Peter Marsh is a writer and lecturer on 21st century manufacturing. A highlight of 2020 has been a speech on the “circular economy” to a business audience in Istanbul. In recent years Peter has given talks on new opportunities in manufacturing in 16 countries including China, the US and Lithuania. His best known book is “The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production”, published by Yale University Press. Peter is the founder of  Made Here Now, a website on UK manufacturing aimed at increasing the interest among young people in choosing this as a career. Made Here Now has received many accolades for its innovative approach and has been supported financially by about 70 groups including businesses, banks and think tanks. From 1983 to 2013 he worked at the Financial Times, most recently as manufacturing editor. Peter has a degree in chemistry from the University of Nottingham. His other books have covered microchips (“The Silicon Chip Book“, Abacus), robotics (“The Robot Age”, Abacus) and the space industry (“The Space Business”, Penguin).

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Chinese car group bets its future on green taxis

In a cavernous plant on the outskirts of Coventry, a massive bet is being placed about the sort of vehicles that will be trundling around cities and along motorways over the next 30 years. The factory is the result of a £325m investment by a big Chinese automotive group and adds up to one of the boldest efforts in the UK to create a new generation of electric cars. The site is run by London Electric Vehicle Company, a UK-based company owned by Geely, a fast expanding group controlled by the leading Chinese entrepreneur Li Shufu – who is known for his spare-time hobby writing poetry, as well as for a relentlessly global approach. A key part of Li’s plans for LEVC is to make the Coventry plant a centre for development of new types of electric car, aided by recruitment of technical specialists, many of whom are likely to

UK manufacturers plot new routes to innovation

Innovation in manufacturing is greatly prized. It can occur in a range of ways. The article focuses on the different strategies employed by five British manufacturers in varied industries to produce spectacular improvements in products or processes. The picture alongside this article provides an example of  innovation in action. It shows a virtual reality display at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, part of the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, being used by engineers to create new materials for the nuclear industry. Innovation can happen almost anywhere - as is illustrated in the photo below taken at a school in the Netherlands and showing a desk-top version of a 3D printing machine. Evolution: 3D printing revolutionises the humble bearing In a workshop on the outskirts of Oxford, a group of engineers cluster around a complex looking machine, working out how to improve one of the world’s most widespread manufacturing

3Cs point the route to success in 21st century industry

The 3Cs - code, collaboration and capability – are the keys to separating the winners and losers in global manufacturing. Code describes the software important in linking networks of products. Collaboration covers the relationships connecting companies with suppliers, developers and users. Capability encompasses employee skills. The 3Cs grabbed attention at the latest in a series of annual "manufacturing summits" held by the Financial Times. At the latest gathering, held in London in October 2018, the topics for discussion included autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and the challenges of Brexit. Pictured is a taxi coming off the production line at a UK factory run by Chinese-owned London Electric Vehicle Company.The plant shows how collaboration between different businesses can lead to useful benefits. First, consider code – the lines of software that act as the “glue” between interlinked machines. The key resource here is data. Every time a manufacturing process

Innovation champion who was a hidden force in electronics, football and the arts: an appreciation of the life of Eddie Davies

  Eddie Davies, who has died at the age of 72, was a resolute and imaginative businessman who made his mark in three seemingly separate areas: electronics, football and cultural institutions linked to science and technology. In electronics Davies will be remembered for his key role in building up the Isle of Man-based Strix from a fledgling business in a niche technical area into a world leader. Davies is pictured here with the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and Peter Marsh. In football he was instrumental in turning the illustrious Bolton Wanderers Football Club into a key force in the English Premier league, arresting several years of decline. In the arts and sciences, Davies’s support through generous gifts was immensely important to organisations such as the V&A Museum in London and Kew Gardens. He is pictured below at a Bolton match. Strix is a British success story. It has used specialised

