Our manufacturing sector down out and out? You wouldn’t guess it from the two-day Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service Conference last week.

Some 300 senior representatives from companies across Scotland were able to enjoy some of the best technology and innovation that the sector has to offer.

Outstanding presentations were given by Dr Hamid Mughal, Director of Manufacturing at Rolls Royce, by after dinner speaker futurologist and innovation forecaster James Woudhuysen – and a vivid effervescent performance by motivational speaker Jim Lawless.

But the show stealer for me was Sarah Muller, the young apprentice brought on to the stage by Cedrik Platt of Cologne-based wheel and castor manufacturer Tente International.

Sarah gave a fantastic presentation of the apprenticeship scheme at Tente which must surely be a model for such schemes by firms in Scotland.

Among nine break-out presentations to choose from, leadership sessions were given by Alex Bindel of HSSMI and Gavin Hamilton of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

If ever there was good practical advice on how to bring about improvements in work place performance, communication and motivation, this was it.

Time and again in these sessions – from Thomas Lapsley of Lamond and Murray, Ewan Reid from Matthew Algie and Michael Ward of the Advanced Forming Research Centre – examples were given on how productivity can be improved and workplace culture changed.

Economy minister Keith Brown spoke of the progress of Scottish manufacturing firms in achieving record annual efficiency savings of £28million with the support of Scottish Enterprise.

The team supported 202 manufacturing companies in Scotland to complete business improvement projects, with Scottish Enterprise helping to deliver£113 million in total efficiency savings.

Said Keith Brown, “Manufacturing continues to be a vital component of our economy and driver of future prosperity. It represents over half of Scotland’s international exports and our investment in research and development, employing 190,000 people, and it is vital that the future of the sector is protected amid the on-going uncertainty about our relationship with the EU.

“The Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service forms a vital part of our support for the sector and working through this service, Scottish Enterprise has helped to deliver record efficiency improvements and productivity gains of £113 million over three years to the 202 manufacturing businesses it supports helping them innovate and identify where they need to invest to build their global competiveness.

The food & drink sector – highlighted here on ScotBuzz last week – delivered the biggest bulk of projects during 2015/16 – 45 projects delivering £5.7million in total.
This was a great conference event and a perfect way to spread good practice and showcase some leading productivity enhancements in Scottish manufacturing.

It really deserves to be held more frequently than once every two years. 
Should there be a Scottish Manufacturing Institute? On this form I would say ‘Yes, most definitely’ – though with a recommendation that it focuses on successful innovation and change within companies – whether material or cultural. For there are many examples of good practice that deserve to be showcased and shared.

What an antidote to the crude swipe taken at business last week by Trade Minister Liam Fox that Britain is “too lazy and too fat” with businessmen preferring “golf on a Friday afternoon” to trying to boost the country’s prosperity.

What a muppet!

Well done to SMAS Director Nick Shields and his team and to Kathyrn Slater and her team at Speakeasy for superb conference organisation.

Finally, my most tangible take-away from the exhibition stalls – apart from a wallet-full of brochures and a notebook full of items to write up and contacts to follow up – six colourful biros and three keyrings.

My apologies to Cedrik Platt for tipping my lunch plate of sausage rolls and tomatoes over his perfectly arranged brochures and spotless Tente castors. The Tente biro was a star prize!

More details of this and further events at

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