Ibec has launched the Irish Manufacturers Association, to ensure the sector reaches its full potential, and a new campaign to boost manufacturing in Ireland. What does the future hold for manufacturing in Ireland?
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With over 4,000 manufacturers operating throughout Ireland, employing 159,000 staff between them, the manufacturing sector is an important component of the Irish economy. Recognising the importance of the Irish manufacturing sector, Ibec has launched a ‘Manufacturing Ireland’ campaign and new association, the Irish Manufacturers Association (IMA). The IMA is a cross-sectoral umbrella group to raise the voice of manufacturing in Ireland and to engage with industry and government to ensure it reaches its full potential.

The Manufacturing Ireland campaign sets out a vision for Ireland’s manufacturing sector which includes calls on the government to:

  • Commit to spending an additional €10 billion on infrastructure projects by 2020;
  • Provide new funding options for SME manufacturers that need capital to achieve growth and scale;
  • Ensure adequate funding for upskilling in manufacturing, including lean manufacturing, and support the development of new apprenticeships specifically for the sector;
  • Establish a national cyber security programme with dedicated funding to prioritise cyber security research.

“Ireland is a maker economy, yet significant national focus is on services. It is not a trade-off between one activity and the other. In fact, both support each other. Manufacturing is the heartbeat of the economy. Not only does the sector contribute in terms of direct employment and expenditures in the economy, but it also creates regional and secondary employment, stimulates innovation and research and is a driver of technological advances and management capability,” said Aviné McNally, director of the Irish Manufacturers Association.

Manufacturing and the Irish economy


There are over 4,000 manufacturers throughout Ireland. Some 82% are based outside the Dublin region. Manufacturing firms purchase over €12 billion from Irish suppliers each year and invest over €3.4 billion in the Irish economy. Manufacturing output accounts for 24% of Ireland’s total economic output and for €89 billion in exports during 2014.

McNally added that the manufacturing sector in Ireland is now enjoying a renewed period of growth on the back of increased consumer demand in both Irish and overseas markets. This has also been matched by heightened levels of optimism throughout the sector.

An Ibec AIB Manufacturing Survey, carried out in 2015, showed that 71% of manufacturing respondents export and 51% viewed increased demand in overseas markets as a key opportunity. For 73% of survey respondents, operational excellence was their number one critical production issue. In addition, it is clear from the research that manufacturers are keen to increase productivity and develop new processes that will make them more efficient.

“This can be achieved through successful collaboration and mentoring. The value in developing cross sector dialogue and effective collaboration is greater than ever, and is a key opportunity for manufacturers to benefit as it contributes to knowledge sharing, innovation, developing skilled talent, improving operational efficiency and supply-chain agility,” said McNally.

The survey indicated that 88% respondents view investment in technology and IT as a key priority over the next three years. The advances in robotics and the digital marketplace makes automation cost effective, flexible and offers transformational benefits in a variety of functional areas. However, threats can arise, internet based threats can disrupt business. Therefore the maintenance and protection of Ireland’s cyber infrastructure is critical.

“Ireland can be a world leader in quality manufacturing, but we need to get the business environment right. Manufacturing firms think strategically about the costs in their entire supply chain and what matters is the total cost base and the overall impact of the various elements. While we must focus on maintaining business and input costs, at the same time ensuring that there is a tax system in place that helps manufacturers retain staff and also encourages skilled people to come back to Ireland. A lot of manufacturers struggle when it comes to accessing and retaining the skilled people they require,” McNally said.

While much traditional manufacturing occurs in Ireland, the sector is not static and is constantly evolving to meet the new global drivers, technology and trends such as Factory 4.0 and additive manufacturing.

But what will the future entail for manufacturing? What will be the most critical trends and disruptions for the sector? The transformation of the global manufacturing landscape is compelling businesses to rethink innovation, resource efficiency, skills and talent improvement, supply chains and new technologies.

Ibec Manufacturing Conference


The forthcoming Ibec Manufacturing Conference will address these questions and supporting Ibec’s ambition for Ireland to have an international reputation for manufacturing across key sectors. The conference brings together senior Irish and international business leaders and experts from the manufacturing world to discuss the future of manufacturing in Ireland.

Keynote speakers include Patrick Dixon, a futurist and author who is ranked as one of the 20 most influential business thinkers alive today. Peter Marsh, former manufacturing editor of the Financial Times and commentator on 21st manufacturing. Till Leopold, World Economic Forum will present on ‘The Future of Jobs’ report that outlines how industry 4.0 will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets.

“To develop further success for the sector both nationally and internationally, we need to ensure policies implemented and decisions taken make Ireland the best place to invest, innovate, collaborate and strengthen our workforce, so that it meets the needs of manufacturing in the 21st century and beyond”, concluded McNally.

The Ibec Manufacturing Conference, with strategic partner AIB, will take place on Thursday, 23 June 2016 at the RDS, Dublin. Visit www.ibec.ie/mfgconf to book with group discounts also available for a limited time.

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With over 4,000 manufacturers operating throughout Ireland, employing 159,000 staff between them, the manufacturing sector is an important component of the Irish economy. Recognising the importance of the Irish manufacturing sector, Ibec has launched a ‘Manufacturing Ireland’ campaign and new association, the Irish Manufacturers Association (IMA). The IMA is a...