Manufacturers embracing flexibility
Global trends over the last two decades have created huge competitive pressures as well as major opportunities for companies in Wales. They have responded by moving their competitive offering away from cost, and towards innovation, new products and services. Underpinning this transformation has been the ability of companies to move quickly to respond to changing market circumstances and to seize new opportunities.
A key factor in this speed of movement, and a traditionally important source of competitive advantage for Welsh companies, is the UK's labour market, which remains relatively flexible in comparison to some of our major competitors in the developed world. This flexibility allows companies to quickly adopt a range of people and production strategies in response to changing demand conditions. During the recession, for example, the flexibility in the UK's labour market allowed many companies to take tough decisions, often in partnership with employees, which helped keep them afloat and also prepare for future growth.
The UK's flexible labour market is also an important factor in compensating for other areas of economic concern for manufacturers - both short-term and more structural - such as access to finance, skills shortages and weakness in supply chains.
Manufacturers across Wales tell us that they achieve the flexibility that they and their employees are seeking by working increasingly closely with them. But they are concerned that the constant churn of new regulation and the complexity of new laws are putting these positive relationships at risk.
EEF has this week published a report on the Modern Manufacturing Workplace which highlighted the importance of flexible working which allows companies and employees in Wales to find their own broad based solutions. As the government's own consultation on Modern Workplaces draws to an end and it launches the manufacturing stage of its Red Tape Challenge, EEF is calling on the government to look harder at alternatives to regulation and, to avoid complex and prescriptive regulations that get in the way of increasingly productive relationships between employers and employees.