22 Jul 2024


Goodbye 2021, hello 2022

Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for automation, reflects on the momentous year just ended, and gazes into his crystal ball for 2022 to predict some trends that might emerge.

Writing articles for magazines can be an fascinating task. Magazines are always prepared some way in advance and, at the time of writing this, given the way the global situation is currently unfolding, I’ve no idea what conditions will be by the time this gets published.

That emphasizes how quickly the world is changing and, along with this, the manufacturing industry too. 2021 was yet again a difficult year for industry, with manufacturers facing a multitude of challenges, both domestic and international. Despite the pressure, there were some champions that emerged and helped to maintain the robustness of industry.

Industry 4.0 continued to be a key focus with companies seeing how it has revolutionised the manufacturing world by providing businesses with opportunities to utilise innovative tools to improve efficiency, productivity and profitability. There’s no doubt that Industry 4.0 has helped adopters to cut costs, improve operational visibility and accelerate production times – along with many more benefits.

For the British manufacturing sector, 2021 was arguably a great year. To cite a few examples:

  • Cadbury announced plans to transfer production of its Dairy Milk bars from Germany and other sites across Europe to the UK;
  • the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant was secured with a £100m investment – the site will become Stellantis’ first factory dedicated to electric vehicle production for its Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot and Citroën brands;
  • Nissan announced plans to build a new electric vehicle at its Sunderland plant and, in partnership with Envision AESC, to open a £450m “gigafactory” as part of a £1bn investment programme that will create more than 6,000 British jobs;
  • the Hitachi Rail/Alstom joint venture was awarded a £2bn contract to design, build and maintain HS2’s new fleet of trains, creating around 2,500 British jobs; and
  • BAE Systems announced plans to hire 1,250 apprentices and graduates.


Gambica members also saw increases in sales in all of the industrial automation product groups that the association covers. So, despite the pressures from the pandemic and Brexit, the manufacturing industry on the whole emerged well from the year.
What does this mean for the year ahead? There are a few “hot topics” being discussed for this year. Some have stemmed from lessons learnt from the past two years. Many companies have invested substantial amounts in employee safety, and are paying close attention to well-being and mental health in the workplace.

Technologies adopted by companies to improve employee safety can also benefit their other activities. By implementing IoT and predictive analytics, their operations can be connected and business processes transformed.

The coronavirus pandemic has helped to drive interest in IoT technology due to its remote monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities. IoT-enabled devices make it possible to monitor equipment performance safely from remote locations, and thus to identify potential issues before any downtime occurs. They also make it easier to understand problems and to devise potential solutions to help employees attending the site.


As corporations large and small increasingly implement these technologies, we can rest assured that our industry will remain resilient regardless of what is to come. In a previous article I mentioned that the UK must use this opportunity to access its processes and ensure that industry continues to adopt, adapt and accelerate. It would seem that this was achieved in 2021 and will no doubt continue going forward.

According to data issued by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) for November and December, manufacturing output remained on a growth path at the end of 2021, with industry expanding for the 19th consecutive growth month, despite slowing slightly.
With new unexpected Covid variants, continuing travel restrictions, and uncertainty about what will happen next week – let alone next month – the only thing we can be certain of at the moment is that if the manufacturing industry continues to prosper and adopt innovative digital technologies, then we can be sure that it will emerge triumphant should things ever return to “normal”.
esh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or via nikesh.mistry@gambica.org.uk