On a damp Wednesday afternoon in Yorkshire, a factory floor is busy churning out bespoke metal parts for industries including aerospace, motor sport and automobile at a pace which would have been unimaginable without 3D printing. Here traditional manufacturing methods like welding and forging have given way to smarter machines which are turning digital CAD models into physical ones using software, laser and metal powders. This factory in Yorkshire is not alone — a number of other towns across the UK have embraced 3D printing methodologies and are playing their role in the evolution of what some might term the renaissance in the manufacturing industry.

The financial crisis has triggered a rethink and the answer, the government believes, would probably lie in greater manufacturing might. With growth in the manufacturing sector as a key ambition, the government hopes to increase the contribution of manufacturing and exports to the economy and reduce the reliance on financial services. The government has, thus, identified 3D printing as an area of focus for achieving sustainable economic growth. With the intention to deliver greater productivity and create more highly paid job opportunities, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed an accomplished task force to lead Britain into the next industrial revolution. The man leading this task force is none other than Juergen Maier, the CEO of Siemens UK, now responsible for heading up the government’s industrial digitalization review.

Juergen Maier is leading Britain’s quest for re-industrialization [Image: David Sillitoe/the Guardian]

Britain’s digital factories are right in the center of all the action as Maier realizes that the expectations and the stakes are high – failing to play a significant role in the next industrial revolution could lead to significantly falling standards of living. Maier believes that the race has already begun and that the 3D printing mini-revolution which is happening in ‘digital’ factories will be absolutely critical to Britain’s fortunes if it wants to be successful outside the EU. Needless to say the rewards, if successful, are attractive and bountiful – a thriving manufacturing sector, highly paid and skilled jobs and greater productivity which would fuel innovation and growth and in turn raise living standards for all.

Taking stock of the economic situation, Maier commented that at an average, the UK’s living standards have hardly risen since the recession as they are not exporting enough and not driving productivity and output to raise wages. However, he is confident of change through this recently launched initiative. He believes that if they get this right, they will be successful in driving jobs up the value chain, improving pay and ultimately raising the living standards.

[Image via Juergen’s Blog]

Maier, who is fast becoming the go-to expert on the future of British industry, has been commissioned by the government to work out how the UK could leverage existing technologies to deliver better results, and how they could potentially create new industries, thereby positively influencing employment opportunities for citizens. Although his task force would effectively have to prove it, he is positive that fast-emerging industries like 3D printing will create innumerable employment opportunities and a vibrant economic environment in the country.

The stakes are high and needless to say, all eyes will be on Maier and his team as they embark on this herculean task. They are aware of the intense competition from the likes of Germany and the US and are fully aware that the uncertainty created by Brexit will not favor their case either. Not to mention the barriers to trade that Brexit could create, which Maier’s team will have to now keep in mind while charting their strategy. Britain’s ability to fill these highly skilled roles in sufficient numbers post-Brexit will also be something which Maier and his team will have to grapple with.

This report reinforces faith in skeptics who have been part of recent raging debates that technology and digitization are destroying jobs. While a number of countries, both developed and emerging, are placing heavy bets on industries like 3D printing, Britain certainly hopes to be a front-runner in its race to industrial digitization and to establish itself as a global leader in manufacturing and innovation.

Thursday morning promises to be bright and sunny in Yorkshire!

[Source: The Guardian]
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