companies to recognise the way their product is being used and gives them the opportunity to maximise this by providing an ideal consumer experience. I am by no means an expert in this field, but through observation it is clear how this addition in the manufacturing world has extended its abilities particularly in the medical sector with early diagnosis equipment (revolutionary).
Advanced Manufacturing has seen us develop new divisions, in particular Additive Manufacturing. This innovative process develops products to market/consumer at a quicker pace than traditional manufacturing by building up a component in layers by depositing material. This means roles within this industry require a different set of skills in comparison to a decade ago, for example a Manufacturing Engineer may now need to be skilled in automation, data and sales. There is definitely a positive attitude around traditional manufacturers adjusting and integrating modern manufacturing into their process - however, there still is a demand for traditional manufacturing roles, but from observation I can see that overtime this will shift more towards digitalisation.
3. Noticing Trends
For us, as a business we are looking at how we can diversify ourselves in this digital era just like our clients, whether it be our data processes or project plans - if we are going to be a partner to an innovative sector, we need to apply ourselves similarly.
Currently, there are some manufacturers who are waiting for customers influence before introducing any digitalisation, but to truly push ahead of competitors, companies must give the customer what they want before they know they want it; pattern indicates that it is the new-comers which cause real disruption, when many long-standers had the capabilities to disrupt all along.
I think company culture is becoming more important as clients are re-prioritising what is important in an employee. For example, they are now looking to hire situational leaders, reasonable managers etc. rather than just a power-driven leader. It is also great to see more enthusiasm shown to the representation of women in manufacturing with dedicated organisations such as 'Women in Additive', showing a positive change to industry attitudes. From over a decade of experience involvement in the hiring process, moving forward, companies which consider company culture and personality will go further, with diverse employees adding different values to a team.
Overall, I think the movement in Engineering and Manufacturing is really positive and it's certain that it is keeping up with the rapidly growing digital world.