Will the UK get left behind?

After a recent trip to the Motek automation show in Stuttgart, one thing was apparent. While figures may suggest that the German economy is through the recession, it was hard to find exhibitors that shared the optimism. Things are still tough and are likely to remain so for some time.

For its part, the UK Government has pumped huge amounts of cash into the financial system to cope with the downturn. As times turned tougher for industry, there were job losses. The German Government, however, decided to subsidise companies, essentially allowing them cut labour costs while retaining their workforce.

This support – available to SMEs to global powerhouses alike – has prevented job losses of the scale seen in the UK; it has also kept skilled people in place. Critically, this approach should allow German companies to meet the surge in demand once the upturn really kicks in. The big question is whether that will be the case for UK companies?

We know – and the Government is now admitting the fact – that manufacturing and engineering is a major part of the UK economy. Future plans – whatever the colour of Government – must recognise this.

Justin Cunningham

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Whilst the £ remains below the Euro it should help us to win orders that in turn should give a recovery to the job sector some hope. The only problem I see is a further demise in companies that can employ the unskilled or those with off the wall degrees.

If we are to get back to being able to balance the countries' books it is that one fact on its own that will turn things around you never lose skills you can always learn new ones. You can not keep bleeding those with a little money set aside and likewise those in work to keep those in education who have no prospect of ever getting work.

Comment I B Streamer, 25/09/2009
Dear Justin,

Just read your comments and felt I had to write back. Why is it that you can see this, I can see it, but government is blind to it?

My direct experience over the last two months goes some way to explaining it. I have visited four SME engineering companies in Germany and the UK, all of which have extremely promising futures if they can weather the current downturn.

The differences were there in stark contrast. The German companies were being supported, as you say, by government incentives. They had made some cutbacks but so far had retained their engineering staff, who were working on new projects, improving current products and practices and looking at new marketing initiatives to get things going again and improve sales abroad.

Both UK businesses had made big staff cutbacks and one was spending a large amount of management time trying to stop the banks form closing the businesses down due to unhelpful new rules and practices. Ironically, one UK firm with a great product and really skilled staff had just bought a machine tool made in Spain, where the government was also temporarily paying the workers in the factory that built the machine tool when the company could not.

Here is the answer I think. On another project we are trying to persuade the UK government to come in line with EU policy on type-approval for an automotive aftermarket product. The government department is actively stonewalling us even though it is a UK manufacturing company that is seeking to have the UK comply with European law, not only is the government department not interested in helping the UK company by raising the standard required for the quality of the parts, but it is actively ignoring the environmental impact and the ultimate negative affect on the UK consumer.

The government departments seem to driven by answering to the mechanics of government, with little or no regard for the actual end result of policies or decisions with regard the benefit of the country or its population. The good news is that well run engineering businesses are here in the UK as well as in Germany and should survive, the UK government needs to understand as well as value manufacturing industry before it is too late for some though.


Roland Renshaw, Marketing Director, DMA Europa Ltd

Comment Roland Renshaw, 25/09/2009

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