APMG Convenes Return to Work webinar

On Thursday 28th May, the APMG convened an expert panel from across industry to discuss for a webinar, chaired by APMG co-chair Jack Dromey MP, to discuss what the manufacturing sector needs to return to full production and drive the economy forward.

The APMG's second webinar brought together industry leaders, trade bodies and unions to address an audience of parliamentarians and manufacturers. Jack Dromey MP opened the event, welcoming attendees and panellists and explaining the purpose of the webinar - to better understand the pressures facing manufacturers in returning to full production. 

The first three speakers were all business leaders representing different sectors and different sized businesses. The first speaker, Dave Holmes, manufacturing director at BAE Systems spoke of the challenges the business has faced in maintaining production whilst also implementing government advice on social distancing and safe working. He explained that due to their critical nature, BAE have led the way in adapting the workplace and keeping both production up and workers safe. Dave also stressed that the continued success was as a result of ongoing engagement with government, unions and others to keep on top of best practice. Finally Dave stated that as we look to the recovery and reopening of the economy, manufacturing and the supply chain ecosystem can be the economic driver to recover in the post Covid world.

Second, the audience heard from Roger Churchill, the managing director of Lohmann Tapes, a mid-sized manufacturer in Milton Keynes, who explained that as a manufacturer of medical and food products, Lohmann have continued production throughout the crisis. Third was Andrea Rodney, director of Hone-All Precision Ltd., an SME based in Leighton Buzzard who specialise in deep hole boring, drilling, CNC honing and CNC turning. Andrea explained that her company has also remained open throughout due to working in a number of critical sectors, and explained how as a company they have managed more flexible working, higher levels of sanitisation and PPE, social distancing and becoming fully paperless. Andrea finished her presentation with a call to action for parliamentarians present to support UK manufacturing businesses of all sizes. 

The policy pressures were then presented by Verity Davidge, director of Central Policy at Make UK, who shared intelligence from the Make UK three point plan, and the latest Manufacturing Monitor. Verity confirmed the three earlier presentations and highlighted that while 94% of manufacturers have continued to trade, with only 6% closing, sales, orders and general levels of operation have dropped considerably with 83% of companies seeing a decrease in orders. However, across all regions, an average of 66% of companies expect to return to between 75-100% of normal operating levels. But Verity struck a note of caution as she closed, noting that over the course of the the three monitors that Make UK have carried out, expectations among businesses have become more pessimistic, with 38% now expecting a return to normal conditions will take more than 12 months, up from just 17% six weeks ago. 

The final presentation was given by Steve Turner, assistant general secretary at Unite the Union who agreed wholeheartedly with the previous speakers, and spoke of how well so many employers of all sizes have engaged with the unions to ensure safe working conditions in this difficult time. Steve also stressed the importance of a strong and coherent strategy to recover from the crisis, with the need for strengthened supply chains and onshoring where possible to support large manufacturers to power the economy forward. He also highlighted the need for a focus on digital technologies and more ecological practices as we recover, highlighting electric vehicles and mooting a potential scrappage scheme intervention to support aviation to buy new planes and stimulate demand in the sector.

The Q&A followed, with a number of businesses and parliamentarians asking the panel for their perspectives on what comes next. APMG co-Chair Jack Dromey MP then summarised the discussion and thanked the panel and all the attendees. The APMG will continue to convene webinars on key topics facing manufacturing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 

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