Challenges, successes and opportunities for British manufacturers caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 8 April 2021

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 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 look at challenges, successes and opportunities for British manufacturers.

Question one: What have been the biggest challenges for British manufacturing (and your own company’s challenges) during Q1 2021?

Response: The newest lockdown has made everything that little bit more difficult—but as lockdown begins to ease, things are sure to bounce back. I imagine Brexit has been a challenge for many businesses that ship outside of the UK

Made in Britain: Has #Brexit just had an impact one way?

Response: from a supply chain perspective, no, it has been two ways.

Response: Totally agree—for the past year some plastic materials have been in high demand, but that is also due to the pandemic

Made in Britain: Do you think that will settle down as we move out of restrictions and lockdown? The pandemic must have pushed the demand for plastic through the roof. Is it starting to level off?

Response: Not quite yet, we expect the wave to last a good few more months

Made in Britain: Is there going to be a massive market in recycling all these things going forward? Or will companies keep them?

Response: Perhaps in a few years, but businesses will probably hold onto them for now. The majority are made from very high-grade plastics and so have quite a long lifespan

Response: We are not yet out of the woods in terms of PPE and safety measures...I am sure we will see them in offices/premises for a long time ahead

Response: Agreed. Same with items like masks—we’ll be wearing those on public transport and in crowded spaces for quite some time yet

Response: Going to be an interesting one - some businesses with limited storage space may have to make a tough decision

Response: there are plenty of empty spaces that can be repurposed.....:) opportunities.....

Response: There are so many spare shops, offices etc that somebody will come up with something.

Response: and the general outlook is looking slightly more rosy than it has done for quite a while....

Made in Britain: When we chatted together in webinars, the conversation touched on uncertainty in the markets and a lack of bandwidth to upskill and continue to manage in a new hybrid environment that may be here to stay for quite a while. Interested to hear what others think....

Response: I think one of the biggest challenges in Q1 was the uncertainty with Brexit and the pandemic. With the additional rising material costs in Steel, all three proved challenging factors of Q1 and ultimately impacted orders due to rising costs i.e. Shipping, Raw materials etc.

Made in Britain: Has the metal price stabilised at all?

Response: No, in fact mild steel, usually a material cheaper than stainless steel, has now overtaken it to be much more costlier. It doesn't look like it's set to drop anytime soon either

Response: Totally agreeing with @ExcellMetalSpin from what I observe from our clients shipping to LatAm.

Response: It's certainly going to be a bumpy year to put it mildly, we've got our eyes glued to the raw material index

Made in Britain: what sort of % price increases have you been seeing?

Response: We've seen cases of material costs rising by as much as 40%+. We recently published an article highlighting the reasons for this price increase on our MiB newspage.

Made in Britain: That was an interesting read. 40% is considerable - that must really eat into the margins on existing contracts?

Response: It certainly will do, we encourage businesses to place their orders in now before further price hikes 

Made in Britain: So you can secure the materials now for a later time?

Response: Exactly, from our understanding, rising material costs will continue into Q2 and Q3 given the latest trends and the scarcity in shipping containers & demand at an all time high due to playing catch up from 2020's orders

Response: That's a great article - I hadn't made the link between battery materials and stainless steel before. That looks like a long-term impact.

Response: It will play a considerable role in price increases, I do think in the long term as we transition away from Petrol/Diesel vehicles to electric, that raw material prices will remain much higher than back in 2019

Response: Yes I can see that being a big factor. There are huge battery factories springing up everywhere and there will be no shortage of demand for them.

Response: The discussion on battery/electric cars is always going to be interesting, especially with the availability of what goes into electric vehicles, rare earth metals and which countries they come from.

Response: Companies that have traditionally relied on sales teams and distributors to drive revenue are now moving to a more digital-first approach with some even looking at e-commerce platforms with digital lead generation enhancing the sales teams efforts.

Made in Britain: Really interesting term "digital-first" approach - is this part of the upskilling you mentioned @MarketAccents

Response: indeed it is....adopting digital tools and looking to engage and build relationships using virtual conferencing/video tools require a different skill set. Also, most businesses were not fully maximising their digital marketing

Response: Lockdown and home-working have brought challenges and changes for all in terms of communication and team building, requiring adaptation. Brexit is the other major challenge to contend with this year - namely the huge increase in paperwork to complete! 

