May 16, 2020

COVID-19: UK car manufacturing to see major impact

Georgia Wilson
3 min
Covid-19 global map
Amidst the current outbreak of COVID-19, SMMT predicts that the car manufacturing sector should brace for a downward impact due to the pandemic.


Amidst the current outbreak of COVID-19, SMMT predicts that the car manufacturing sector should brace for a downward impact due to the pandemic.

car manufacturing figures

Recent figures show that the UK motor industry manufactured 122,171 new cars in February, a slight drop of 0.8% when compared to January - a result which SMMT attributes to a slower demand within key global export markets. 

Export figures show a demand reduction of 3.1% from the US and Asia, which resulted in fewer than 95,000 units, despite the EU seeing a 3.6% increase. 

However, figures did also show an increase in domestic demand, seeing a significant climb of 7.8% with 27.172 cars manufactured for the home market.

Although the car manufacturing industry in the UK saw some increases, overall car production for the region has fallen by 1.5% year on year.

year on year figures

The SMMT highlighted that the figures come at a time of unprecedented challenge for the UK and its automotive industry, as nearly all British vehicle manufacturers have paused production in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

“Despite the myriad global challenges the UK automotive industry has faced in recent times, it remains fundamentally strong and February’s figures reflect that. However, these figures also reflect the calm before the storm. With UK car plants now effectively on national shutdown and many global markets closed, the outlook is of deep concern,” comments Mike Hawes, Chief Executive at SMMT.

The SMMT has predicted that the shutdown of the UK major plants to curb the impact of the outbreak, will mean the UK could produce 200,000 fewer cars in 2020 compared with 2019 - a drop of 18%. 

However, SMMT also warns that if the duration of the shutdown continues for several months then the impact could be even more severe, stressing that the government must accelerate the access to emergency financial support for all businesses.


“We wholeheartedly welcome the government's extraordinary package of emergency support for businesses and workers, but this must get through to businesses now. If we’re to keep this sector alive and in a position to help Britain get back on its feet, we urgently need funding to be released, additional measures to ease pressure on cash flow and clarity on how employment support measures will work,” concludes Hawes.

SMMT figures show that the automotive industry in the UK is one of the region's most valuable economic assets, contributing roughly US$22.7bn per year to the economy. In addition the industry employs hundreds of thousands people across the country in high-skill and high valued jobs.

Despite these challenges, the entire industry is banding together in a national effort to support the battle against COVID-19. Many manufacturers are turning their production operations away from cars towards the production of medical equipment and supplies, to sustain the delivery of the essentials for the emergency services.

To discover how the manufacturing industry is providing support around the world to combat the outbreak of COVID-19, check out our list of 10 manufacturers providing pandemic support. 

For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.

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May 12, 2021

Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers

2 min
57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support smart manufacturing digitalisation

With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.

While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.

“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.

“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”

Change Management

Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.

“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.

Technology and People

While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.

“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.

Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.

Discover Gartner's Five Best Practices for Post COVID-19 Innovation' in manufacturing.

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