Keen to understand first-hand how the UK polymer manufacturing industry is responding to the post-pandemic challenges, Member of Parliament for Aylesbury Rob Butler recently swung by Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s headquarters in Stoke Mandeville for a visit.
As the company’s local MP, UK managing director Nigel Flowers and team welcomed the opportunity to positively engage with and discuss several of the most pertinent issues and opportunities facing the polymer processing and wider manufacturing industry currently. Given the Government’s 10-point net zero pathway, sustainability was naturally high on the discussion agenda. Equally, with the UK plastics industry employing over 180,00 people and making an overall annual contribution exceeding £27 billion to our economy, understanding the recovery roadmap during these unprecedented times led to some robust and candid roundtable talks.
With Act! Sustainably the group’s new machine innovation mantra, Nigel corroborated the progress the industry has already made in relation to lightweighting, sustainable material selection and other environmental improvement targets. “As we focus on the future, protecting the environment by developing low emission and energy saving products, and ensuring sustainable use of materials is the standard we continually live by,” maintains Nigel.
Part of the plan to drive down emissions and deliver on the sustainability agenda led naturally to a conversation on productivity and the age old dilemma of upgrading production equipment. Citing several startling statistics helped the MP to put into context the missed opportunity to improve efficiency and eliminate machine downtime. At the current rate of investment, Nigel calculates it will take over 20 years to replace all the injection moulding in the UK! That’s a lot of emerging technologies and nearshoring contracts the processors could potentially miss out on.
Turning his attention to education and skills, Rob – a strong apprenticeship advocate – was inspired to discover that the entire Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK management team all followed the apprenticeship pathway.
Inspiring and motivating the incoming generation by showcasing the diverse career pathways is something the UK team is working tirelessly to address through engagement with schools across Buckinghamshire and beyond. “Leveling up the skills agenda requires action not words!” agreed both leaders.