Response: How much extra time do you think the paperwork takes? or equally how much extra resource is needed?

Response: It could be made so much simpler with digital processes....we should campaign for this to be introduced at a faster rate.

Response: It’s hard to quantify! It’s perhaps not so much the exact time needed as much as the other key tasks which are rearranged and rejigged to allow it to be completed in a timely manner. Even a few hours a week is time which could be spent directly on company work.

Response: Is there an option to outsource some of it?

Response: Indeed, we have since introduced an administrator, keeping everything flowing smoothly - with this brings the adaptation of working with more new staff members and keeping everything holistic. It’s a challenge we have well overcome, but one we initially faced nonetheless!

Response: The main challenge I am seeing is trying to find the right balance of running and walking. There is a sense of things opening up again but so many unknowns that the risks are still in the front of minds. It's a tricky time to be planning ahead.

Response: Is there a sense that some are going to "re-open at all costs"?

Response: Yes there is a sense of that. I have come across a few cases of people opening up more quickly because they are bored/fed up of the situation - and who can blame them? It's hard to pull people back from the emotional decision and try to base it on data.

Response: Not that it should be stated in such a blunt manner during this interesting, weekly hour ... but we provide Certainty. That's our business Thumbs up ... heading back to my box now

Response: Many companies we deal with have experienced supply issues

Response: Three of our clients shipping to LatAm also having supply issues, mainly from Asia. Some even considering manufacturing in LatAm (Mexico or elsewhere)

Response: There's a double problem - one is manufacture and the second is shipping?

Response: Exactly! But it all gets build into pricing (depending on Incoterms) and if you think about it from the importer/client point of view, it's all part of the same number. Tricky. Add currency fluctuations in Latin America to the mix and boom! 

Response: Inflation of the supply chain!

Response: Have biggest challenges hit yet? Lockdowns, the vaccination programme & it's implications of life-to-come, BREXIT have all been dominatory diversions. Hindering companies looking at, or preparing for the future. Today, next month has been long-term

Response: Quite a few challenges: uncertainty and working during the pandemic being important issues. We've adapted to #wfh for most of the office staff with key essential admin people staying in the office.

Response: I've noticed our British manufacturing clients struggling more and more with freight quotes and raw materials costs (cost itself and volatility), which means pricing is tricky particularly in B2B and especially for long-term projects

Response: The biggest problem for us was and still is international travel restrictions. We currently have 2 International Sales guys who are grounded in their home countries and we've missed out on over 10 exhibitions

Response: You'll perhaps find solace in the comment that the potential for exhibitions to return to previous levels of success & significance is slim. Event organisers around the world are focused on returning exhibitors. They are not their biggest challenge ... getting visitors back is.

Response: That is very true, we've seem similar. The other aspect is that in the corporate side the delegates want to go but their companies probably won't permit it. Sponsors and Exhibitors can't get back quick enough

Made in Britain: Your market isn't particularly internet enabled if I remember correctly?

Response: A strong percentage yes. Luckily we can reach our current customers via phone and email occasionally but international marketing has drawn to a halt. We've decided to redirect our efforts, you'll see what we mean tomorrow, we have a big surprise!

Made in Britain: Now that does sound interesting. Please tag us on any news and add it to your news feed on the Made in Britain website

Response: If working in LatAm at all, go for WhatsApp! And no, it's not "personal", it's "business" here. But I get the point of missing trade shows and travel, I used to travel 12-15 times a year across LatAm on business, this whole thing needed a lot of adjustment!

Response: It is surprising how whatsApp has got into mainstream business. I see it used for many different things from Team discussions to comms during events and conferences.

Response: It's massive in Latin America, I can't explain just how much. Particularly in certain sectors where phone signal is poor or where people are out and about lots, like farming. Business = WhatsApp

Response: Interesting insight, do you think UK businesses are also adding it to their arsenal of comms? Have others in this group considered using WhatsApp too?

Response: I see UK business people still a bit timid about using WhatsApp for business since business culture there is a wee bit more formal than here. Latin Americans are very social and mix personal/business all the time, hence why WhatsApp comes so natural to us.

Response: Very interesting....many here do not trust the facebook/whatsapp connection, and while conversations still take place on whatsapp, I have seen some clients move their conversations onto other platforms such as slack, etc.

