UK manufacturing is re-inventing itself

Dec 08, 2015 • FeaturesCranfield UniversityFrank-PartnersFuture of FIeld ServiceManufacturing servicesIoTThrough Life Engineering Services

 UK manufacturing is re-inventing itself with services as a core element of companies' growth strategies.  In an industry-led initiative, business leaders are seeking input from a wide variety of of companies to help develop a National Strategy for Manufacturing Services.  UK businesses can add their voice to the discussions via a series of free workshops.  Nick Frank, Frank and Partners, explains the strategy and how to get involved.

It is now widely accepted that technology and manufacturing impacts our economy far more than the 10% GDP often quoted. There is another 10% to be found in manufacturing services and probably a lot more, when you look at the full supply chain of support required to keep industry working. With digitalisation starting to enable dramatic changes in business models, products sales are slowly being replaced by services; ‘Power by the Hour’ being the well-known example with jet engines.

But manufacturing and product related services are also facing a chronic skills shortage, which will stifle future growth. If the UK is to prosper, then it must re-think its definition of manufacturing, the skills required and the value it brings. Critical is inspiring a new generation of our best young people to choose a career in industry because they see it as ‘sexy’, fulfilling and lucrative.

These are some of the reasons why leading UK companies such as Rolls-Royce, Bombardier Transportation, Siemens, BAE Systems and Babcock International are pushing for a National Strategy for Manufacturing Services. They are not alone, having teamed up with Ministry for Business Innovation and Skills, industry trade bodies as well as well as thought leaders from Cranfield, Aston and Cambridge universities. The fact that this initiative is led by industry is critical. Industry sees that with the mainstreaming of IoT technologies and the coming of a new millennial generation, which is more technology savvy and attuned to collaboration and networking, a new way to compete needs to be found.

As Dave Benbow, Head of Engineering for Services at Rolls-Royce and co-chair of the initiative passionately puts it;
“Collaborative development of capability in through-life engineering services will be key to future success in a world where technical innovation is demanded in both products and services.”

Collaborative development of capability in through-life engineering services will be key to future success in a world where technical innovation is demanded in both products and services.”

The truth is that we have to re-invent manufacturing in order to compete in the global market. Recently an excellent article in the Economist, ’How does Deutschland do digital?’ highlighted how Trumpf, a leading global supplier of machine tools, is building a new business vision based on ‘software and data’. The global market for what some call ‘through-life engineering services’ and others would describe as ‘making things work better for longer, delivering lifetime value from products, assets and infrastructure’, is worth over £1 trillion and the UK is estimated to only have maybe 5% of this share. It is clear that this sector will be key to manufacturing productivity and high value jobs in the circular economy of the future.


A recent study by Cranfield University revealed that in this market segment, the salaries are generally 55% higher than the UK industrial average! It is clear that with a bit of imagination, Manufacturing has the potential to be very attractive to young people with an incredibly diverse range of evolving well paid careers.

However it is also clear that if the UK wants to do more than just compete, it must be far more ambitious at a National level. As a nation we need to:

  • Develop skills and behaviors that encourage the multi-functional and collaborative needs of the future work force
  • Innovate better tools and techniques for data integration and analysis
  • Create formal standards that enables knowledge transfer across industries and through the supply chain
  • Revolutionize the supply chain to adapt to the circular economy

In short we need a National Strategy for the UK, where thinking and language on the specific actions the UK needs to succeed are aligned across the nation. Solutions to this challenge have become possible as the key stakeholders combine behind one initiative to develop manufacturing services as a driver for growth.

Now in a series of workshops led by the EPRSC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing at Cranfield, a series of free workshops are being held across the country to gain your input. We want businesses from the wide variety of industries that make up the UK’s industrial fabric, to talk and describe their needs. You will have a chance to mix with leaders in Services and learn about the business models developed by some of the leaders of UK’s industry. We need your feedback to develop a strategy that is truly representative of UK industry.

If you would like more information on this initiative you can contact Nick Frank,  a member of the steering group, at or you can sign-up directly on the Through-life Engineering Services website.



Be social and share this article