Is there a future for the UK manufacturing sector in 2016?
We are barely into 2016 and there are already reports about the gloomy future of the manufacturing industry over the next year. With domestic and export levels falling below pre-recession levels, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) feels the sector is ‘close to stagnation’.
It comes down to this: it is simply not possible to put all our eggs in one basket. Whilst the services sector, which accounts for more than three-quarters of economic activity and ranges from shops and hotels to banking, maintained its growth in the lead up to Christmas, there is no guarantee that this will continue. In fact, findings already show that expectations for business activity in this sector over the next 12 months were the weakest for almost three years.
With this in mind, there is even more urgency for the manufacturing industry to reverse the recent downward spiral in order to benefit the UK’s struggling economic growth. In order to prosper however, it needs clear investment through an industrial strategy. It is as simple and straightforward as that. The BCC suggests the government needs to focus on improving workers’ skills, upgrade outdated infrastructure and allow small firms access to the same cheap credit available to major businesses and I’m inclined to agree.
The industry needs to feel the presence of support, and feel the confidence from the top that the issue can be tackled. To do this, there is a clear need for the government to pledge investment in innovation and skills to boost exportation, enhance manufacturing growth and improve productivity.
This level of visible support would hopefully spur on manufacturers themselves to invest in their industry, specifically in innovation, training and product & process tools which can support decision making and action taking. Modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms, for example, give organisations the ability to analyse business conditions and develop improved business plans, monitor and measure progress and provide visibility into day-to-day operations.
Responsiveness and faster decision making could be key. This can include insight of capacity requirements planning, work order management, job costing, product data management and production planning and scheduling, all of which can help manufacturers to ensure processes are streamlined and cost effective. Planning and budgeting on an annual basis, especially considering the current state of the economy, is no longer possible.
There are numerous risks to economic growth in 2016, including the cost impact of the living wage, government spending cuts, a potential hike in interest rates, global economic growth jitters and, of course, the possible EU exit. However, the manufacturing industry is a key part of Britain’s past and it remains a vital sector for the UK economy. The government needs to show it understands this and is willing to support it, and organisations need to be resilient in times of trouble and ensure they are doing all they can to invest and innovate.
Looking ahead, all eyes will be on the government’s plans for growth and it will be interesting to see what action it takes when tackling this ever present issue. It is one that is growing in importance and with the current global uncertainties, there needs to be a focus on our home-grown assets and the important sectors that make up the British economy.
Stuart Hall is the UK Sales Director for Epicor
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.