Response: To be fair, we use WhatsApp socially as a company for a group chat! Just wondering if we will need to add to our chat options as a business. 

Response: International customers almost expect to communicate by whatsapp!

Response: Love that point of view! Culture plays a big role in communications, of course

Made in Britain: do we have anyone who works with the Asian Markets or African markets....what do they prefer? I know about WeChat/Wexin ...and do you text/chat in English?

Response: No idea about other markets outside LatAm but we write in English, Spanish, Portuguese or whatever we can! It's also good for doodles, drawing, images, pictures. For work but also for the odd random personal comment that helps with team building, esp. why we can't travel.

Response: Yeah, we're not holding high hopes for the near future. Online exhibitions are gaining in popularity but in ours and plenty more industries, it's just not really worth the effort. The touch and feel of a product is really important when it comes to leather.

Response: are you seeing exhibitions planned for later on this year, here or internationally?

Response: Yes. In the UK several exhibitions are planned from July onward ... mostly in the Home&Garden sector but also in gifting. Australia, the USA & UAE have exhibitions in the flooring, housewares & furniture sector have been announced.

Response: The biggest challenge are the uncertainties' created as the Government dithers. The confluence of Brexit, Lockdown and risk in Q1, has slowed things down. Normally there is "New Year enthusiasm and drive. I think 2021 will start in Q2

Response: Like that idea Nigel, probably very true! Specially with the gradual reopening of businesses

Response: Supply chain issues, rising costs, availability of materials and endless paperwork when exporting now.

Response: International travel, home working, furlough, exchange rates etc

Response: Exchange rates is a good point, not sure anyone else raised that as a challenge. How has that affected you?

Response: Changes we made to the business in 2020 stood us in good stead going into 2021, but Brexit has meant more paperwork and the overall uncertainty has left us cautious to invest in additional staff so there has been a slight strain on administrative resources. 

Response: At what point does the uncertainty go? maybe at the point that staff costs get higher?

Response: Exactly... it's a matter of finding the right balance between too soon and not soon enough, and then finding the right people to grow with

Question two: What have been the biggest successes for British manufacturing (and your own company’s successes) during Q1 2021?

Response: The innovation, agility and support that the whole sector showed... really something to be proud of.  well done #ukmanufacturing #madeinbritiain...proud to fly the flag.

Response: Year on year, we performed much better in terms of orders, particularly the acquisition of new customers who have joined the Excell family We also placed a heavy emphasis on sharing customer stories using our services, and our social media presence has grown exponentially

Response: The market has bounced back successfully!

Response: From my attendance to this weekly 'Club', I'd say BMfg people seem to be extremely resilient, positive & creative. Perhaps the manufacturing industry in other countries is the same ... but you didn't ask about them

Response: Lack of commitment from existing customers due to uncertainty in the market #MadeInBritainHour we are hoping that things will start getting better with the ease of the lockdown

Made in Britain: Are you starting to see a little bounce back now the hospitality sector is slowly reopening?

Response: The biggest challenge are the uncertainties' created as the Government dithers. The confluence of Brexit, Lockdown and risk in Q1, has slowed things down. Normally there is "New Year enthusiasm and drive. I think 2021 will start in Q2

Response: Is that up with your pre-covid rate?

Response: Yes, very much so!

Response: We only started on social media last summer and this first quarter has seen great growth across the board for us in that respect. There are so many positive impacts on the business as a result

Made in Britain: You must never stop. Keep posting and joining the conversations. I look forward to them.

Response: The sector as a whole has been very resilient, showing how much is really made in the UK. For us, we continue to be quite busy providing enclosures for roads and highways!

Response: A great company success has been securing valuable new orders and customers through opportunities gained as a result of increased activity online and through social media! It makes us proud to operate in such a thriving industry

Response: We've provided solutions to companies of all sizes to help them adapt to the currant climate with their packaging. The EV industry, particularly the midlands - has been really impressive!

Made in Britain: Do you see the EV industry continue to grow in the Midlands?

Response: Definitely. @LondonEVCompany's new range and the rumored @AutomobiliRimac R&D centre in Coventry look promising next to @JaguarUK

Response: A great achievement we are proud of in Q1 in particular is the introduction of TikTok to help raise brand awareness. Our videos have reached upwards of 500k views, and we have firmly established a #MetalSpinning hashtag on the platform for users of all ages to learn more about us.

