Challenges and opportunities for British manufacturers

That’s the topic we’ve caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 2 September 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 challenges and opportunities for British manufacturers.

Question one: What are the current biggest challenges for British manufacturing?

Response: There are a number of facets that challenge #UKmfg Finding good employees, Sourcing raw materials and sub assembly suppliers, Complying with ever changing legislation, Finding sales, Delivery UK/International. Each has a solution, investment is required.

Response: Agree with you here @NigelTPacker apart from sales. We've had possibly our best year yet with regards to sales numbers.

Response: Some sectors are seeing massive growth I read an article regarding Dragons den. All those pitching said they would manufacture their products in Far East. Few had been to the trouble of looking at UK based manufacturers.

Made in Britain: And how many of them have considered the risks associated with that? as we discussed the other week.

Response: That is what I was thinking as I read it. The fashion of offshoring has become "the way to do things" With all that has happened this last 18 months I would have thought they would be looking at setting Mfg in the UK 

Made in Britain: You do wonder with Dragons Den whether those pitching just think they can tap into the existing Dragon supply network. Just need a new Dragon who champions British manufacturing?

Response: Quite agree. Had a discussion with a colleague about going on the show. I said I did not want a great deal of money from the Dragons I just wanted access to their network

Response: sometimes a revisit of processes can deliver great savings. I was at a manufacturing plant yesterday and they have managed to achieve great successes through reprocessing and an increase in automation

Response: FMEA is an excellent process to identify cost reduction, if applied correctly. go through the process and ask Can we speed this up? Can it be made simpler? Can we reduce cost? 

Response: Indeed. Find ways to cut out unnecessary processes and costs. Look for tech to assist where possible

Response: interesting isn't it, you can automate all you like but if you can't get the raw materials....

Made in Britain: Will high material prices accelerate investment in automation or will manufacturers wait and see what happens before significant investments?

Response: It seems to be the cost of raw materials increasing, lack of availability for some materials/parts and delayed/longer deliveries IF you can source required materials/parts

Made in Britain: What is the root cause of the materials problem do you think?

Response: I think that some suppliers are ensuring that they can distribute within their domestic market before looking to export due to the new legislations and paperwork etc involved with Brexit...

Made in Britain: Does that work in Britain's favour if the suppliers are British? or do they put the price up as well? or have we become too dependent on Europe?

Response: Talent acquisition, finding experienced, skilled workers is increasingly difficult especially those eligible to work within the UK now

Made in Britain: How is the material prices for you

Response: We've seen less emails informing us of price increases, but it is still very high nevertheless

Made in Britain: so it is possibly stabilising a little?

Response: Fingers crossed, we've hopefully seen the worst of it, I think the next few months will be key to ultimately deciding how 2022 will look in terms of raw material prices

Response: Supply chain issues with parts as well as increased shipping costs have posed significant challenges 

Made in Britain: What sort of % increase are you seeing in shipping costs?

Response: Shipping costs from Asia have risen from £2,500 to £9,00 per container and delays are common, we and our sister @InkNeedham are having to fly raw materials in. But of course this cost then has to be shared with the customer to ensure they receive goods in a timely manner

Made in Britain: How do you deal with that increase? take the hit? increase prices?

Response: We have had to share the increased costs with our customers

Made in Britain: Are they accepting of it?

Response: Some of the price increases have only gone live in the last week so it’s hard to make an assessment, but we try to keep increases as low as we can to ensure we continue to do what we do best. As it’s across the board, you’d hope it would be accepted.

Made in Britain: How long do you think it will be before you realise whether it has an effect or not?

Response: In our case huge price increases in raw materials and shortages, not being able to book Hauliers in time !

Made in Britain: Which raw materials in particular? and are they still increasing in price?

Response: Shortages of plastics also Packaging and things such as pallets !! Prices increasing all the time

Response: What sort of packaging do you use? How difficult is it to get materials, let alone the cost of it?

Response: Polymers are increasing in price and some are 50% dearer, stretch wrap and bags

Response: Are there genuine shortages? or is it profiteering because of the perception of shortages? 

Response: No it is genuine

Made in Britain: Is this UK specific or does this shortage extend beyond these shores?

Response: Worldwide i think

Made in Britain: I know timber is in short supply but that is due to issues such as climate. What about plastics? what is the reason behind that?

Response: Plants closed and maintenance

Response: Is it the traditional time to do Maintenance? 

Made in Britain: are you expecting price/availability to become more favourable in the near term?

Response: Raw materials!

Question two: Will the fact that the UK is hosting the COP26 Climate Change Conference motivate British manufacturers to strive for net-zero and sustainability?

Response: I tend to agree with @NigelTPacker (again) that most have more pressing issues to deal with and see it more as a feather in their cap if they can comply and get those boxes ticked.

Response: Hopefully it will educate manufacturers about sustainability and how important it is to take action and make changes.

Response: It is a hard one to read. Many do not know what COP26 is. They have a lot of other issues to deal with at the moment so it may be down to Greenwashing. Tick the boxes we can and get on with the business. 

