A matter of priorities

Engineers are wearily resigned to the wider world’s general indifference over how something is produced. Most people are far more concerned with how effectively an engineered product works and how much it will cost .


Engineers are wearily resigned to the wider world’s general indifference over how something is produced. Most people are far more concerned with how effectively an engineered product works and how much it will cost them and, on the whole, glaze over at the first mention of the manufacturing process behind it.


Natural enough I suppose, but Don Potts, an environmental advisor to Volvo, makes the valid point that if we want to shift our economy onto a genuinely sustainable base we all need to be a lot more aware of the whole picture.


As reported by The Engineer Online this week, Potts has highlighted the sometimes rather conflicting set of priorities facing vehicle manufacturers as they seek to roll out emissions-busting cars at a price cash-strapped and credit-starved consumers can afford.


In the face of those pressures, and the bewildering variety of incentives and penalties increasingly applied by governments and other regulators, where does investment in new, more efficient manufacturing operations fit in? We can easily widen the debate to ask how an industry’s wider supply chain is supposed to make the investments in the equipment, the processes and, perhaps most pertinently of all, the skills needed to create the world-class manufacturing economy we all want to see.


It comes back to those ‘green jobs’ again, propelled by the upheavals at the Vestas wind turbine facility to the top of the summer agenda. Of course, we all want to see the UK develop its strength in the R&D and design arena on the back of emerging environmental technologies. The big win for the wider economy, however, in terms of high levels of highly skilled employment will come from a vibrant manufacturing sector. Government and others need to bear this in mind when applying environmental carrots and sticks.


Andrew Lee, Editor