22 Nov Demystifying UK Manufacturing: An Introduction to the Industry
To the untrained eye, the manufacturing industry can seem like a bit of a big beast, and to a certain extent that’s true – it’s a huge part of UK industry! However, breaking it down into some understandable chunks can help you appreciate how the UK manufacturing industry works, what it brings to the economy, and how it’s adapting to our changing world.
The history of manufacturing in the UK
The industrial revolution of the late 1700s and the years that followed put the UK firmly on the world’s manufacturing map, with British goods dominating the world’s trade for much of the 19th century. The UK’s output was largely centred around textiles, iron, steel, engineering and shipbuilding, with areas such as Birmingham, London and Manchester becoming synonymous with industry.
What does the UK manufacturing industry consist of?
Such a broad sector is hard to get your head around, and you can quickly go from understanding plastic injection moulding to learning all about making chocolate bars! Here are some of the main sections of the industry:
- Plastics and rubber
- Food and drink
How big is manufacturing in the UK?
The manufacturer’s organisation Make UK are all over the big manufacturing stats in the UK, and they ‘make’ for impressive reading. For example, there was a whopping £183BN of output from the UK manufacturing sector in 2022, and the UK is currently the eight largest manufacturing nation in the world.
The North West is thought to be the UK’s biggest manufacturing region, with an output of £27.4BN in 2020, with 319,000 people employed at that time too.
What jobs can manufacturing provide?
As you might expect, an industry this size can provide a full spectrum of roles, including entry-level positions, clerical jobs, marketing, technical staff, managerial roles, and directorships, to name just a few.
It’s estimated that 2.5M jobs are provided in the UK by the manufacturing industry, and the beauty of such a big sector is that there are many different skill sets sought by manufacturers. Broadly these can include anything from communication and team leadership to problem solving, and digital disciplines, as well as the obviously specialist and technical skills required by each manufacturing process.
Wages are also reported to be around 12% higher in the manufacturing industry than in the rest of the economy – good news by anyone’s standards!
Where does the UK manufacturing industry export to?
49% of the UK’s exports are goods made here in the UK, which means items made by our manufacturing industry often get sent out around the world.
Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the US is the main buyer of UK goods, with European countries combining to be the second biggest area of the world to which UK goods are exported; countries such as Germany, Netherlands, France and Ireland are generally at the front of the queue.
What does Net Zero mean for UK manufacturers?
For UK businesses, net zero is a big deal, and this is a particularly large item on the manufacturing industries’ agenda. Net zero is a target implemented by the UK Government for all UK businesses to be removing as many greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as it produces by 2050, effectively making their emissions net zero.
For many UK manufacturers, net zero will be achieved through emission reduction and removal, such as using renewable energy, recycling, using electric vehicles, and using sustainable materials where possible.