Manufacturers respond to COVID-19 crisis

Published:  02 April, 2020

This unprecedented period in all our lives has highlighted the importance of UK manufacturing to not only the economic prosperity of our country but also the societal significance of the sector. The Prime Minister’s recent call on the UK’s manufacturers to help step up production of vital medical equipment, such as ventilators illustrates this. Responding to coronavirus and reducing the spread of the peak requires a national effort, and UK manufacturers are rising to the task in ways that were never thought feasible.

The Prime Minister has set the ambition for industry to manufacture as many new ventilators as possible, so we can all help the most vulnerable and our NHS. Firms have been asked to help by offering skills and expertise as well as manufacturing the components themselves.

At the time of going to press Dyson, along with a separate consortium of manufacturers led by Airbus, is expecting the Government to give it the green light to start making up to 30,000 medical ventilators. The Government’s call to adapt production lines has also highlighted the significance of smart manufacturing processes which is enabling companies around Europe to switch some production lines to the manufacture of disposable face masks for example to help combat the global shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by some of Italy’s and France’s leading luxury fashion houses, who are also about to manufacture hand sanitisers.

The virus will have both short and long-term ramifications, but the overriding message for industry coming out of these most troubling times is that UK manufacturing has a significant role to play and that digitalisation needs to be seen as pivotal in the post-COVID-19 world. No one can predict the future but the Government must surely now appreciate the importance of manufacturing to the fabric of British society, which goes a lot deeper than just economics. First and foremost, we can all only hope that the human tragedy is limited as much as possible, but Post-COVID19 our world will inevitably be different, let’s also hope that the UK’s manufacturing sector’s response to this crisis allows it to be seen from a different perspective. The role it is about to play over the coming weeks and months should give us all time to reflect on why we are a proud manufacturing nation.

Aaron Blutstein, Editor: Plant & Works Engineering and Smart Machines & Factories magazines

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