The UK manufacturing sector is alive and well – indeed, it is thriving in south Yorkshire – as 120 or so manufacturing professionals heard that local firms continue to maintain their levels of exports, how capital equipment investment is on the rise and that the application of advanced manufacturing policies continues unabated.

Owners and directors of a range of south Yorkshire-based manufacturing operations gathered in the showroom and demonstration facility of T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), one of the UK’s premier distributors of high-technology machine tools, to hear industry experts at the Barclays Sheffield City Region’s Manufacturing Insights event present exclusive presentations on the progress of ‘Great Britain Ltd’.

“South Yorkshire-based companies send a greater percentage of exports to BRIC countries than anywhere else in the UK,” pointed out Andrew Marsh, Barclays’ corporate banking director, south Yorkshire.

He opened the event at the 5,500 m2 Sheffield and North headquarters for Ward CNC – a company he described as “a here and now” business successfully supplying and supporting advanced technology products to industry sectors such as aerospace, oil and gas, defence, medical, automotive and power generation.

Mike Rigby, Barclays’ corporate head of manufacturing, transport and logistics, pointed out that the manufacturing sector contributes up to 13% to the country’s GDP, and that borrowing requests for capital investment are increasing – this year by 10%.

Before outlining the company’s colourful 130-year history, Ward CNC’s managing director Simon Whitworth announced that the firm’s order intake is currently 140 per cent higher than the comparable period in 2013. “The modern-day success of Ward CNC is based on the supply of quality products, underpinned by quality service and provided by quality people,” he added.

A similar message came from William McGrath, CEO of the Aga Rangemaster Group – who focused on how Aga had re-invented and sustained its global brand – before Professor Keith Ridgway, research director at Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, provided an enlightening view of the Factory of the Future planned for Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Park.

Sunday Times economics editor, David Smith, rounded off the evening with an update on unemployment – “down in all areas of the country” – coupled with forecasts of 3 per cent growth over the next three years plus low inflation and slight increases in interest rates starting in February 2015.

“UK manufacturing is doing well,” he added. “But we can and will do better!”

Commenting on the event, Ward CNC’s Simon Whitworth said: “There’s no doubt that the future of manufacturing depends on utilising the latest technologies and appropriately-skilled people, and with our continued high level of commitment Ward CNC is ensuring it remains part of that success story.”