Skip main navigation

What is manufacturing?

The manufacturing sector contributes £6.7tr to the global economy, represents 54% of UK exports and directly employs 2.6 million people.

The manufacturing sector contributes £6.7tr to the global economy, represents 54% of UK exports and directly employs 2.6 million people.

Based on the latest available data for 2013 the UK was still the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world. The dictionary definitions of manufacturing are quite narrow in their scope. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb ‘to manufacture’ as to:

‘Make (something) on a large scale using machinery’

In the video you heard Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, founder and chairman of WMG, calling for the re-definition of the term. He believes that the UK perception of what is called manufacturing is wrong. That we think of it in terms of this machine tool is better than that machine tool, rather than considering manufacturing more holistically. We need to think of manufacturing from the customer back, making the products that address consumer needs in a competitive way. Competitive in terms of price, quality and technology. In this way the UK can be at the fore-front of delivering product-led competitive advantage.

Siemens is the largest engineering company in Europe. They are active in a broad range of different sectors including automation technologies. In their video ‘Making things’ they echo the sentiment of Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, and explain that manufacturing is more than just making things. Manufacturing produces knowledge that enables progress and innovation. It adds real value to the world, and stabilises the economy. In looking to the future Siemens challenge manufacturers to make things in the right way, as the decisions we make today affect tomorrow. Siemens concur that we need to take a more holistic view of the complete chain. To enable us to produce more from less, faster and better. Underpinning the future competitiveness of a nation, and ensuring they are future fit.

Talking point

  • What does the term manufacturing mean to you?
  • How do you think we should define manufacturing?
  • Do you agree that we need to take a broader view and re-define manufacturing?
This article is from the free online

Supply Chains in Practice: How Things Get to You

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now