Four things manufacturers should look out for in 2018
2018 is just around the corner, so it’s no surprise to see that predictions have already started rolling in for the next 12 months. Manufacturers’ organisation EEF has suggested that the sector will outperform the wider economy and other figures have highlighted that Britain’s factories are enjoying the best business conditions for more than four years.
With positivity certainly on the cards, SinoScan is taking a look at what we can expect to see make the headlines in the coming months.
Over the last 18 months, British manufacturing firms have been recording strong growth in exports as the market continues to pick up momentum following the Brexit vote in June 2016. The export growth index from BDO hit a reading of 110.3 for the fourth quarter of this year, as it continues to outperform the growth of Europe's largest economies. On top of this, in the CBI's latest monthly survey, nearly 28% of firms said their export books were above normal.
Positivity in the sector has much been attributed to the fall in the value of sterling and a boost in the global economy, which has come at a time where the UK's future trade agreements are anything but certain. However, foreign investors clearly think that investment opportunities are too good to pass up.
As demand continues to increase, UK exporters are becoming increasingly confident in their short-term outlooks. If figures continue on their current course, we can expect to see a real boost in the pace of economic expansion as we head into the New Year.
One Belt, One Road
It’s a confusing title, but the Belt and Road Initiative could in fact turn out to be the world’s largest ever infrastructure project. Put simply, it is China’s ambitious initiative to reinvent the historic Silk Road that was established more than 2,000 years ago, to ultimately boost trade and stimulate economic growth across Asia, Europe and beyond. It will comprise of two main components: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The UK has expressed great interest in investing in the project, and the Department for International Trade has said “the Chinese government has made it clear that it wants to partner with the UK, with big opportunities for UK firms to help successfully deliver projects across Asia.”
With the official Brexit date now just over a year away, the government will be looking towards potential trade ties for the future, and Asia could be high up on the list.
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Computers are now able to learn in much the same way as humans do thanks to leaps in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. The huge advances happening have meant that computers can see, read, listen, speak and gauge emotions, leading to the development of popular technologies like Amazon’s Alexa, IBM Watson and Tesla’s driverless cars. We’re even entering a time where AI is helping behind the scenes to train employees and personalise our social media news feeds.
As we look to the future, we expect to see this incredible rise to continue, as indicated in a study from Barclays Corporate Banking, which revealed that two-fifths of manufacturers who are confident about Britain’s ability to compete in the international marketplace attribute their optimism in part to AI. Also, the Chancellor has announced the creation of a national advisory body that will pave the way for technological adoption as well as a £7bn expansion of the productivity investment fund. It is hoped that this will help to make huge impacts on the factory of the future as machines begin to play a growing role in automation and predictive problem-solving.
Huge strides by innovators have resulted in some intriguing enhancements to the transportation industry recently, with the likes of flying cars and Hyperloop all giving us a glimpse into the future.
Self-driving cars and autonomous lorries were once thought to be a figure of the imagination, and while the technology hasn’t hit wide scale adoption yet, it will be set to dramatically alter the way manufacturers approach their supply chains in the coming years. Just one example of this technology being incorporated can be demonstrated by the platooning trial that is coming to UK roads in 2018. As part of the set-up, all running lorries will be connected through Wi-Fi and will follow the actions of a lead driver. The purpose of the plan is to help increase efficiency on the roads and reduce CO2 emissions.
Elsewhere, deliveries are taking to the air. Amazon has been piloting their ‘Prime Air’ delivery service for the past few months, which uses unmanned aerial vehicles to get customers their products in 30 minutes or less. The company has also been granted a patent to develop a similar drone that can connect to a lead car in motion to recharge it.
The bottom line? For the UK as a whole, the outlook to the future is definitely positive. Enhancements in technology appear to know no bounds and the country is on the brink of making history when Brexit does eventually come around. While nothing is certain, we’ll be keeping a close eye out for the latest news, trends and developments happening, ready to update you on everything you need to know.