A year for the ages
2020 will go down as one of the most challenging and disruptive in history.
The challenge for businesses, and society as a whole, will be to successfully
navigate through the chaos and rebuild into 2021
CHRIS BECK, EDITOR, MANUFACTURING MANAGEMENT
When we were all pulling our crackers and singing Auld Lang Syne a year
ago, none of us could have imagined what lay in store. Calling 2020 ‘an
unprecedented year’ is already straying into clichéd territory, but there’s
not really a better way of describing it. Even in companies’ worst disaster
planning scenarios, a global pandemic that has killed thousands, ground
global supply chains to a halt, confi ned people to their homes and turned
Joe Wicks into a national hero would have seemed too far-fetched to even begin to
consider. And yet, that’s exactly where we are.
Every year, Manufacturing Management’s ’s Outlook supplement canvasses opinion from the
sector to explore the key topics that will shape global manufacturing in the years ahead. This year, as we
stand amidst the wreckage that is the state of Planet Earth in 2020, this supplement is more relevant than
usual. The following pages see some of the industry’s leading names share their thoughts on how the
unprecedented (that word again) events of this year will shape the manufacturing sector – and the world as a
whole – in the future.
Of course, recovery from the pandemic isn’t the only challenge facing the UK. Brexit, much as it has for
the past four-and-a-half years, continues to loom in the background, and still we’re no clearer to knowing
exactly what impact it will have on manufacturing, not least if the predicted hold-ups at Dover and other
ports come to fruition. Finding a compromise is in the best interest of not just the UK, but the EU as
well, so we can hold out hope that a deal, of any sort, will be reached eventually. A 50+ month game of
brinksmanship has helped nobody.
There are some positives, though; not least, the remarkable work being done across the world in
developing a COVID-19 vaccine. As I write, the fi rst doses of the Pfi zer/BioNTech jab are being distributed
across the UK. If a recent report from business advisory fi rm BDO is to be belived, this will not just signal a
return to some sort of normality, but also a huge boost to the economy. Its survey of manufacturing leaders
found that 95% expect their business to fully recover within a year of a vaccine for COVID-19 being made
available. If that’s the case, 2021 promises to be very di erent to this year. Investment that has been put on
hold for the past 12 months will pick back up as confi dence returns to the market – making it even more vital
that the Brexit conundrum is solved quickly.
A fi nal refl ection: out of the madness of the past ten months, many groups have shown themselves
to be resilient, brave and quick to adapt. I’m not just talking about the NHS workers on the front line, the
delivery drivers and postal service keeping the country going or the researchers working on the vaccines.
Manufacturers have been the glue holding this together, pivoting to produce ventilators, hand sanitiser and
PPE, and repurposing factory space to help at the peak of the crisis. As we enter a period of rebuilding, this
will need to continue. We all have a role to play in what the new normal will look like. After the horrors of this
year, this is the chance to build a new way of working: one that is more sustainable, more cooperative and
more positive. And manufacturers will be front and centre of this.