Peter Marsh is a writer and lecturer on 21st century manufacturing. 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. In recent years Peter has given talks on new opportunities in manufacturing in 16 countries including China, the US and Lithuania. From 1983 to 2013 he worked at the Financial Times where his most recent job was 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).  Photo: Frederik Jimenez

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Observations

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 early October, the topics for discussion included autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and the challenges of Brexit. Pictured above 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

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

Schools promotion of engineering ineffective and wasteful

Britain does a poor job in conveying modern views of engineering to young people and encouraging more of them to choose it as a career, according to a hard hitting assessment of the decades-old struggle in Britain to update public perceptions of the discipline. "The lack of engineers in positions of influence in society is mirrored by a lack of understanding of the importance of engineering and the role engineers play, compounded by our inability to communicate that engineering is exciting," says an authoritative report by a top barrister and civil engineer. In the study Prof John Uff highlights "the importance of marketing [of engineering related subjects] in addressing misperceptions and prompting enquiry" but says this is inadequately addressed in many schemes operated either by the engineering profession or educational groups. "STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] options are, for some young people, loaded with perceptions of limitations," the report

Britain climbs the world manufacturing league table

Britain has improved its position among the world’s top manufacturing nations, moving up the league table to its strongest position since 2008 The UK was the world's eighth-biggest nation by manufacturing output in 2015 – the most recent year for which internationally comparable data are available – with just over 2 per cent of total output, according to calculations by Made Here Now based on the latest figures from the United Nations' statistical database. The numbers underline the relative strength of Britain's position in world manufacturing, even in the face of the rapid advances over the past 20 years by developing nations led by China, which claimed the largest share of world manufacturing in 2015 followed by the US, Japan, Germany, South Korea, India and Italy. "This performance reflects the renaissance that manufacturing is currently undertaking through a consistent focus on innovation, research and development and high-value skills," said Terry

 

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