GF Laser plans in 2019 & how will Brexit impact the engineering sector?

At the time of writing the Country waits with bated breath for the next chapter in the Brexit saga. In common with most business owners I’m conscious of how Brexit will affect our business and whether it will affect our plans for 2019.

Whilst we don’t export directly to mainland Europe, many of our customers do, so the potential impact on sales cannot be underestimated. The other side of the Brexit coin for the GF Laser management team, is a potential boom as companies purchase more goods from the UK rather than overseas. This is a possible opportunity for UK manufacturers to claw back some of the work that has moved overseas in the last few decades. The pro’s & Cons of Brexit are covered in this article by The Engineer

Will Brexit Affect Engineering Employment?

Another potential issue for us to consider in 2019 is the recruitment of staff, we have many employees here that were born outside of the UK. They have made a valuable contribution to the success of our business with a strong work ethic and possession of skills that are not readily available in the UK.

The skills shortage in the UK is a matter that is talked about almost as much as Brexit. If we are unable to draw on a pool of human resource that includes all EU nationals this will be a major challenge.

The Right Government Funding

In my opinion the government needs to do more to talk to local businesses about the skills they require and how best they can be funded. Rather than rely on colleges perhaps offering training grants for existing staff that include compensation for lost production would help increase the skill set. We also need to think about this training strategies over a 10 year period rather than a quick fix that makes a good soundbite for political gain.

Firstly, grants should be available that cover 100% of the cost not just a proportion. Secondly, the procedure for grants should be simplified to avoid the need for consultants who have to interpret the requirements from local authorities. These two reasons I believe put off many companies from accessing grants as they are too busy running their businesses to spend days and days filling in forms or dealing with consultants.

Flexibility in a rapidly changing world

As with most business owners in the low margin manufacturing environment I will be looking at how to increase productivity. Purchasing new faster more efficient machinery is always tempting, however, with all the machine manufacturers based in the EU a dramatic slump in the pound could reduce our appetite for capital investment in 2019 as capital equipment prices increase.

I suspect more than any other time in GF Laser’s 12 year history our yearly objectives will need to remain flexible until the Brexit picture becomes a little clearer. Hopefully, the politicians can put their political ambitions to one side to present a united front to the European Union so we can negotiate a deal that is the best interests of the United Kingdom.

Simon Tregillus
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