Belfast Telegraph

Antrim council drive to reboot manufacturing sector

‘Bold step’: Anne Donaghy
‘Bold step’: Anne Donaghy

By Staff Reporter

Manufacturing in the Mid and East Antrim area has the chance to "blossom" following a number of serious setbacks in the region, it's been claimed.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has held an event for its manufacturing taskforce to exchange ideas on how to grow the sector in years to come.

The area has been hit by the loss of major manufacturing employers like cigarette maker JT Gallaher's and tyre maker Michelin, which together employed around 1,500 people in the town.

Representatives were asked to speak about issues hitting productivity, skills, research and development and the supply chain, and how to address those issues.

Council chief executive Anne Donaghy said: "If the public and private sector work hand-in-hand, then the manufacturing sector in the borough will blossom.

"That is why we have set up the manufacturing taskforce and why we, as a council, have brought together the people who are at the heart of the sector to ask them what they need.

"It was a bold step to create the manufacturing taskforce, but we have ambitious plans for the borough. We want to identify and tackle the underlying issues and put plans in place to improve productivity, competitiveness and the responsiveness of manufacturing companies so they can grow sustainably and create high value jobs."

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The taskforce is chaired by Rose Mary Stalker, who said: "The desire to rejuvenate the sector is evident by the level of participation and engagement at this workshop, both from manufacturers and support organisations."

The taskforce has recommended action including developing capability in so-called fourth Industrial Revolution methods, such as the use of digital and advanced manufacturing technologies to improve competitiveness.

It suggests the use of heat trucks which can share heat produced by manufacturers with a surplus with those which need it.

It further recommends upskilling employees and leaders - and inspiring young people to pursue a career in the manufacturing sector.

And it suggests implementing a regional skills barometer to identify skills needs.

There are also calls for a specific SME Manufacturing Centre of Excellence for Mid and East Antrim, with facilities including meeting space and product development labs.

Belfast Telegraph