Are COVID and Brexit still impacting British manufacturing?

That’s the topic we’ve caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 26 August 2021.

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #MadeinBritainHour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 21,000 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited but most have been left in their casual Twitter style.

This week we discuss the ongoing effects of COVID and Brexit.

Question one: Are COVID/Brexit still impacting the availability of human resource for British manufacturers? How easy is it to fill vacancies?

Response: Related to Covid: what about the "pingdemic", obliging "pingees" to isolate? It was running at over half a million taken out of the workforce every week. At least 3 pubs/bars in Salisbury had to shut/operate reduced hours because of it. Manufacturers?

Response: Covid seems to be impacting staff reliability as well, although more because of illness and isolation rather than unemployment. Is this impacting any of your operations?

Response: Apprenticeships are tricky to support in our line of work because a certain amount of knowledge and experience in #productdesign is required, at degree level for example. Covid and Brexit hasn't impacted on availability of product designers

Made in Britain: Longer term are we going to see more 'qualified' but not experienced individuals given the record numbers going to University this year?

Response: Yes

Response: We would say so, yes.

Made in Britain: Long way off and be interesting to see if all degree courses are running at record levels or whether some are more popular than others

Response: We work with and mentor interns and there are plenty of students looking for internships. They are obviously short term, but can help to fill in gaps.

Response: Having heard from a few fellow manufacturers, yes. Obvious example is HGV drivers which has been widely reported on Other more niche roles, in manufacturing have always been difficult to fill vacancies even before the pandemic and Brexit

Made in Britain: HGV drivers seems to be an issue across the board at the moment. What about the less niche roles? are they easy to fill?

Response: Take Metal Spinning for example, extremely hard to find skilled workers within the UK Although we're mitigating this through apprenticeships, it is undoubtedly a difficult task to find talent on our shores

Response: That's a key consideration for many manufacturers now - invest in the future through apprenticeships: how easy is it to line these up?

Response: We've generated a lot of interest and we currently have three new apprentices joining the team (one apprentice is already part of the team)

Made in Britain: How long is an apprenticeship in metal spinning?

Response: Dependent on the level they start the apprenticeship it can take up to a maximum of 3 years

Response: Yes, very much so. We have advertised for the jobs but the skills are the problem

Made in Britain: is that where going back to grassroots and apprenticeships is a good option like @ExcellMetalSpin spoke about?

Response: Yes, we have been looking into apprentices with our local college

Response: There are pros and cons, You benefit from a younger workforce sustaining the future of the company & keeping skills going (Excell's av. age is 10yrs below industry av.) But it is costly & sometimes not a viable option for when you need certain skills & experience straight away

Made in Britain: Does that limit capacity then? and does an apprentice only at a small % increase in FTE as someone has to work with the apprentice?

Response: It does to a certain degree (apprentices will spend one day a week studying theory-based activities i.e. HSE etc.) So capacity is limited in that respect. However, apprentices learning the trade support the FTE workforce by providing extra manpower

Response: Yes, but it’s a long term gain for a short term pain

Response: Both may be having an impact - people are more reluctant to change jobs due to uncertainty.

Made in Britain: Do you see that as the critical factor - it is the lack of people wanting to change? how do you overcome that?

Response: To overcome, the job offer needs to meet and exceed the candidates' core values. No longer is a high salary the drive to change job.

Response: Have to agree with you here. It's not all about the salary anymore, people want to be working in companies that has similar set of values to them.

Made in Britain: Do you think some people's approach to career/work may have changed as a result of the last 18 months? e.g. home working

Response: Without a doubt! Lockdown made many rethink their approach to work and home life.

Made in Britain: Will be interesting to see how permanent these changes are. It may slowly return to what it was. Does this mean that candidates have a bit more power in the negotiation and choice of job?

Response: Very much so!

Response: There are no available worker/ staff in Cornwall!

Made in Britain: How long has that been going on for? is that COVID or Brexit related do you think?

Response: Several factors down here. Brexit has removed all the european labour that worked in hospitality. Peeps used to come down and live in cheap digs from up country- now cant because of airbnb. So local workforce is spread thinner. No incoming replacements. So covid + brexit + tourism means everything is pulled this way and that.

Made in Britain: will that level out a bit after the summer holidays do you think?

Response: We are assuming that once furlough finally stops. Things *might* get back to normal?

Question two: How different are the in-person conferences, shows and expos that are starting to return compared to pre-pandemic?

Response: We have future plans to attend and even run a stall at a trade show (something we've never done before), it would be great to get a metal spinning lathe (encased with a protective screen) to demonstrate in real-time the process

Made in Britain: How soon would you attend one? would you need convincing first of numbers of attendees?

Response: It would certainly be something we would need to factor in for sure
Made in Britain: I think show/event organisers selling exhibition stand space need to come up with some creative packages for exhibitors to mitigate low attendees. Even something like book this year and get next year for half price.

Response: That's a great idea

Response: Face to face is always preferable however as there are different perspectives on risk it may be some time until everyone starts to attend again

Made in Britain: Did you previously attend in-person trade shows/expos etc?

Response: Yes we did. Addmaster will be exhibiting at Packaging Innovation in September in London, so that's our first exhibition since lockdown

Made in Britain: if things return to normal do you think you will do more/less or the same as before? given the learning of being without them

Response: Probably same as before as long as we can justify the cost

Response: Do you think show organisers may need to drop exhibitor prices/offer incentives to rebuild these in-person events?

Response: For sure. exhibitor and sponsorship incentives as well as for attendees

Response: The attendees is the key factor, that may be the harder one to incentivise especially for free events?

