Manufacturing margins are squeezed, offshore oil and gas operators face new windfall tax, and a £7 million solar-powered Royal Navy logistics centre opens in this month’s news roundup.

Public sector
Current public procurement processes do not work well in harnessing the innovative potential of UK start-ups, according to a new report from The Entrepreneurs Network. Instead they tend to create bureaucratic barriers, especially for smaller suppliers.

Government plans to create a single set of regulations for public procurement may not turn out to be as simple as first thought, according to law firm DLA Piper. They say that as the Procurement Bill makes its way through Parliament, issues are emerging about how it will apply to the NHS and transport bodies.

All 212 NHS Trusts now have zero-carbon plans in place that will guide how and what they buy. The health service is responsible for 40% of public-sector emissions and around 3.5% of all emissions from road transport. The NHS in Greater Manchester recently began making supply deliveries to hospitals using the service’s first fully electric HGV.

“It’s good news that procurement processes are going to become more adaptable, as this will create opportunities for innovation that will help meet the changing needs of the public sector,” said RS Industry Sector Manager Damian Wynne.

Utilities and power
French water and waste group Veolia will sell two UK business units if the competition watchdog blocks its $13 billion merger with rival Suez in July, the Financial Times reports. Veolia said it would sell the UK waste unit it took over from Suez and its own UK industrial water and wastewater operation to resolve issues raised by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The UK government plans to extend energy price cap protection to customers of heat networks who have faced increases of up to 700% in their bills. Regulator Ofgem regards heat networks as commercial, so they are not covered by the price cap. Only 2% of homes are connected, but the government wants to expand this to a fifth by 2050.

UK companies providing specialised equipment and services to the oil, gas and renewable industries will be among those hardest hit by the government’s new windfall tax on energy company profits, trade body Offshore Energy UK has warned. Most of the 200,000 UK oil and gas jobs are in the supply chain, it said.

“We fully understand how essential it is for utilities to be able to rely on trusted suppliers to keep their vital services operating,” said Chris Cruise, RS Industry Sector Manager.

Process manufacturing
Food and beverage manufacturers are still facing “significant and stubborn” labour shortages, despite official data showing that employment in the sector is continuing to rise, the Food and Drink Federation has said.

Supermarket chain Morrisons is reported to be considering the sale of its food manufacturing plants, following its recent acquisition by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. Morrisons operates 18 manufacturing sites and says it is the UK’s second-largest fresh food manufacturer, producing all kinds of food from freshly baked bread and seafood to fresh produce, chilled foods and meat products.

Manufacturers have been urged to act quickly to find new providers of certification services for measuring instruments. Post-Brexit, the European CE mark will no longer be accepted in Great Britain from 1 January 2023 and will be replaced by the new UKCA mark. Makers need a new provider because the National Measurement Office has stopped providing Conformity Assessment Body services for regulated measuring instruments.

“Keeping our food and drinks industry in motion is vital, and manufacturers are facing many challenges. Attracting new recruits to the sector is a crucial.” said Craig Stasik, Industry Sector Manager at RS.

Manufacturing margins are coming under increased pressure from rising prices and taxes, according to the latest Manufacturing Outlook report from Make UK. Overall business confidence is slightly lower than in the first quarter of 2022, but it still remains strong.

Manufacturers need to work with schools to encourage more female entrants to the engineering profession, says Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of The Women’s Engineering Society, in an interview with The Manufacturer.

“When financial pressures increase, there’s an increased risk of counterfeit goods entering supply chains. Suppliers need to work with manufacturers to guard against this, as well as to ensure that everyone gets the best value in what are tough times for all,” said RS Industry Sector Manager Richard Graham.

Transport and defence
The takeover of UK defence electronics manufacturer Ultra Electronics is set to receive government approval after US-owned buyer Cobham gave undertakings to address national security concerns.

A new £7 million logistics facility to support the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers has been officially opened in Portsmouth. The building, which will handle everything from lightbulbs to critical engine parts, is also energy self-sufficient, using solar panels to generate all its own power.

“This commitment to reduce emissions and protect the environment is highly commendable. The UK’s goal to hit net zero by 2050 is one that all sectors, including procurement, need to contribute towards,” said Greg Sharp, Industry Sector Manager at RS.