Manufacturing plays a major role in the Greater Lincolnshire economy and has done ever since the Industrial Revolution, writes LEP board director Steve Middlebrough.

In the 18th and 19th centuries an engineering industry sprang up to support the county’s farming sector, and today manufacturing represents almost one-fifth of our total economic output (£3.6 billion per year) and employs 63,000 people (15% of the workforce).

Greater Lincolnshire is a world-class manufacturing region and has benefited in recent years from major inward investment from Germany, Italy, China and America. There are 2,350 registered manufacturing businesses operating in the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership area, many of which are participants in supply chains around the globe.

What does the future hold for our manufacturing sector? We are moving into a period of unparalleled opportunity for manufacturers, and to make sure that we exploit these opportunities fully we’ve created a Manufacturing Board to guide the sector. To find out more read the article in this newsletter.

How can the sector achieve significant growth in the future? One way to do it is to concentrate on advanced manufacturing, while another is to focus on supply chain initiatives. Advanced manufacturing covers a multitude of innovations, from robotics and 3D printing at one end of the spectrum to kanban systems at the other. (Kanban is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing.) Perhaps a more accurate description would be advancing manufacture.

Every 18 months, in association with NatWest and the University of Lincoln, we stage a manufacturing conference to bring together leaders from the sector and share ideas. This year’s conference on 15th September will focus on advancing manufacture and will feature heavyweight keynote speakers from the industry as well as a serious ‘real product’ demonstration of 3D printing. Visitors will also be able to look around local manufacturers and get the chance to see advancing manufacture for themselves.

As well as staging a regular conference, the Greater Lincolnshire LEP also provides advice and support through its Growth Hub. If you are an SME manufacturing business, one way you may be advancing is by improving processes or by buying a new machine to increase efficiency and productivity; perhaps you need some support in creating an operations strategy, or require a better understanding of supply chain management to cope with an increase in sales.

Workshops are another way in which the LEP supports the area’s manufacturing industry, and we are planning two this year covering funding and skills. We also offer practical help for manufacturers through our network of technology hubs: the Horncastle hub has 3D and UV printers and laser cutting equipment to help businesses with design, prototyping and small-scale fabrication, while Lincoln offers those facilities as well as significant design expertise and provision of 3D scanning equipment and larger-scale 3D printing and cutting.

The Motion Capture Hub at the University of Lincoln's Sports Science School gives businesses access to the latest in motion sensing technology and ultra high-speed cameras which could help pinpoint bottlenecks or analyse the interaction between operators and machines on continuous flow productions lines.

You can find out more about all these different support structures by attending the Greater Lincolnshire LEP’s Manufacturing Conference at the University of Lincoln on 15th September 2017.