How British manufacturing will return to normal

That’s the topic we’ve caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 1 July 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 how we’ll all get back to normal.

Question one: What impact will the easing of restrictions and the ‘return to normal’ have on British manufacturers?

Response: Wow, big question!!! Off the bat I will go with the reopening of alternative route to market (RTM) channels.

Made in Britain: It is a big question and interesting you mention RTM, maybe this may be nation by nation?

Response: Are you talking about the devolved nations or beyond?

Made in Britain: Both

Response: Tbh I cannot say with any certainty - there has been so much confusion I am at a loss by what it all means. I'm not even entirely sure what's in our remit even today!

Made in Britain: That's actually a really valid point, it almost needs a member of staff in each business to be able to keep up-to-date with the changing restrictions and the impact to the business.

Response: 100%

Response: Hopefully improved supply chains! Shortages in materials have been a nightmare over the past 18-months to two years, but as more of the world reopens fully, we should see slightly improved supply times 

Made in Britain: Do you think part of the returning to normal and the issues with materials/supply chains may include businesses looking to mitigate risks if this all happens again?

Response: Fingers crossed supply chains improve for materials but that the price increases subside!! Material prices are changing daily!!

Response: The use of technology will continue to increase to avoid risk to employees. As confidence increases we may see an improvement in business events, training and other face to face activities. There are still many who are afraid of mixing

Made in Britain: That is a really KEY POINT - there are still many who are afraid of mixing. With some it maybe harder to get them out of lockdown than it was to get them into it?

Response: I think it depends on the sector and your demographic. For us, I can't imagine a lot would change besides us letting our International Sales guys back out into world. On the other hand, personally I'm not too familiar with restrictions in other countries which may affect sales!

Made in Britain: You rely quite heavily on actual sales people/in-person? Regions such as Pakistan from what I remember?

Response: That's right, there are alternative ways which we have utilized the past year but in some cases, just meeting an experienced company representative is the best option!

Response: Whose decision is it about when they are allowed to go out and visit again? as soon as local regulations allow?

Response: Another tough one! We've said from day one that we're not going to put our guys at risk, but now they have had their vaccine. We're now researching different countries regulations and seeing where it goes, but all in all, it really depends on local regulations.

Response: It's a difficult situation to predict, we're pretty much back to normal and so is our customers. Maybe we'll get less business since the surge of new small businesses will cut down. Maybe we'll get more because of them opening back up.

Made in Britain: What about Christmas for your business? there has been talk about greater demand and earlier demand for British products due to ongoing shipping issues from the Far East

Response: The main hubs in China are still experiencing difficulties. 6 charts show the effects of Yantian port congestion  https://www.supplychaindive.com/news/yantian-china-port-covid-charts-data-congestion-ships-supply-chain/602014/ … via @SupplyChainDive

Response: This is a very serious issue and one not given much airtime. It will impact autumn and the Christmas season and retail is already warning about it.

Response: Luckily for us, we get all our supplies from the UK and we tend to only supply nationally. We rely heavily on word-of-mouth and that typically doesn't spread overseas I cant imagine any shipping issues would affect us in that case.

Response: May work in your favour then, more people buying British products for Christmas....more demand for some nice boxes?

Response: With great promotion, the public does want to spend - as long as they are feeling confident...

Response: It may be too early to really comment, as some sectors may see different "return to normal". Hopefully customers start spending locally again and the economy kicks off across all areas.

Made in Britain: Do you think demand, in general, is going to increase or just a rejigging of where things are supplied from?

Response: Certain demand will increase - and that may be sector-specific. There has also been a review of supply chain so that will also impact.

Response: Who's to say? It comes at a time when there are so many other factors at play - the changing furlough terms, deferred VAT payments being due this month. Is the economy going to take another hit impacting on our spending power?

Response: we may be dealing with a lot of unemployment that has still to be factored in.

Response: exactly what I'm thinking. Come September we may be in a different financial position

Response: unfortunately very possible at this point in time, especially if there is another lockdown

Response: Easing restrictions will be different for different manufacturers. Some have benefitted from the last few years. some have found it vary difficult. What will "Normal" look like?

Response: Yes, JIT (Just in time) is not as easy as it was before the lockdown

Response: Has it changed to "ASAP"?

Made in Britain: Would you suggest that manufacturers use this time to ensure they are better prepared for next time it happens? Which could be sooner than they expect.

Response: Yes. Re-evaluation of the supply chain and a "Plan B" would be a worthwhile activity for many. It is apparent that many of the large manufacturers with big opportunities in-country are setting up new manufacturing plants

Response: Yes, it might be wise to take some time to implement a plan for such an event recurring to ensure better preparation. Can’t do any harm!

Made in Britain: Is that something you have done at @JB_SpringsLtd - one of the key points in any planning is understanding the warning signs and data. Too many companies had to react to the pandemic, some companies clearly saw it coming.....