Response: Greenwashing is extremely infuriating!

Response: Many claim to be green, if you drill down through supply chains then it exposes much hypocrisy. Many green claims have greater environmental issues. If monies were spent on reducing impact of current power sources we would have sorted this out years ago

Made in Britain: How would we define greenwashing?

Response: Greenwashing - misleading the audience into believing a company is more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

Made in Britain: Any examples of how they do this?

Response: Flying hundreds of people around the world to talk about Climate.

Response: I think a lexicon of terms should be established. Proper independent unbiased scientific research into the whole issue.

Made in Britain: Do Manufacturers need to be shown the benefits to their business of embracing net zero and sustainability rather than being preached to?

Response: It never does any harm to revisit your production process to reduce the impact it has on the environment. Especially if it reduces your running cost. We are all being beaten by the stick and not shown any carrots. 

Response: They have to be careful, flying so many people in from all around the world in jets. To discuss things that can be done on Zoom. They do not seem to worry about their carbon footprint. 

Response: That has been raised by a few people, and they don't fly on full planes either - private jets etc

Response: I'm not sure it will, although I do feel the government net zero targets have put in motion a thought process to begin looking internally as to how business can be more sustainable / greener

Made in Britain: is Net Zero the best term? Someone said you be net zero by pumping loads of CO2 out and paying to have trees planted?

Response: Probably not, there's always going to be some element of emission from machinery

Made in Britain: Goes back to the greenwashing mentioned by others earlier?

Response: Agreed, I think reducing your carbon footprint would be the best term, as there's steps you could take to improve it, but unless you can capture noise, energy, heat etc. from process there's always an element of waste / pollution

Made in Britain: I think that is a key point - everybody starts by making small changes to what they already do

Response: Hopefully, it will start to make more manufacturers think about their actions and put plans into action. We feel that in our market (dairy, food and bev) there is a current drive into more sustainable options, and ways to save energy/wastage which in theory can reduce costs and increase production.

Response: There's definitely a 'movement' towards Sustainability. I thinks the full scale of what it means is missed by most. I'm not sure offsetting your CO2 cuts it.

Question three: Has it become easier to sell to the government and public sector over the last couple of years and to find tender opportunities with them?

Response: It is always harder to tender for public contracts if you are small. The criteria and box ticking makes it an expensive process and there are no guarantees. For those interested sign up to… for notifications to contracts.

Response: From our experience, not really and the tenders they promote require complete solutions (difficult if you are a supplier of components for sub assemblies). You would need to find a group of specialised manufacturers to work together on projects Gov requires

Made in Britain: Does that mean that the bigger companies have more success with this? where they either do it themselves or have the resource to combine suppliers into a single bid?

Response: Yes I would say so, plus they have a workforce dedicated to this field of procurement SMEs may struggle in this area, although large manufacturers may still source components from specialist SMEs if they don't have the means to do it themselves in house

Made in Britain: SMEs can come off quite badly there because the main contract might be low margin and so this squeezes other margins on suppliers?

Response: I suppose it depends on what specialist work is required. Suppliers can have a greater level of bargaining power, especially if there aren't many businesses around to supply what they're after Unless they go abroad in which costs are incurred i.e. transport, fuel etc.

Response: wonder how many contracts do go abroad?

Response: I'm not sure myself This could be wishful thinking, but tenders like this I think require a number of specialist SMEs to sit together to find a solution and agree on a share of the contract (could be in proportion to the level of involvement)

Response: Perhaps the MiB directory could prove useful (gov tenders sent to MiB) Mfgs who could help who are MiB members could then get in touch with one another and begin discussions from that point on

Made in Britain: That is always going to be the challenge with contract listings/request for tenders. Those buying want the one-stop-shop as it is easier. Unfortunately the effort to coordinate a tender often pushes it to the bigger companies set up for it

Response: Very true!

Response: I don't think so, as @ExcellMetalSpin said, they tend to want end-to-end solutions that not all manufacturers can provide with teaming up if possible.

Response: so these favour the bigger companies (and not necessarily British ones?)

Made in Britain: I have seen it for the last 20 years in Wales. Contracts awarded to big London based companies who sub contract to local companies who cub contract to free lancers. The last get the least after the other have taken their "Management Fees"

Question four: How easy is it to sell to overseas governments and find tender opportunities with them?

Response: We haven't sold to foreign governments but we have sold to foreign companies and we enlisted the help of the DIT and found them to be a great help. It was relatively painless. As @ExcellMetalSpinsaid I should imagine foreign governments would be harder than our own..?

Response: We have managed to sell to Government projects around the World, first one was in 2009 to Hong Kong

Response: It's probably just as, if not more difficult for similar reasons at home Although I've no experience in that area, I'm sure the DIT or your local ITA could help in that field

Response: I agree. I would ask the DIT for assistance here for sure, also the chambers in that country.


We tend not to edit the contributor's Twitter-speak text so if anybody would like to understand this better, email 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 2 years ago | By Made in Britain

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