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Manufacturing in Wales: Where are we now?

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“We simply cannot minimise the difficulties that the last 18 months have presented us with. We have to consider the impact that Brexit and the pandemic has had on our industry.

Once we reflect on this, it is then possible to look ahead to the disruptions or revolutions we are facing (such as carbon and climate change) and the need for continuous improvement for competitiveness… writes James Davies, Executive Chairman, Industry Wales.

Manufacturing continues to be the most significant sector in Wales, overachieving the UK average. When we are in crisis in our industry, we know it is about retaining cash and ensuring the cash we spend comes back to us quickly and is reinvested in the right things. Supply chain development retains cash. As an industry we need to focus on learning how to do things ourselves, so we become more self-sufficient and less reliant on purchasing externally.

A continuous improvement culture is vital in Wales as we seek to learn, improve and become more sustainable. That is even more of a key driver since Covid-19, as we have accepted that our supply chains need rethinking. We must become more robust and less vulnerable to macro forces that are beyond our control. How do we value carbon? How do we include new clauses in procurement procedures to make the right decisions? We should target our activities in business towards Maslow’s basic needs and anchoring capability, capacity, competitiveness, and customer become essential.

What we have discovered in public and private sectors is that when you expose demand and show a route to order of that demand, then people, businesses, individuals and decision makers respond incredibly quickly. This was demonstrated in what we achieved with PPE and how we adapted and maximised our manufacturing capabilities. If you expose demand and need with visible routes to order to a wider supply chain, they will apply their expertise quickly to achieve quality, delivery and cost. If you add enablers into the mix, the speed of knowledge sharing, and networking proves very effective. Collaboration and cooperation are key. There are some significant and hard lessons to learn from Covid-19, the short-term capability we developed may not be entirely resilient. How can we maintain this capability in the near future? Mainly through collaboration, competitiveness and relationship building.

The opportunity for manufacturing in Wales is greater now than ever before. As long as we maintain capability and capacity, we will be resilient. Opportunities will increase because of global trade crises and the clear need to have a net zero world. Manufacturing in Wales and the UK will increase but we still need to do the right thing and that is focusing on supply chain development and increasing skills.

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I am delighted to work with organisations such as University of Wales Trinity Saint David and their MADE Cymru project to ensure that we start doing this. To make things (rebuild capability and capacity in certain areas), make them well (competitively) and make them wisely (carbon efficient).

We need to live in a world that must adjust and continuously improve. We need to accept that we can always do things better. I am a massive believer in lean before digital. There is a need to do the right thing continuously. Data is the basis of continuous improvement and how digital is the next set of tools is to enable competitiveness. Lean, optimise, digitise and electrify are words that will dominate the future of manufacturing.

We need to ensure we have the ability to efficiently and remotely drive our equipment. The ability to connect and runs things electrically means that we will have the ability to be carbon efficient and therefore carbon neutral in the future. All of this comes under a culture of continuously improving. Everything can be improved, continuous improvement and the use of data and the tools we have been teaching in these areas, will be vital for us.

Optimise your process first, don’t automate everything. Only automate what is really critical in your business. Be agile, be lean and consider your process before you decide what you want to bring your digital tools to. The basis of this is data and working with partners who can offer you the possibilities in the emerging enhanced tool kit and not just sell you expensive equipment.

The future will be different to what I expect or can predict but I am also confident preparation for this future is possible by development of capability in supply chain and skills which will ensure we can face that future resiliently. A culture of continuous improvement based on data, and an active interest in innovation and digitalisation will mean we can adjust to these times.

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This article is taken from a series of webinars in a three-day industry summit organised by UWTSD’s MADE Cymru in June 2021. MADE Cymru is an EU funded (via Welsh Government) initiative that seeks to support and boost manufacturers in Wales via upskilling programmes and R&D. Find out more www.madecymru.co.uk or email one of the team at MADE@uwtsd.ac.uk

You can watch all the MADE Cymru Industry Summit sessions here.

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Gower College Swansea

Sketty Hall Business School appoints Advisory Board

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Sketty Hall Business School has announced the formation of its Advisory Board – key industry figures who will help shape the future of education and training across South Wales and beyond.

With the support of Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, Gower College Swansea has recently transformed the much loved Georgian building into a contemporary Business School.

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As well as being home to a range of professional, management and degree programmes, Sketty Hall Business School will also host high profile training events where academics, captains of industry and leading sporting personalities will inspire both businesses and individuals.

The Business School will also look to introduce the concepts of management and leadership to all its students, enabling them to become the inspirational leaders of the future.

“We are delighted to announce Sketty Hall Business School’s Advisory Board which will support Gower College Swansea in further understanding employers’ needs, and strengthen our relationships with key industries. The Board will help ensure that we are delivering the right skills for both now and in the future,” says Director of Skills and Business Development, Paul Kift.

“Delivering a cutting-edge, employer-led curriculum which supports economic development, and which is aligned to regional and Welsh priorities, is our key strategic aim as a Board.”

“Board members will have a major voice in shaping the business skills that are available across the region, benefitting learners and College staff whilst also creating a pipeline of talent for organisations. This will help to develop the prosperity and productivity of the wider business community. Together, we can also create skills solutions that will assist the Swansea Bay City Deal – enabling economic regeneration, development and growth.”

