2005 & beyond

A strong manufacturing sector is a vital part of the British economy. It contributes a fifth of our national income (nearly 150 billion per year), nearly two thirds of our exports and employs 4 million people. Exports have grown strongly, up over nine per cent over the last year. This encouraging picture should not hide the fact that the work required to keep pace with the competition is very challenging. In response, the Government has issued a White Paper on enterprise, skills and innovation, 'Opportunity for all in a world of change: Manufacturing', which sets out the steps that Government and business must take to secure economic success in the decade ahead. These are designed to ensure that all people in the UK, in all regions and communities and in all sectors of the economy, are given the opportunity to achieve their full potential. The Government has set the foundations for business to take up this challenge through building economic stability, fiscal support for manufacturing, investing in infrastructure, and supporting links between business and universities.

The emerging e-empowered business world demands a new approach to business relationships between enterprises large and small. These business relationships will have to support the creation and development of multiple products across a variety of supply chains capitalising on the diverse skill base. Rationalisation exercises over the past decade have resulted in companies with high levels of concentrated skills addressing particular competitive niches. For UK manufacturing to remain competitive globally, it is mandatory that multiple focussed organisations be brought together in a very flexible and dynamic manner to meet new commercial opportunities. To integrate these macro systems, a new understanding and way of working needs to be developed across industry and academia utilising the multiple capabilities of people, processes and technology.

In this environment the amount of information passing electronically around the world will be enormous. This information will be at many levels and complexities from digital models to personal and item identification that will allow interactive functionality. For example, people approaching their homes will be recognised electronically, the door opened and their favourite entertainment programme switched on. Products will contain electronic profiles of birth to death information allowing not only maintenance and repair but also automatic disassembly for recycling. This implies a pervasiveness of technology that will be all encompassing and unobtrusive, employing wireless sensors, allowing automatic integration into more complicated organisations of people and products. Developed further, this would produce self-repairing products and highly customised services to individuals. Of course, alongside these developments, the human and legal aspects must be considered, such as privacy, reliability, energy, environment, fault tolerance and health and safety.

Similar techniques and technologies will be applied to the formulation of knowledge repositories forming virtual libraries that are constantly being updated and maintained from experience gathered from the sensors. Such information bases, exploited via remote learning techniques within the education and research environments, will avoid the need to attend formal places of education. This and remote working will allow a greater integration of work, learning and social requirements of the individual.


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