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Forget about government support and take control, manufacturing boss urges industry

18 June 2024

Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation, urges UK manufacturing firms to pursue strategic independence, rather than depending on the Government for aid.

Hague has made the rallying call after the first election debate was aired this week and has urged more companies to strive for strategic independence – the ability to formulate and execute strategy autonomously and without reliance on inadequate policies and economic aid.

He believes adopting this approach will empower firms to make operational adjustments that are directly aligned with their business goals and customer needs. 

This will involve clearly understanding processes, defining market orientation, investing more in R&D and developing a sustainable skills plan that will meet both short and long-term requirements.

“We can’t wait on external factors to calm, or a government to care. We can’t wait around for a directive, or a miraculous shift in how our work is valued. And we definitely can’t be passive,” explained Hague, who was named CEO of the Year at the Manufacturing and Engineering Awards in 2023.

“The manufacturing community wears resilience like a badge of honour because of the sheer number of times it has had to fight its own corner or paddle its own canoe. But that spirit shouldn’t be reserved only for overcoming difficult situations, it should be leveraged to cultivate our own strategic independence.”

He continued: “Let’s presume that when it comes to industry, a lax government will continue to be exactly that – lax. No matter what way the July 4th general election may tip the balance of power, the matter of alignment with industry will still likely be askew. Would it not be more beneficial to instead take proactive steps to securing our own future?”

Hague’s rallying call focuses on several key business areas, including strengthening supply chains and increasing investment in technology and R&D, partnering with specialist providers and setting up dedicated innovation labs.

Fostering a culture that values creative thinking and problem-solving across all levels of the organisation is also critical and can lead to competitive advantages on both a domestic and international scale.

“We can do much more to develop skills and expertise internally. Spending more on workforce development is obviously crucial to improving productivity and innovation capacity, not to mention bridging skills gaps and keeping employees engaged,” added Hague.

“Industry is in a digital age, where data is abundant and invaluable. Manufacturers should leverage this new ‘gold’ and analytics to gain insights into market trends, customer preferences, and operational efficiencies. This knowledge will drive smarter, evidence-based decision-making.

“Whilst pursuing independence, it is also wise to maintain strong relationships and build your own self-contained networks and collaborative approaches to business improvement, market targeting, and the imperatives of ESG, especially in engaging with local communities.” 

He concluded: “And just because you’re developing your own strategic independence, it doesn’t mean that relationships with industry associations, and even governmental bodies are avoided – quite the opposite. When these relationships are built into strategic plans, they can provide support, resources, and vital market intelligence.”

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