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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Manufacturing Excellence

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (ImechE) held their ‘Manufacturing Excellence’ Awards ceremony recently in London and Meg was invited to speak and present some of the awards - her speech is given below.

 

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here with you to join in the celebration of the very best of British Enterprise at the ‘Manufacturing Excellence’ Awards. Tonight we get the opportunity to recognise the companies, and the people in those companies, who make manufacturing such a vital and vibrant part of the UK economy.

 

UK Manufacturing is a success story. Manufacturing contributes one sixth of our national wealth - £153 billion of GDP in 2003. It accounts for over half our exports and three quarters of business R&D, providing 3.5 million jobs and supporting a further 2 million in the service sector. Our best manufacturers and best products are world class and sought after in the most highly competitive markets around the globe.  But you already know that.

 

However, you also face huge challenges. The future of manufacturing depends on raising investment, applying science and innovation, best practice and skills to create even better products that the world wants to buy. The Government has a pro-manufacturing approach to help you achieve this.

 

Our 2002 Manufacturing Strategy set out how Government, Industry and Unions all have the responsibility to ensure a successful future for UK manufacturing. Through this we have put in place an R&D Tax Credit, providing £600m of assistance to manufacturing industry. And there’s a £300m Technology Programme, to help develop the new and emerging technologies our manufacturing sector will depend on in the future.

 

To ensure that we keep up the momentum, we have also established a Manufacturing Forum to stimulate new work in priority areas such as public procurement, skills and the image of manufacturing.

 

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), has grown from strength to strength since it was set up in 2002 and has now generated £155 million of added value for UK manufacturing.  MAS has dealt with 56,000 enquiries, visited some 11,000 companies to carry out an initial diagnostic 'health check', and through follow-up consultation projects helped over 3,000 companies to increase their productivity and competitiveness, and move them towards world class levels of performance.

 

For example, East Midlands MAS, helped AM Profiles of Chesterfield to introduce lean manufacturing processes which raised production of its aluminium windows by 20 percent and improved order turnaround from four weeks to one.

 

Similarly, Yorkshire MAS helped Huddersfield-based Meltham Mills to retain UK customers in the face of competition from South East Asia, by overhauling company culture and introducing new prompt payment procedures. Key customers have significantly improved the firm’s supplier rating status.

 

Funding for MAS will increase to £34 million over the next three years.

 

We have also invested heavily in the UK’s world-class science and research base by doubling the science budget from £1.3 billion in 1997/98 to £3 billion in 2005/06, and providing significant extra resources for knowledge transfer, so that manufacturers can capitalise upon the innovations they produce.

 

Of course, UK manufacturers must also invest, in their businesses and in their skills base. We have supported this through the introduction of strong employer-led Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and Regional Skill Partnerships (RSPs).  Employer Training Pilots have so far engaged almost 21,000 employers with 56,000 people successfully attaining a qualification. A record 255,000 16-24 year-olds were involved in Modern Apprenticeships last year.

 

Now, as Deputy Minister for Women, you’d expect me to have a few words to say on equality issues. I’ve already alluded to the need for UK Manufacturers to evolve to stay competitive in the global market place and a key part of this evolution is for your workforces to reflect the diversity of the working population. For too long, some sectors have ignored the unique skills which women can bring to any business. 

 

But the business case can’t be ignored. There’s a shortage of qualified people in science, engineering and technology. You tell us that there is already a serious skills gap and over the next 10 years the requirement for more highly skilled people will grow substantially. Why not have more women with those skills?

 

After all, women are fast becoming a very significant group of consumers. More women will be needed in research and development to ensure that products and services are designed and manufactured with the growing diversity of consumers in mind.

 

And there is evidence that diversity is a key factor in generating creativity and innovation. As we all know, “cloned people produce cloned ideas”. Women are needed for the variety of experiences and perspectives they can bring to any workplace.

 

I know that many of the UK’s manufacturing companies already recognise these arguments. But too often the practicalities of recruiting and retaining women in “non-traditional” occupations seem too hard.  That is why, in 2004, the Government set up the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET with a remit to work with employers and help them to look at their structural and cultural practices and see whether these are acting as barriers to women wanting to be employed there. The Resource Centre has a dedicated team of highly-experienced people who can advise employers on such issues as work-life balance, fairer promotion procedures and so on. The Centre is there to help you.  I want to personally congratulate The Centre and the Institute of Mechanical Engineering for the way they have come together to create the MX Equality Award about which more, later this evening.

 

So, tonight we are here to celebrate and award prizes. 118 companies entered this year and all entrants will receive the free comprehensive benchmarking report, which is a real business benefit.

 

The Government role in this benchmarking process is demonstrated by the fact that there are no less than 4 government-funded organisations which directly support MX:

 

  • The Manufacturing Foundation
  • UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC)
  • Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS)
  • Microsystems and Nanotechnology Network (MNT)

No one would claim that the way ahead for UK manufacturing is easy. Recent high profile failures highlight some of the difficulties. But they are only a tiny fraction of the overall equation. Manufacturing commitment to high value and skills, together with extensive practical government support and maintenance of the right conditions for business to flourish will enable UK manufacturers to compete in the long-term. And that is good news for everybody.

 

This Government recognises manufacturing’s worth and its vital role in today’s economy and as the representative of the Government I am delighted to be a part of this evening of celebration which I hope you will all enjoy.   


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