UK Defence Manufacturing: Collaboration to deliver in a competitive age

Joining forces to ensure war fighter advantage.

Technological advances in communications, cyberspace and space are changing the character of warfare. Deploying advanced defence and security technologies like—next generation integrated air and missile defence, advanced hypersonics and modernised all-domain command and control systems—are critical to ensure war fighter advantage.

To deliver defence technology faster than emerging threats, many defence manufacturing companies are embracing outside support for engineering services, manufacturing and supply chain activities. A partner like Plexus can complement their teams at any stage of the product lifecycle and help deliver UK content with the speed and reliability they—and those in the field—are counting on. It’ll also help with balancing legacy and next-gen demands.

The top 4 challenges facing defence manufacturing companies.

1. Accelerating defence innovation.

Global command & control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision navigation and more. Connecting land, sea and air into cyber and space can deliver battle-winning technology. However, the UK’s historic technology advantage is increasingly being challenged. Defence innovation needs to accelerate to sustain strategic advantage and respond to the MoD’s modernisation agenda. Developers must work smarter, not just faster.

Through decades of working with innovators in defence and military product design, we’ve identified a four step process to bring emerging defence technologies to market quickly:

  1. Build an integrated and agile project team
  2. Proactive supply chain management
  3. Rely on flexible and quality focused manufacturing solutions
  4. Make sure you have your regulatory compliance covered

New defence technology must adapt to the changing environment. Choosing the right partner avoids complex sourcing, technical engineering and volume manufacturing challenges that could slow you down or worse, stop your technology from reaching the field.


2. Security of supply for defence technology equipment.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has driven a jump in demand for defence technology equipment and it’s estimated that production will take years to match this. Earlier this year, the MoD reiterated its commitment to increasing weapon stockpiles and spares, thereby increasing capabilities currently in service. Work to accelerate the resilience of the UKs defence systems and capabilities is under way.

Defence contractors need to look at existing products to make sure they can continue delivering them to market, even while faced with material shortages. In the past, it might have been possible just to buy more parts. But today, no amount of money or leverage can get parts that simply aren’t available.

Proactive supply chain management such as DRIVE, our industry-leading supply chain predictive analytics solution, can deliver security of supply. It predicts supply chain risks before they appear, avoiding delays before they happen. Allowing time to look for alternates or even potentially redesign a product to incorporate new, more widely available parts. Ultimately it’s about keeping production flowing and fulfilling demand.


3. Delivering Social Value.

While the industry faces challenges across the range of sustainability considerations, three areas present the most difficulty within defence manufacturing: net zero, diversity, and supply chains. You need a partner that demonstrates commitment to delivering in these areas. Beyond the announcements of overarching targets, defence manufacturing companies need to take a closer look at their products, operations, suppliers and even customers to ensure their operations are as sustainable as they can be.

From a product perspective, adopting a Design for Environment methodology from the start is ideal, particularly to reduce scope 3 emissions. However, it’s possible to identify opportunities to reduce waste and emissions at any stage of a product’s lifecycle. Taking advantage of a partner’s expertise and solutions in this area, can help you to make strategic choices and lessen the environmental impact of each product.


4. Accessing the right talent.

According to the IET, 49% of engineering businesses are experiencing difficulties recruiting workers with the skills they need. This problem won’t be solved overnight. Greater focus on STEM, links with universities and schools as well as diversity and inclusion programs are required to cultivate an environment that will retain, attract and widen the talent pool available and ultimately support defence product development.

Choosing to outsource can provide either burst support to cover a specific need, such as redesigning an existing product or a represent a long-term strategy where your partner becomes an extension of your own team to reduce your time to market. It allows you to move past talent shortages. Finding a partner that has the right culture when it comes to diversity, inclusion and talent development will support your sustainability efforts.


Outsourcing defence product development - opt for the right partner to overcome these challenges.

We’ve strategically located our engineering and manufacturing facilities in key regions throughout the world. Whether you need a UK based solution to supply the Ministry of Defence, the UK national security services – or bring a mission-critical product to market while reducing its carbon footprint, we have you covered in Scotland. We’re more than the UK’s largest contract electronics manufacturer. Our Livingston site is home to our innovative Design Centre and rapid prototyping capabilities and our Kelso site provides New Product Introduction (NPI), Manufacturing and Sustaining Services. As part of a global team of more than 25,000 individuals, our Scottish team includes over 500 experts. We’ll get you to market on time, and are focused on getting the details right for you, because we know what it takes for you to be the best.

Outsourcing can provide a solution for defence product development. Allowing defence manufacturing companies to navigate the challenges the sector is facing. A decision of this magnitude isn’t made lightly, but with the right partner in place, it can ensure ongoing success and deliver a competitive advantage.

Contact our team.

Ready to learn more? Share your information and our team will be in touch.