Economies around the world rely on manufacturing, and as the industry advances with the use of computer vision iot and robotic machinery, it can only grow more. UK manufacturing alone contributes 6.7 trillion to the global economy – impressive stats for a country that is dwarfed in size by other nations.

On the global stage, does UK manufacturing hold its own? In this article, process manufacturing software provider, Datawright compares the UK’s productivity against the world’s manufacturing heavyweights.

The UK

The most recent manufacturing data from the House of Commons Briefing Paper shows that the UK is in 9th position in terms of countries with the highest manufacturing output globally. While ranking 9th out of 237 countries is still a strong position to be in, it still shows a decrease from previous years. Between 1970 and 2004, the UK’s rank generally stayed around 5th and 6th position.

Worth $247 billion in 2014, the UK’s manufacturing output equates to $3,800 per head. However, the per-head figure does not provide an accurate point of comparison due to populations varying between countries. In total, manufacturing accounted for 11% the UK’s national economic output, and 3% of global manufacturing.


Totalling $1.9 trillion, China was the global leader in terms of manufacturing output in 2014. Eclipsing the UK’s humble 11%, manufacturing makes up 28% of the country’s entire national output. On a global scale, this contributes 19% – almost one fifth – to world manufacturing.

The manufacturing output per head stands at $1,400. Although significantly lower than the UK, this difference is a result of China’s large population – approximately 1.37 billion. China manufactures most of the world’s consumer goods such as electronics and textiles.

United States

The US trailed behind China in manufacturing output, with $1.9 trillion. However, despite the similarities between these totals, the United States output-per-head breakdown is significantly higher at $5,700 – a result of America’s smaller population size.

Even though the US shares the same percentage of world manufacturing as China (19%), the country’s national output is made up of just 12% manufacturing. Whereas China’s output was more than double at 28%, this stark difference shows how manufacturing is less of a priority to the United States’ economy.

Much of what the US produces are used specifically by the US such as automobiles, stainless steel rectangle tubing, aerospace technologies, and petroleum based products.


With just over $1 trillion, Japan has secured third place. Per head, this equates to $7,900. In total, Japan’s manufacturing efforts make up 19% of the country’s national output, and 10% of the worldwide output. The country specialises in computers, semiconductors, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, bioindustry, shipbuilding, and aerospace components.


Germany ranks in fourth. Despite being significantly ahead of fifth place company South Korea, Germany is considerably behind Japan in terms of manufacturing output. Compared to Japan’s $1 trillion, Germany’s manufacturing output is more than $300 billion less, at $680 billion.

This figure equate to $8,400 per head. Overall, manufacturing makes up 23% of Germany’s national output and 7% of the global total.

Smaller countries, bigger output?

Although the world’s largest countries occupy the top spots, there is a high dependence on manufacturing in smaller regions. For example, Turkmenistan and Nauru national outputs stand at 38% and 37% respectively, illustrating how dependent developing economies are on manufacturing.