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The Sketty Hall Business School Advisory Board members are:

  • (Chair) Chris Foxall, Finance Director, Riversimple and Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board Chair.
  • Deb Bowen-Rees, Chair of South West Wales Branch, IoD, formerly CEO of Cardiff Airport, and current NED at Milford Haven Port Authority.
  • Ian Price, Wales Director, CBI.
  • Lucie Thomas, Director of Recruitment, Learning and Development, Pobl Housing Association.
  • Adrian Sutton, CEO, Vortex IoT.
  • Lucy Cohen, Co-founder of Mazuma, and Swansea Bay City Deal Economic Strategy Board member.
  • Tony Roberts, Head of Wales, Vodafone.
  • Adrian Chard, Strategic Human Resources and Organisational Development Manager, Swansea Council.
  • Louise Harris, CEO, Tramshed Tech.
  • Lisa Mart, General Manager, Swansea Arena/Ambassador Theatre Group.
  • Alison Orrells, Managing Director, Safety Letterbox Company.
  • Michael Kavanagh, Development Director, Short Brothers.
  • Matt Wintle, Head of Learning & Development, Admiral.

“It’s wonderful to see Sketty Hall’s outstanding redevelopment being put to such good use as the home of the Sketty Hall Business School,” says Chris Foxall. “I’m very pleased to be chairing the business school’s advisory board which is made up of some of the best local employers and businesses leaders in the Swansea Bay City region.

“As the markets and economy continue to change, the demands on our business managers and leaders are increasingly challenging and complex. It’s important that the requirements of businesses help to inform the skills and training provision being developed by our education partners so that businesses can remain competitive and fulfil their potential growth.

“The Swansea Bay City region is one of the best places for ambitious companies looking to grow and invest for the future and, clearly, the best investment any company can make is in its people. Gower College Swansea wants to make sure they’re offering courses that protect those investments and, at the same time, give their students the best chance at a successful career in business and management.”

“I’m delighted that, with the support of Welsh Government, we have been able to make these excellent facilities at Sketty Hall Business School available for all of our students,” says Gower College Swansea Principal, Mark Jones. “And now, with the support of our new Advisory Board, we can begin to make a real impact in this key area for all businesses.”

Lead image: Gower College Swansea Advisory Board Sketty Hall (Image: Adrian White)

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Llanelli

West Wales car dealership to double in size

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Dafen-based Llanelli Motor Company have broken ground on a new development that will see their forecourt double in size over the coming months.

Led by Managing Director Ian Jonathan, the two-phase project will see the independent car dealership increase the number of used vehicles it has on sale to over 400 by January 2023.

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“It’s certainly an exciting period for the business,” said Ian, “and with the significant changes to the used car market, we felt now was the right time to start the project, which has been in the pipeline for over five years.”

Although the business was potentially looking at 2020 as a start date for the developments, the Coronavirus Pandemic put the brakes on the project.

However, since the easing of lockdown restrictions and the delay in obtaining new vehicles, the used car market has seen an unprecedented spike in demand.

Dafen based Llanelli Motor Company is planning to double in size
The company have broken ground on an expansion that will see over 400 cars on sale by the end of January 2023

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally busy,” continued Ian.

“No sooner are we finalising our 140-point safety check on vehicles before placing them on the forecourt, than they are being purchased within a matter of days”.

With the ability to stock 150 nearly new vehicles of all makes and models at the moment, the 1-acre expansion will increase this to 250 by September before more than doubling it to 400 by the spring of 2023.

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In order to facilitate this growth, the company will also be entering a recruitment phase and looking to employ at least 10 new members of staff across its sales, workshop and admin teams as well as taking on new apprenticeships.

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Technology

£67k contract win with leading power tools specialists for Swansea’s Uplands Communications

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Uplands Communications is celebrating a major contract win to the tune of £67k, having closed a deal with a division of Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd.

The deal sees the Swansea-headquartered telephony specialists supply connectivity for more than 130 users.

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Techtronic owns brands including Ryobi, Milwaukee and AEG. The company enjoyed record 2021 worldwide sales of US$13.2 billion and has more than 51,000 employees.

Paul Hooper, MD of Uplands Communications, which is based in Swansea, said: “We are pleased to forge a new partnership with Techtronic Industries EMEA Ltd, a leaders in its field which is committed to ensuring its customers receive the best experience whenever they interact with the business.

“The past two years have been challenging for businesses across all industries, including for telephony and communications, and, of course for construction and for their supply chain colleagues.

“However, we are seeing, across the board, companies becoming increasingly aware of the need to make sure their communications are in the best shape possible and are modern and fit for purpose.

“The pandemic has brought about a sea-change in the way consumers and businesses interact with each other. Carefully-tailored telephone and communications solutions are more essential than ever if businesses want to thrive.”

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Natasha Russell, Financial Accountant at Techtronic said: “We operate a multi-million pound operation across a range of products and sites and we deal with a broad customer base – both commercial and domestic.

“The solution we sought from Uplands will give us a more seamless billing functionality and smoother processes, as well as more robust day-to-day support. We are pleased to enter into an agreement with Uplands Communications and we look forward to our ongoing relationship with them.”

Uplands Communications, based at Swansea Enterprise Park, is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.

The firm, which has its HQ in Swansea and an office in Somerset, specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier.

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