Plus points in tough times

Export woes caused by the high pound have left many feeling that 1997 has been a tough year beset by the economic ills. But there was more to it than that. It has been a good year for inward investment, especially in electronics, and despite hesitation at the end of last year from Hyundai and […]

Export woes caused by the high pound have left many feeling that 1997 has been a tough year beset by the economic ills.

But there was more to it than that. It has been a good year for inward investment, especially in electronics, and despite hesitation at the end of last year from Hyundai and Samsung.

It has also been a good year for industrialists keen to bend the ears at Westminster.

The Labour party wooed Britain’s business sector before the election, and has sought widespread assistance from business since getting into power.

Even so, its wide-ranging review of all sectors of the economy looks set only to highlight how little room there is for manoeuvre. Business got lean under the Tories, and has got leaner in response to adverse currency movements. There’s little fat left for Labour to try to tax.

The Government also set out its position on membership of the single currency with little chance of the UK joining up to the euro until after the next general election at the earliest.

According to a survey published last month by the Engineering Employers Federation, industry wants a more concrete timetable to be put in place. The EEF says a shift in attitudes to EMU has occurred in the past two years one in 10 companies opposed entry by the end of 1997, compared with one in five in 1995.

Meanwhile, the engineering institutions finally agreed the new Sartor ‘bible’ on standards for registration of professional engineers.

The long-term result should be an improvement in the overall standards of graduate engineers early in the next century. Four-year degree courses leading to Chartered Engineer status will become the norm.

Year 2000 compliance issues have become top priority over the past year. Industry experts began to say in 1997 that if companies hadn’t started to act by last autumn, it was already too late.

So has it been a Year of Engineering Success? That campaign, designed to boost the profile of engineering among the public, will run on into this coming year too, despite criticism that it was underfunded and therefore ineffective.

For most of us in industry, success will be measured in the coming year from the day-to-day job of developing new products, competing for new orders and making a decent return in what looks set to be a tough commercial environment in 1998.