Response: Yes, it’s certainly made us evaluate how well we’re equipped for situations such as remote working i.e. ensuring files and programmes are accessible for staff working from home. Precisely, I think that showed in the difference in success some companies have seen during Covid

Made in Britain: There was the argument that it was a lot easier for service type businesses than for manufacturers. Let's hope businesses do what you do and are prepared to keep business as usual no matter what happens

Response: I think there's been a shakeup in industry and really its determining where we all stand (for those of us left still standing) There may be shifts in customer believing its the right time to change suppliers for various reasons i.e. opting for a UK mfg supplier

Made in Britain: Do you think that shift will continue if restrictions are eased a little? the sensible answer must be yes so as to minimise impact if the same happens again

Response: You would think so, the argument is that there are still price sensitive businesses who would prefer to import manufactured goods I read a report that shipping prices will take years to recover. When you factor in rejects, quality, shipping from overseas, it's better to opt

Response: If a part or finished product is manufactured in country, then access is easier. For exporters, the next step will be convincing overseas customers that you can supply no matter what restrictions are there. Will we see a rise in company transport services?

Response: Not sure, there was a freight company who feared they will fold due to lack of freedom of movement throughout Europe (a consequence of Brexit) Perhaps this will vary depending on the trade deals the UK secures

Made in Britain: Guess it also depends on what they can ship and how, the EU was quite easy due to proximity and transport links. Australia and Singapore are quite different.

Response: You think, lead times will certainly have a role in this and perhaps attitudes towards British goods. Not all countries have positive perceptions of UK made goods

Response: Any examples?

Response: In the US I've seen many memes blaming the fault of a product down to being made in Britain If you type 'made in britain meme' on google images one of them pops up

Made in Britain: The US was what I was thinking you would say. Quite the opposite to the Middle East and even China.

Response: It's fascinating isn't it? How different parts of the world have vastly different views on British made goods!

Made in Britain: How much is a resilient supply chain worth to a business? perhaps a lot more than it was 2 years ago?

Response: resilience is now the new currency!

Response: Most definitely! Resilience will be high up on buyers lists we hope

Response: We actually did a case study with our customer Bramwell Brown in which they highlight the benefits of using a British manufacturing supplier which you can read via https://excellmetalspinning.com/bramwell-brown/ Sustainable price, a steady supply and Quality were three important factors for them

Response: A big competitive advantage which the pandemic has exposed

Response: Agreed Sian, what the pandemic highlighted is how vulnerable many supply chains really were and the importance of having a UK supplier as part of your armament

Response: It will be challenging as there is already worldwide shortages of raw materials. We have ordered wires for our binding and the suppliers have said that currently there is a steel shortage

Question two: what impact will the winding down of furlough and business support have on British manufacturing?

Response: From what I'm hearing is that it can be potentially catastrophic for some businesses - those that were running on empty - still having to pay out regardless of support available with little coming in

Made in Britain: What is the solution?

Response: Not sure that there is a solution for some - but I suppose that will always be the case. Unfortunately not every business will survive. HOWEVER, those that are running on empty may have to negotiate terms for their lives to get some breathing space.

Made in Britain: Darwinian Theory being played out?

Response: Unfortunately once again yes. It would be interesting to see what type of support - if any - they will be offered, especially if they are in areas where the UK Govt wants to invest in to grow economically

Response: I know of a few that had some of the staff on furlough, not all, and now they are all back. However, they have reached deep into reserves that they have not built back as yet. A recession or though times ahead will have a hard and costly impact

Response: The last 18 months has seen many new businesses start online. These are people who have found ways of making an income away from their original career paths. I think there may be an employment problem as many are happier

Response: So more people are looking at roles when they "can work from home"

Response: that's the big concern. There was a story about it on our local news where a cheese manufacturer is struggling for staff. It's a mix of alternative income avenues plus we cannot ignore the brexit impact too on staff sourcing.

Made in Britain: There is also the question of skills, training and expectations of having to do manual work.

Response: Personally, I don't know of anyone in the manufacturing industry who is still on the furlough scheme. Obviously, this may differ from industry to industry and also location. I think the manufacturing industry is a good point to re-build at the moment!

Response: Definitely. I'm picking up as many good news stories as bad news stories. Looking at my Linkedin feed shows how much resilience is out there. Still some pain to be had but those that come out will do so stronger

Made in Britain: That's an interesting observation. Be interesting to know how many manufacturers actually used the furlough scheme? From what we see many manufacturers are investing and growing

Response: Definitely, I'd love to see the figures of what percentage are still using the furlough scheme. I could be completely incorrect but it seems that businesses and these figures are escaping the news lately and it's still incredibly important.

