Steve Middlebrough: Advancing manufacture is the way forward

Manufacturing plays a major role in the economy of Greater Lincolnshire, contributing £3.4 billion every year (20% of total economic value) and employing approximately 57,000 people (14% of total employment).

Greater Lincolnshire remains a world-class manufacturing region and benefits from major investment from Germany, Italy, China and America. There is no doubt about the region’s farming and food processing credentials, and the petrochemicals activity in the Humber Energy Estuary has valuable links to many international organisations.

We are moving into a period of unparalleled opportunity for manufacturers, and to ensure we are fit for purpose the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership has taken the lead by creating a Manufacturing Board. The board will be a representative group of manufacturing business people whose role will be to lead, influence and champion the manufacturing agenda across Greater Lincolnshire to ensure we meet the region’s accelerated economic growth objectives.

Economic growth is currently at the top of the list of priorities for many regions; one method commonly adopted to achieve growth is to concentrate on advanced manufacturing, while another is to focus on supply chain initiatives.

Some manufacturers may be thinking that these topics aren’t relevant to their business, but they are: they can range from robotics and 3D printing at one end of the scale to kanban systems at the other. (Kanban is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing.) Perhaps a better terminology would be advancing manufacture.

The Greater Lincolnshire LEP’s Autumn Manufacturing Conference this year will focus on advanced manufacture and will feature heavyweight keynote speakers from the industry as well as a serious ‘real product’ demonstration of 3D printing. Visitors will also be able to look around local manufacturers and get the chance to see advancing manufacture for themselves.

As an SME manufacturing business, one way you may be advancing is by improving processes or by buying a new machine to increase efficiency and productivity; perhaps you need some support in creating an operations strategy, or require a better understanding of supply chain management to cope with an increase in sales.

Whatever you need, the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub can help – they can signpost you to a specialist or help to arrange some grant funding. The Growth Hub has a phenomenal network of experts and it’s there to be used… for free!

Providing practical, hands-on help is one of the key aims of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and we’re proud to provide a mixture of workshops. Two workshops likely to be of interest this year cover funding and skills. Another form of practical help for advancing manufacture is available from our local Technology Hubs: the Horncastle hub has 3D and UV printers and laser cutting equipment to help businesses with design, prototyping and small-scale fabrication, while Lincoln offers those facilities as well as significant design expertise and provision of 3D scanning equipment and larger-scale 3D printing and cutting.

At the Motion Capture Hub based at the University of Lincoln’s Sports Science School, businesses can access the latest in motion sensing technology and ultra high-speed cameras which could help pinpoint bottlenecks or analyse the interaction between operators and machines on continuous flow productions lines.

We must not underestimate the challenges ahead, but manufacturing here in Greater Lincolnshire has a proud heritage – built by people who challenged the existing and championed the pioneering – and a bright future.

If you’re looking to make manufacturing great, you’re in the right place! I look forward to meeting you at the Autumn Manufacturing Conference.