PMI-watchers will know that in March, the UK manufacturing PMI hit a 10-month high, signalling a sustained expansion of the sector. The automotive industry is leading the way and
the latest trade figures show record sales of British-built vehicles in markets outside the EU, specifically the US and China. It’s a rosier picture than elsewhere in Europe, where car sales have fallen for six consecutive months.
Whereas plants in Germany and France are making cutbacks in production and reducing working hours, here in Britain car manufacturers are taking on workers and introducing round-the-clock assembly lines to meet demand. As a rough rule of thumb, every new job in the automotive industry creates four in the supply chain, so the benefits of this upturn in productivity for the wider economy are clear.
So, is this just luck or are there other success factors? Government incentives have certainly been a contributory factor. Nissan’s decision to produce its two new hatchbacks at its Sunderland plant
was supported by a
£17.5 million grant from the government’s regional growth fund. Production of the new cars is expected to create 3,000 new jobs on site and in the supply chain.
Is it that we’re selling more because the pound is weak? Well, the exchange rate is making our exports more attractive, but these manufacturers are showing they understand and are responding to their market and are seeing strong customer demand as a result. That’s why Jaguar Land Rover is creating 1,000 jobs at its Halewood factory to meet production targets for its new Range Rover and Freelander models.
Car makers are also showing that they are prepared to invest in innovation. JLR has announced plans to build a new F-type sports car, the successor to the iconic E-type, as part of a £5 billion plan to position the company at the leading edge of technological development. When the British car industry went into decline and production went overseas, much of the research and development capability went with it. It’s good to see that expertise coming back. JLR now does almost all of its vehicle design and development in the UK, and both Nissan and Bentley do a significant amount here. As production expands and R&D returns to this country, it is likely that more of the suppliers who previously relocated to places like Eastern Europe and China will start to come back.
Changing consumer preferences are
also helping to boost sales and drive production. In the past four years, the percentage of low
carbon emission cars
sold in the UK has quadrupled.
CIPS 80th anniversary
In the Queen’s diamond jubilee year, CIPS is celebrating its own special anniversary. It is 80 years since a group of purchasing officers in the Midlands came together to form the first association for our profession. Over the past eight decades, CIPS has grown from those small beginnings to a global organisation with members in over 150 countries, whose qualification is regarded as the standard for procurement and supply worldwide.
Last month, I had the privilege of attending Birmingham Branch’s own 80th anniversary celebration in the impressive surroundings of the Council House. The theme for the evening, ‘Respecting the past, building the future’, emphasised for me the importance of acknowledging our history and evolution while at the same time keeping our eyes firmly focused on the road ahead.
CIPS has achieved great
things in the past 80 years, but there is more to do. If we want our successors to celebrate another 80 years of leading the profession, CIPS has to continue to be relevant and influential. As we head towards our centenary, that is our ongoing mission.
Look out for the anniversary celebrations in next month’s issue of SM