Tony Murray: Manufacturing sector is going strong despite volatility

Despite many serious challenges, it’s extremely positive that the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland is confident and even burgeoning
Tony Murray

AS well as heralding in the summer, the end of May also signals the wrapping up of Manufacturing Month. The past four weeks have featured a busy schedule of events, conferences, workplace visits, webinars, engagement with schools, and plenty of content, all to celebrate and recognise the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland.

There’s no shortage of leading companies, manufacturers, or people within the local industry to highlight. And despite serious challenges before them, it’s extremely positive that the sector is confident and even burgeoning. The latest figures show that over half of manufacturers are currently experiencing growth, a remarkable figure given the period we’ve just come through and the general volatility within the market.

That is not to say that there aren’t problems currently for manufacturers to deal with. The cost of raw materials and energy are only going up, while labour and recruitment is a common headache across the industry.

However, it’s often better the devil you know when dealing with challenges. While no one wants costs to spiral or to struggle in their recruitment processes, these are at least known issues which can be addressed head on.

What is always more harmful, however, is uncertainty - uncertainty, post-election, over the Executive and the Assembly as well as the uncertainty over the Protocol. It’s an adage that businesses thrive on certainty. It’s also an undeniable truth that political stability is one of the key building blocks to attracting and cultivating investment. It’s crucial that these hurdles are overcome swiftly to support our makers and manufacturers as we come out the other side of the pandemic.

Lockton has been proud to sponsor Manufacturing Month, an invaluable initiative which highlights everything worth celebrating in our local engineering and manufacturing sector. The industry is one of the most important to our economy, bringing in almost £15bn each year and employing thousands. Manufacturers are investing in their staff, in their communities, and supporting households across the country. We lead the world in sectors like materials handling and crushing equipment while our reputation in food and drink, health and life sciences, and construction materials is globally renowned.

With more unpredictability and volatility across the wider economy than ever before, it’s vitally important that businesses have the correct advice and tools to stay ahead of the curve. At Lockton, we have a strong track record of supporting many local manufacturers, big and small, helping them navigate risk within the business landscape. We help them export and find new markets through trade credit insurance, we provide strong cover in the event of a cyber-attack, and we help facilitate business growth and expansion.

As Manufacturing Month wraps up for another year, it’s a welcome opportunity to reflect on another successful campaign. One which lifted up our makers and rightly shone a light on the talented and skilled people within the industry. With greater certainty and proper public sector backing, the sector can continue to go from strength to strength over the coming months and years.

:: Tony Murray is senior vice president at Lockton Companies LLP

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