My View: Maintaining North Wales’ international brand for advanced manufacturing
With ASKAR SHEIBANI
Chair of DBF & CEO of Comtek Network Systems
North East Wales has been a natural home for manufacturing for well over a century. Aircraft have been produced here for nearly 100 years and the global company, Airbus, has invested billions of pounds in making Deeside a home for its operations. Over 30% of jobs in North East Wales are in manufacturing – it is the lifeblood of the region’s economy.
Moreover, whilst the advanced technology and expertise used in aerospace manufacturing is complex – it has further applications in a number of other key industries, such as defence, automotive, drone, AI, robotics, etc.
Covid-19 has seriously damaged the airline industry – inevitably affecting aircraft manufacturing. Companies such as Airbus and Boeing have been dramatically impacted. They have had no choice but to downsize their organisations and the ongoing repercussions for their supply chains will be severe.
As with aviation, this global pandemic has damaged many manufacturers in North East Wales. We are now in danger of losing some of our proudly homegrown, world-class engineering companies. These employers attract the brightest talent and their innovation and R&D activities are admired at an international level. They create high-skilled, high-value jobs within our communities and make a massive contribution to the UK’s economy through their exports. It takes decades to build these types of companies but sadly, when they disappear, they disappear for good.
If we are aiming to build a prosperous North Wales with a sustainable economy, we must make sure we never allow these organisations to abandon our communities. After all, with sufficient time allowing, most of these brands are so innovative that they have been, and will be, able to repurpose their products/processes for different applications (while waiting for the aviation industry to recover).
Typically, engineering companies are not vocal in demanding government support. However, they will silently, but surely, agree that it would be a historic mistake for the UK and Welsh governments to ignore the major risk facing our region. After all, the Welsh Government has previously prioritised and promoted Advanced Manufacturing at the heart of its industrial policy, and has invested a huge sum of money creating the Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Broughton. The universities of Wrexham Glyndwr and Bangor are also eagerly geared up to support the industry in any way they can.