Response: For us its been the continued global focus on improving the hygiene of products.  Our technology has also proven successful against the #sarscov2 virus that causes #Covid19 so many clients have put their products containing @Biomaster through the ISO testing

Made in Britain: Are you seeing demand continue to increase? The need for hygiene will always be there

Response: Yes definitely. Many unregistered pop-up technologies are now struggling as they can’t make the claims they want to. As Biomaster is globally registered it has far more credibility and longevity for new product development @MadeinBritainGB certainly enhances our credibility too

Response: Is it also related to what we discussed last week, being associated with some big names who use it brings in more big names?

Response: Possibly - especially as the technology becomes more globally recognised

Response: UK manufacturing has been shown to be resilient, innovative and a byword for quality. Able to rise to the challenge of Brexit, Covid-19 (and all that entails) by being able to adapt and bounce back quickly.

Response: Adaptation to new ways of working has been swift and successful. Sector communities like #MadeinBritainHour collaborating, has helped in these changes. Learned digital skills, will continue to be used with Face to face enhancing the conversations.

Response: Resilience, adaptability & trusting staff to offer them more freedom in their roles

Response: Seeing more business returning to our shores with £multi million investment, which will help employment and businesses in the supply chain

Response: In terms of our own company, we've recently just completed our move from Bootle to Aintree into a new 22,000 sqft factory. In terms of manufacturing, I'd have to just emphasize @ExcellMetalSpin

Response: Despite the media doom and gloom we’ve seen lots of manufacturing clients looking to recruit and grow

Response: The industry seems to be booming compared to last year when everything almost ground to a halt. Our own successes include receiving more enquiries to work with us and stock our products than ever before 

Made in Britain: That's really encouraging news. We've seen this across many sectors with our Made in Britain members

Question three: What are the biggest challenges for British manufacturing for the next part of 2021?

Response: A slight repeat from our answer from Q1. I think we will be forced to meander through more red tape for businesses who trade with the EU and take on the chin rising material costs

Response: Have you looked at markets outside the EU?

Response: Yes, in fact, we're working with our ITA who we're due to meet again next month as we look to further afield marketplaces Our work as British 'Artisans' is seen as very attractive in places as far as the middle east

Response: Is the metal price rising in other countries too, e.g. china?

Response: In short yes, demand for raw material stemmed in the far east and having a ripple effect across local markets

Response: rising at the same rate? just thinking about how prices will have to rise because of the raw materials and whether that might make the price differential between countries greater

Response: I still imagine China will benefit from lower costs in raw materials than say the UK, simply down to the fact that transport is much short (China provide 50%+ of the world's steel supply).

Response: I agree...unfortunately

Made in Britain: Is this a short-term issue?

Response: This issue we foresee until at least Q3 of 2021. Our understanding is that steel mills have only just finished orders placed in November 2020, due to the impact of shutting down steel mills to reflect the conditions of last year

Response: Interesting. Is it a time lag issue with a return to local mills on the cards in Q3?

Response: Potentially, and the container shortages due to demand for various reasons i.e. shipping of PPE, vaccinations etc

Response: It very much depends on which sector their customers are in. If you supply the car industry ... volumes are & will stay down. If you supply into the #homeandgarden sector capacity & availability will be a challenge... you're gonna need a bigger boat!

Response: Agreed!

Response: Do you think the home and garden sector will continue to grow? didn't it peak during lockdowns?

Response: No. Once the spending surge is ignored & the industry stops referring to the 'Boom' they will come to understand that this is a permanent shift in the prioritising of disposable incomes. Homes will become bars, gyms, resorts, restaurants, schools, offices etc

Response: There was a peak in Lockdown since then many more people have been introduced to the joys of gardening and growing food. 

Response: It always peaks in a downturn or lockdown! As do beauty products and food

Response: Any company in this sector that is not planning for a permanent uplift in consumer activity ... is planning to miss out on one of the biggest shifts in spending in recent times.

Response: Interests definitely rose in March/April/May of 2020 - and we haven't really seen a decline since then.

Response: As mentioned in Q1, Brexit will be on everyone's mind as it continues to affect supply chains. Also, the success of the vaccine rollout and what this means in terms of reopening the UK -- success in the summer, for some, might depend upon this.