Polish-Canadian brings new verve to UK engineering education 

If you ask Prof Janusz Kozinski to name the people who have most impressed him since he moved to the UK, he has no hesitation: “When I've given talks at schools I've been immensely encouraged by the young people who want to talk to me afterwards about what I’ve been saying. On each occasion I’ve had perhaps 50-100 people wanting to know more.” Carrying a new message into schools is at the heart of the project the Polish-Canadian academic is leading to develop new ways of teaching engineering. One of its key objectives is a big increase in the number of women who choose to study the discipline. Since the summer of 2017 Kozinski (pictured above) has been chief executive of New Model in Technology and Engineering – a new university based in the country town of Hereford. A more memorable name for the establishment – possibly Hereford Engineering University – will

Networks and niches create twin track to success

The head office of Blaze in an old industrial building in London may look unimpressive – but it’s at the centre of a web of relationships that connect the small bicycle accessories maker with collaborators spread globally. Blaze is among the exponents of the manufacturing network, an idea growing in importance as production companies particularly those in niche fields step up ways to link with others. A young company with just over 20 employees, Blaze is a pioneer in novel lighting for bicycles. Its best-known product is a new form of “forward looking” laser illumination that warns motorists a bicycle is moving towards them and so cuts accidents. Emily Brooke, the company’s founder and chief executive, pictured above, is a regular visitor to China to check out key component producers. She adds: “We use Japanese batteries, some of the components [in our electronics] are Japanese or Korean, the laser is

UK electronics businesses thrive as slimmed-down specialists

Over the past 30 years the whole of UK manufacturing has become increasingly a collection of small to mid-sized companies making specialist goods in low volumes. Yet few sectors illustrate this trend more vividly than the business of producing electronics and electrical goods. As recently as a few decades ago the sector was populated by companies that were large and well known, if somewhat unwieldy in structure and erratic in the way they were managed. In place of the likes of GEC, Plessey and ICL that made products including white goods and telephones familiar to just about everyone, these companies' equivalents today are businesses excelling in niche areas of electronics in fields that in many cases are barely recognisable. The companies that are the leaders today are generally a lot smaller than the giants of the past. And as  Britain along with most other high cost nations has retreated from most consumer facing

Japan’s robotic global champion

In a hall in a big aerospace plant near São Paulo, four yellow robots perform a series of snake-like manoeuvres as they clean and paint the exterior of giant fuselages being made by the Brazilian aerospace producer Embraer. The robots are among roughly 400,000 of the machines installed worldwide by Fanuc. The Japanese company is the world's biggest robot producers. Over several decades it has built up a near godlike status among admirers. The picture here shows a Fanuc robot during a demonstration at an industrial fair in Germany. Holmes Osborne, a US financial commentator who publishes GuruFocus, a newsletter, says:   "Fanuc is the best robotics company in the world, bar none.  If what everyone is saying is true, that the world is to be run by robots, Fanuc will have a ring side seat and is the stock to own." Another view comes from a senior executive at a big Japanese machine

How China can build brands

Goodbaby is a Chinese manufacturer of children’s  “utility” products - push chairs, infant car seats and the like - with a growing reputation. With 11,000 employees and seven research centres in Asia, the US and Europe, the company dreams of establishing a name that resonates as strongly as Coca-Cola or BMW. Much the same is true of Chinese equipment giant Sany - which thinks it's on the way to cementing its global brand through the purchase of Germany's Putzmeister concrete machine maker. One of Putzmeister's truck-mounted machines is pictured above. But for all China’s progress in creating some big and powerful companies, observers are divided as to whether Chinese groups such as Goodbaby can create global brands that compete with the dominant corporate giants. By forming an impression in people’s minds, brands make it easier for companies to sell their products and services, whether to individuals, businesses or governments.  The stronger

What listed giants can learn from private businesses

Escorting his visitor past an array of expensive machine tools, Damon de Laszlo explains why he has avoided seeking a public listing for his engineering company. "I'd have to start justifying my spending on investment and innovation to a board of directors," he says. "And they might be a pain in the neck." Mr de Laszlo is disdainful of many public companies that he says are run in a woefully short term manner. "If I didn't spend £1m to £2m a year on equipment and other capital investments I'd increase profits significantly, but in the longer term the company would fall apart. The inhibition at board level [in many public companies] is enormous." The blunt speaking Mr de Lazslo (pictured above and below, with one of his youthful employees) is chief executive and owner of Harwin. The company based near Portsmouth in southern England. It's a global leader in a


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The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production
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