Response: We're exhibiting at our first post-covid exhibition in Sept & are looking forward to seeing customers again! The event is covid safe & visitors must show vax status/neg test to enter which may put some visitors off, but it needs to be safe! We're hopeful it'll be a great event!

Response: From the printing side of things. Not many orders as before. Some customers have migrated to digital technology, they take your email and send you info you require by email

Response: We are yet to attend any so I'd be interested to hear about others' experiences

Made in Britain: That's why we have raised the question as we're hearing the footfall is considerably lower which may mean a much lower RoI for exhibitors/sponsors

Response: We haven't done any (apart from a few small breakfast mornings), so, we'll be watching to see how events and expos go before committing to ones in 2022

Made in Britain: So you wouldn't attend anything for the remainder of '21 other than the smaller meetings?

Response: That's the plan, yes. Not to say that if an opportunity came up, we wouldn't consider it, but we made the decision at the beginning of 2021 to concentrate our efforts more on channels we can control (Digital) rather than deal with the uncertainty and risk of big live events.

Made in Britain: Have you questioned the RoI from big events now you've been without them for a considerable amount of time?

Response: Of course, and we always had great success at trade shows like @Elexshow. We look forward to returning again when it's right for our business.

Response: We've yet to attend any, but some of the team will be visiting PPMA. It will be interesting to see how things return - exciting to see people in person again!

Made in Britain: Are you expecting a lower Return on Investment from these in the short term?

Response: It's hard to estimate. It all depends on who turns up on the day. Exhibitions aren't just about ROI, building connections is also important.

Made in Britain: Absolutely agree. what is the expression "got to be in it to win it"?

Response: We would like to return to exhibitions as historically that's been a great way to meet potential new clients in growth areas like #agritech. I think you have to be realistic and accept that initially ROI will be lower but I am confident this won't be forever. 

Made in Britain: there is an interesting angle on this in that some of these trade shows need to be supported to keep going. It is chicken and egg with exhibitors and attendees?

Response: Yes definitely is. I think there may be a time now where businesses are reticent but in the longer term I think demand for these events will become what they once were.

Response: I agree with you. we just need to get through the next year and hope that confidence returns in conferences and face to face events.

Response: I think for B2B sales, people like the face to face experience, far more personable compared to a video call.

Question three: Are shipping/transport delays/availability having any impact on British manufacturing?

Response: Yes, for many like ourselves, it's actually impacting costs on new machinery, and even raw materials as they now have to absorb the increased cost of shipping

Response: Yes, we've noticed a difference. Longer lead times having a knock-on effect.

Response: Yes, costs of transport as well as lack of truck drivers

Response: What is the real reason behind the lack of truck drivers?

Response: So for me of it is due to Brexit and some COVID

Response: Some of our international suppliers close during the summer (it varies, country to country) & overlaid with Brexit, different custom regs & paperwork (for both import/export) has raised challenges, but our team has prepared for this for many months so we are able to meet demand.

Made in Britain: That sort of planning takes time so it is great to hear it has worked for you. How are you finding shipping outwards for your products?

Response: We use an excellent freight forwarding, importing, & exporting company local to us who provide us with 24/7 support - from securing our products into containers, help with paperwork, export advice, the list is endless

Response: Yes we have certainly noticed this with some of our clients who offshore their manufacturing

Made in Britain: What impact is it having on them?

Response: Parts mainly. They are struggling to get hold of parts which is halting their product development.

Made in Britain: and what will be the consequence of that longer term?

Response: Yes it certainly does. We now do a lot more sourcing in the UK than abroad, which had an impact on our costs overall.

Response: Oh yes definitely, only this morning the Haulier (which was Booked well over a week ago) to collect from us had to delay due to lack of staff !!! Also our Supplies are taking much longer to get to us , delivery charges going through the roof

Made in Britain: how are your customers being about delays in you shipping to them? your plastics aren't perishable but some businesses must be doubly impacted?

Response: Well it can cause issues for our Customer as it impacts them

Made in Britain: will you build in more contingencies if this continues?

Response: Some contracts we cannot as we are supplying over a couple of years

Question four: Are the ways of working returning to how they were pre-pandemic? Locations, meetings etc. 

Response: We have some full-time staff at LINIAN HQ, but most of the team are doing a hybrid model, working from home 2-3 days per week. Approx 90% of meetings are still online.

Response: Yes for us again now too. Furloughed staff have returned and fortunately, our clients are beginning to look towards the future with a bit more confidence which obviously means we can too! Due to the international nature of our work we are well versed in video conferencing etc.

Response: I have a few external onsite meetings coming up, which is exciting in itself!

Response: Video calls have really helped to reduce the environmental impact for sure, but it's not quite the same as seeing someone in person.

Response: Yes, I agree. Some meetings need to be done face to face

Response: Home working seems to be far more acceptable now, and businesses seem to be putting together working at home policies

Made in Britain: home working also has an additional benefit of attracting talent - gets over the geographic restriction of an office?

Response: Yes, location is less of a barrier - one of our team (me - Louise) recently spent 2 months working from home while visiting family over in Ireland. 

Response: We are slowly returning back to pre-pandemic. The team are back in the office and we are having external meetings. We are still encouraging hand cleaning and if feeling unwell to work from home etc.

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We tend not to edit the contributor's Twitter-speak text so if anybody would like to understand this better, email editor@madeinbritain.org and I will try to get a clearer explanation.

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #MadeinBritainHour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

This page has links to all the previous Twitter conversations we have 'caught in the net': CLICK HERE.

By Made in Britain 3 weeks ago | Made in Britain news

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