Response: I think that finding skilled staff to fill new positions will present an issue this year. Apprenticeships are good for the future. Short term skill shortages will present problems for fast growing companies

Response: Investing in digital and green technologies, more agile supply chains, developing and retaining talent, the impact of Brexit and the continued concerns around the pandemic.

Response: Supply chain and market!

Response: One of the challenges going forward in 2021 will be how we deal with the new ways of working that we've adapted to during the pandemic. I think it will all be very mixed & flexible and that too will have knock-on effects for the wider economy as well

Response: #Brexit and how quickly there will be confidence in businesses to spend

Response: There is a BIG discussion to be had about when "uncertainty" is removed.....

Response: Yes, absolutely ! We need confidence quick ! 

Response: if we see more orders coming in, and market demand growing....that should boost confidence in the sector...

Response: From what I have seen, these 3 things will feature in det'g co's resilience & growth: 1) access to resources (finance, process inputs & skills); 2) market presence (online, EU & global); 3) innovation (pricing, automation, JIT, op cost redn, product dev't).

Made in Britain: How advanced is Britain with your 3rd point - innovation?

Response: With #climatechange being something on everyones mind and #brexit many businesses are looking at #local sourcing and we do fantastic #manufacturing in #UK !

Question four: What opportunities are there for British manufacturers for the next part of 2021?

Response: With the government scheme of investing in new technology / machinery, there is certainly an opportunity to improve or expand business capabilities within Factories 

Made in Britain: Do you think businesses will take up the opportunity?

Response: I do think so, if not for the reason of expansion, but to improve efficiency and help maintain a competitive edge We have some good news to announce later this year, we're finalising our plans and hope to a press release made 

Response: Yes, we have, mostly to improve efficiency and become more competitive in our industry

Response: Increased productivity, digitalisation, sustainability and smarter supply chains.

Response: From our point of view the push toward #NetZero will bring about new opportunities. Specially in the #EV market - cars, buses, EV infrastructure, electrical grid infra, etc. Lots for the manufacturing sector to help with!

Response: Are you affected by material prices?

Response: Our main material is stainless steel and we will be affected. As a rule we try to put contingencies in place as best as possible

Response: Industry 4.0 is just around the corner for many. Opportunities to go digital, expand; make advancements toward new technology, equipment and more streamlined processes

Response: Makes me wonder if we'll see increased acquisitions & consolidation - vertical integrations up & down the supply chain, or horizontal to acquire innovation & move into new markets...

Response: Do we count adapting to digital as an opportunity as well? I think there might be more to explore there as the boom in ecommerce could help manufacturers too. What do we think

Response: we cannot ignore is more than an opportunity. The borders have changed and digital is a platform that crosses those borders.

Response: Is this where some of the older/smaller/traditional businesses may need significant help?

Response: it would open up their markets and present more opportunities for them to collaborate and reach a larger market would not be only digital but a hybrid approach.

Response: I have advised several businesses gain international markets through the internet. Planning is important and getting the right strategy. Manufacturers can reach new audiences for their products

Response: Securing and stabilising shorter supply chains will be a great opportunity for manufacturers. Growing demand from outside the EU will open up new markets for UK manufacturers. The UK is hot news for suppliers and buyers around the world at the moment.

Response: Yes Nigel, add climate change and carbon footprint to the list as well

Response: Life over the past year has hopefully given many the confidence to ... Be Brave, Be their Best Version, Be Innovative, Be Leading ... Be Better for themselves, their customers and the wider world.

Response: Whilst maintaining our politically neutral stance as a company, we have noticed a shift in rhetoric amongst political parties There has been an emphasis of supporting and 'buying British' from the two main parties, which in itself could potentially provide further opportunities

Response: I agree. There may even be more of it as restrictions lift.

Response: Certainly, the most recent announcement was that of defence contracts staying with local manufacturers rather than abroad, This of course will benefit SMEs like ourselves who can provide vital supplies/components needed for various applications in the defence industry

Response: From my experience in Latin America, opportunities in agritech, energy, defence/emergencies/security, digital, ecommerce, logistics, education/training

Response: As digital and e-commerce continue to grow they open up more opportunities to reach international markets.

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.

By Made in Britain 6 months ago | Made in Britain news

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