A Review of 2019 by AMF Chairman Ian Fawdon

AMF Chairman, Ian Fawdon looks back over 2019 to share his insight on member opportunities at the AMF and the wider manufacturing sector, looking forward to 2020 and his aims for the New Year.

How would you summarise 2019?

At the AMF, we gauge levels of optimism within our manufacturing base via our monthly manufacturing roundup at our Monthly Meetings. In 2019, this suggested frustration but with guarded optimism. In the manufacturing round-up, we don’t measure output performance with our manufacturers, but while the North East has shown a small reduction in production levels compared to 2018, as has the whole of the UK in latter months of this year, our members have generally described a more buoyant picture.

However, the uncertainty of Brexit started the year causing frustration and ended the year with a mixture of exasperation and tired resignation.

What has been the biggest highlight for the AMF in 2019?

It has been another good year for the AMF in 2019. We have had 25 new members join, and a new Strategic Partner in Spitfire Consultancy which sponsor our vibrant Process Improvement Group events. Our Process Improvement Group meet on a quarterly basis to discuss and develop knowledge in the field of Lean and Process Improvement.

Another key step forward, is the introduction of the Risk and Compliance Group which is ran and sponsored by HLA Services, Recovery 4 Life and Pentagon Assurance. This has proven popular with our members and we look forward to increasing the frequency of these meetings in 2020, commencing with a follow up on the HSE guidance on welding fumes.

What will you continue doing in 2020 from 2019?

Along with our usual areas of focus for consultancy and advice such as skills, export, marketing and manufacturing best practices, we will continue to push three key areas from 2019.

  1. Firstly, we want to bring our technology based companies and organisations  – Kerridge Systems, Synergi IT, E-Max Systems, Digital Catapult and SAM Project – together with our manufacturing members to look at possible technological solutions that may offer our members quick process improvement wins with affordable payback options. We recognise that developments such as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 offer step change opportunities that our members need to be aware of.
  2. A second area of focus will be the mental health of our members and their employees. We want to look at the ways proactive companies are supporting their workforce in dealing with mental health concerns in the workplace, something that is present in all sections of society.
  3. The third area of focus is the funding and grant opportunities that will be presented with the unveiling of a new government. We will be running a panel session with some of our Strategic Partners such as Tait Walker, Ward Hadaway and Zenith People, to look at the opportunities and threats that may come with a new Government in February 2020.

How has the AMF supported members in 2019?

One area that is growing and we want to continue to foster and encourage in 2020 is member collaborations. There has been a lot of examples of this in 2019 and we will try to, wherever possible, highlight this in our various newsletters and PR stories, with support of Horizon Works, our strategic marketing partner. We will also be running, sometime in the summer of 2020, our ever-popular AMF Manufacturing Market Place.

Additionally, this post marks almost 12 months as Forum Manager for Arthur Hodgson and we want all members to know that Arthur is in place as a resource for all members to use and contact for whatever support they may need.

What has happened within the manufacturing industry this year that is important for the sector?

A key milestone has been the opening of the first manufacturing site on the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), a joint venture between Sunderland and South Tyneside Councils, sited adjacent to Nissan. The first company to open a plant there is SNOP UK, a French car part manufacturer. Whilst the IAMP is not exclusively there for Nissan and its suppliers, it is nonetheless an important sign of Nissan’s ongoing commitment to the North East.

Nissan is a key manufacturing presence in the North East, and it is in all of our interests that in these uncertain times, Nissan continues to be a success in Sunderland. We look forward to more companies opening factories on the IAMP in 2020, both automotive and non-automotive.

What industry changes do you anticipate for 2020?

As mentioned above, one of our key focuses will be to identify technological improvements that our members may be able to gain from. Much of the changes to the manufacturing industry will however depend on who forms the Government and how Brexit is resolved. We would expect that the focus on growth will be driven in part by the NELEP and its four key areas, advanced manufacturing, digital, life sciences and energy, and this will remain unchanged.

What will 2020 bring for the AMF?

We have some excellent main meetings coming up in early 2020 including a visit to Heather Mills’ Plant-Based Valley factory in Seaton Delaval where Heather will be telling us about her journey into the world of food manufacturing. We also have events around the topics of Tax and Skills – Opportunities and Threats, Mental Health of your Workforce, and Developments in Electrical Powered Vehicles. We will also continue to host meetings both in the North and South of the region.

We expect our key sub forums – the AMF Marketing Club, Process Improvement Group, Risk and Compliance Forum, and the Business Improvement Group to continue to offer value to our members. We are also in discussions to start a Technology Group in 2020 – watch this space!

As chairman of the AMF, what are you most looking forward to for the AMF in 2020?

I am looking forward to some certainty in the vision of the future for the UK economy and moving passed the omnipresence of the Brexit shadow.

What would you like your members to know?

We say on a continual basis that we are nothing without our members and we work very hard to ‘punch above our weight’, offering a product that all members can enjoy getting involved in and see the value for money. To continue to do this, we need continued feedback from our members, so we can develop the forum accordingly. On a more prosaic level, we hope to completely revamp our website before the middle of next year, making it more interactive for our members.

Lastly, thank you to all our members for your support, see you in 2020!

To become an AMF member in 2020, submit your membership application today! Click here.

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