A Government minister is assuring that the local manufacturing sector is by no means dead.
However, concerned about the steady decline in the sector’s contribution to the economy in recent years, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland is warning local industry players that they must adopt a new approach if they are to be globally competitive.
“This need for a revived manufacturing sector is evident given the steady decline in the contribution of manufacturing to GDP [gross domestic product] over time.
“As an example, the contribution of manufacturing to GDP has moved from eight per cent in 2008 to as low as five per cent in 2017,” Sutherland noted, while calling on participants in the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Guide to Costing seminar at Pelican Village Craft Centre on Wednesday to “take those figures to heart”.
“This decline remains of some concern given the fact that globally, manufacturing continues to grow and accounts for approximately 16 per cent of global GDP presently,” he said, even as he suggested that the domestic decline was due mainly to “failure to leverage numerous synergies between manufacturing and the services sector”.
“[Globally, manufacturers] are using services to create a system of dynamic feedback that uses an array of customer information to align production with customer needs and wants. Many firms are using online interactions with their target markets, including social media to enhance sales, identify demands and build brand loyalty.
“They are using technology to increase geographic dispersion of supply chains with specialization,” Sutherland explained.
While lauding past and present BMA officials for their role in developing the sector, the minister challenged local manufacturers to “position yourself to pursue with greater vigour, the countless opportunities for global transformation success, which must be underpinned by a national effort for meaningful change”.
He suggested “agile approaches to the development of strategy using, for example, scenario planning rather than product forecast.
“The critical challenge for manufacturers will be to approach footprint decisions in a more nuance way. This result could very well be a new kind of global manufacturing company,” he added.
While underscoring the importance of costing in the manufacturing process, Sutherland said staying on top of global trends and upgrading the relevant skill sets should also be priority areas.
“A new participatory model must therefore give support to an inter-sectoral approach that strategically builds out the national manufacturing effort where the global marketplace is singularly targeted and vigorously pursued. The world has to be your oyster and your playground,” he stressed.
The workshop, which is the first in a series, was designed to help BMA members and other entrepreneurs explore ways to grow their business.
BMA President Robert Noel said the association was aware of the role it needed to play in order to help “the manufacturing sector and Barbados in general as we prepare to pursue the uncomfortable path to economic recovery”, adding that “we are determined to use this time to focus on opportunities and aggressive efforts to reposition the manufacturing sector”.
He also pledged to work with Government to create more “pathways for funding and technical assistance for members”.