Response: There are some figures in this BBC report today. It only comments on those who had access to the furlough payments and does not cover the 2 million who did not have help. https://bbc.co.uk/news/business-57665735… 

Response: I have seen small manufactures suffering. Usually in creative industries. Furlough has been used by retail, hospitality and services. They will see the biggest changes

Response: 100% particularly the clubbing scene, considering the majority are still either closed or had to switch to a bar to be allowed to re-open.

Response: I think this is very dependent on the individual situation of each business. For us, there’s been no need to furlough workers due to demand, but I imagine the loss of financial support could be detrimental to some others.

Made in Britain: Have you seen any increase in demand?

Response: We have seen an increase in some areas of the business and decrease in other areas in our industry. It’s an interesting one

Response: Throughout the pandemic there’s been a steady increase in demand for Protective Screens and other medical equipment.

Made in Britain: Has that levelled off now?

Response: It has started albeit slowly. But the increase in demand did lead to new long-term contracts too so there’s a trade-off there

Response: It will be a difficult one. The furlough has been a saviour for jobs ! The supply chain is where we will see company closures, redundancies etc.

Made in Britain: Who will fill the gaps in the supply chain going forwards?

Response: We have no one on furlough because we're extremely busy on the shopfloor! We're even opening up roles to expand our workforce (CV's can be sent in to us to sales@excellmetalspinning.com)

Response: With reserves on "Fumes" many will have to consider whether they carry on or shut up shop. It is going to be a little messy. Will the Government offer interim support. They have changed the De Minimus rules this week

Made in Britain: How have they changed them? assuming a reduction?

Response: The EU laws have been removed from statute. New British laws have taken over. Not sure of the detail it means that Gov can provide support to British business without the EU crying "The Computer says no" What it means in reality we will have to wait and see

Response: Manufacturing is flying just now. Our company and every single company I know across the industry sectors we work with are trying to get staff, and nobody wants a job. Never known so many job opportunities as at present

Made in Britain: "Nobody wants a job" that's so different to what the media say about XXX applications for every vacancy?

Question three: should businesses be using the opportunity to do some team building/morale boosting sessions/days? Have you already done some?

Response: Not as yet! But as soon as the restrictions are lifted we are hoping to do something

Response: Great stuff! I am sure there are many in hospitality that would be pleased to help out across sectors.

Response: We've started to see a few businesses doing it, takes time to work out what is allowed and what isn't allowed

Response: Gov restrictions and personal fear are two things that will restrict the return to Group activities

Response: Yes

Response: We're hoping to organise a day of boat fishing (being situated next to the sea and all) We're even considering reforming the Excell Football team and joining a league!

Response: A lot of people deserve thank you from their employer, boat fishing sounds a very good way to do it.

Response: It's a tricky one with restrictions in place. We've put it on the sidelines for now, although it is still incredibly important. Even in personal lives, a lot aren't too fussed about going out. A lot of places still haven't adapted and it's more effort than it's worth to visit

Made in Britain: People have changed as a result of this. Some businesses will have taken staff on during lockdown and these people may have never met in-person their new colleagues. Getting people together is going to be so important

Response: Agreed. many young starters will never have experienced team work or working together in one space. So important for new hires, apprentices, and our Gen Z workforce

Response: I agree, it's a lot of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. You want to help the businesses build back up but for a lot of people during the lockdown, their mindset has changed and they don't find it as enjoyable anymore

Response: It is also about staff retention, people joined companies during the pandemic, worked from home, so might they be less committed to their employer if they've never actually met them or the team in-person?

Response: We have all been zooming this last year & have made new connections that feel as real as if we had met in person. I look forward to seeing them face to face, but it does not make the relationship any less real. However, not everyone is the same & people do need to mix in person.

Made in Britain: The mixing in person is something that we all hope is like riding a bike. We don't forget how to do it. Some people will never have done it professionally if they joined industry in the last 18 months, they may need help and guidance

Response: It will probably be awkward for the first couple of minutes - knowing what to do before everyone gets in their stride. But then again us Brits have never had a standard greeting protocol so we probably wouldn't notice - ha!

Response: Would it not be better to have more productive activities like training in digital marketing and sales. These are team building exercises that include a beneficial exercise for business. Digital skills are now mission critical

Response: absolutely!

Response: Now that we like ! Can be done together and social distanced

Question four: do you have any examples of effective (and maybe unusual/different) team building sessions/days that businesses could consider?

Response: With one of my networks we are organising a treasure hunt set in an area outside, with clues, etc,. At the end, we are all gathering in a large garden close by to pubs so we can all stay outside.

Response: Can't beat a good treasure hunt to build a team together. We did one many years ago all round London, maybe it shouldn't have been all round London but we struggled with the clues

Response: I've got a friend with a sheep herding events business, I know she's been struggling with corporate events lately so has diversified. But its a good for team building.

Response: Layout a four-by-four grid big enough to fit 8 people (two in each grid). One pair can't hear, one pair can't speak, one pair can't see and the other has all three. The team of 8 that makes the biggest marble run wins.

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.

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

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