That’s the topic we’ve caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 12 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 why products are made overseas when they can easily be made in Britain.
Question one: Could the UK government realistically do anything to ‘level the playing field’ for British manufacturing compared with China and other countries?
Response: This is an excellent subject. Company strategists should be looking at the opportunities Onshoring has to take advantage of the problems relating to extended supply chains
Made in Britain: Strategy is a key word. Maybe the question to start with is "does the Government need to do anything" as there are compelling reasons to keep manufacturing here independent of cost/price
Response: I agree, and that is why I said we need to put our recommendations forward for the government to consider and include in their strategic approach and implementation
Response: IMO the government should have a gentle touch and focus on the infrastructure so the private sector can get on with the job of creating prosperity, jobs, and innovation
Made in Britain: a gentle touch but maybe a little more proactive? and slightly quicker?
Response: The government has to be more proactive and yes, move faster. But not so fast that it ignores industry in its considerations.
Made in Britain: It comes back to the question as to having a voice. We hear lots about Nissan, Vauxhall etc with Minsters visiting them - how about the little companies?
Response: Yes. A voice for the MSME - micro small and medium enterprise. What works for the corporates does not work for the MSMEs.
Made in Britain: That's always been an interesting debate - is the definition of SME too broad and the smaller end of it gets ignored a little too much
Response: We need a shouty lobbying group to speak on behalf of manufacturing companies of all sizes
Response: That is why I mentioned the MSMEs sector. A lot of businesses in the UK fall in this category & yet, policy is decided on larger/corporates. There are initiatives coming out that are looking at the smaller end of the market, but we need to shout louder & make sure we are heard.
Made in Britain: and that's where collective groups and communities of these micro-firms are so important, a collective voice
Response: Brexit removes limits on UK government investing in manufacturing. R&D Tax incentives have already shown increased inward investment. "Estimated economic impact of foreign direct investment projects involving DIT rose 25% in the year 2020/21 to £3.9bn
Made in Britain: Do you think that trend will continue?
Response: Yes. We have a golden opportunity, as one of the top 10 economic nations on the planet. Political and industrial mindsets should be focused on how we take advantage of our recovered independence. Thinking long term.
Made in Britain: How 'independent' do you think we now are? How much is still tied up in the very small print of the Brexit deal?
Response: Unfortunately, there are small print issues that need to be sorted out
Made in Britain: and thereby lies a considerable challenge as it has been signed and so how far can we go to get it changed?
Response: Political will.
Response: Investments particularly in Industry 4.0 and focus on digital/computation would be most beneficial
Response: And there is a lot of interest in this field, especially with AI and automation
Made in Britain: How is Britain doing with this compared to other countries?
Response: Many countries are taking this route. we have excellent talent in the UK. A whole new industry can surface as long as we take full international commercial advantage of it.
Made in Britain: It's also a matter of educating people that manufacturing isn't just something you do if you aren't good at everything else. We can start by educating the careers officers?
Response: This starts in primary school and in media channels. "For a worthwhile career be a manufacturing Creative" Some reality TV on manufacturing and what is entailed
Response: There is much work & planning that has gone in to the new export strategy & ongoing trade consultations. This is our opportunity to input and understand what shape this levelling the playing field will take.
Made in Britain: How uneven is the playing field do you think?
Response: It will depend on the sector, some more than others. On the other hand, there are certain industries that have taken off as a result of the pandemic which muddies the waters.
Made in Britain: It's more difficult to help specific sectors? that's been highlighted throughout the pandemic as so many sectors are interlinked as @AlltradePrinter highlighted a few weeks ago
Response: We need the economy to kick off and work across sectors. Helping a few that need a special hand will only work short term. We need to ensure that the digital, commercial, supply chain and supporting infrastructure are now fit for purpose and can support the sectors' bounce back.
Response: As a sector, we must put our recommendations forward before the government plans are decided
Response: Yes they can by promoting research and development, improving the business tax code, training the manufacturing workforce, and establishing favorable trade policies that open global markets and cut down trade barriers
Made in Britain: How would you propose they helped towards training the manufacturing workforce? Give everybody A and A*s?
Response: Support and boost Stem subjects for a start. We're sorely lacking skills in the manufacturing industry and an aging workforce isn't helping either A focus on apprenticeships too will go a long way in much needed skill development
Question two: How much IP protection do British companies have when they use overseas manufacturers (including China) to make their product or components of products?
Response: IP is an investment from the business and is vitally important to protect design and production from rogues’ markets that copy branded products. Internationally, there are campaigns to crack down on this.....
Made in Britain: How international are these campaigns and do they cover some of the bigger manufacturing countries?
Response: There is pressure at the highest level - WTO, etc, and then there is also pressure at country level.
Made in Britain: Would that be enforced retrospectively. Sometimes companies don't know their IP has been used without their permission. That becomes a big challenge.
Response: The easiest way to avoid IP theft is to manufacture in-house in the UK
Response: I am sure a legal expert will jump in here. At the end of the day, it boils down to costs. How much you are ready to invest at the start to protect your IP, or pay the legal fees in fighting a legal battle that you may win, but find the copied IP has damaged your market
Response: Overseas #IP infringement is a huge and very real risk to many of our clients. We always advise seeking legal advice to ensure any IP is watertight. Naturally there is a cost implication with this but it is money well spent.
Made in Britain: How easy is it to do that? and does that protection extend to all countries. I've always been concerned about IP being used when you don't know about it - you can't chase that down?
Response: It depends on where you have registered your IP, what categories and also if you have any patents in your design. Registration in the UK does not extend globally
Made in Britain: I wonder how many inventors and start-ups explore this before finding the cheapest place to manufacture their new products?
Response: Not enough of them sadly!! And yet it's crucial to the success of the business.
Made in Britain: It's a cost that they think they don't need to incur...... basic mistake
Response: Which may come back to haunt them in a very expensive and problematic way!
Response: and in some cases they may be able to do absolutely nothing about it.
Response: Exactly as the copied products are already out there, will not be retracted and you cannot police every nation.
Response: I can recommend the IP centre at the @BritishLibrary as a starting point. An excellent free facility
Response: We have many trusted IP lawyers in our network. Good IP protection will take other countries in to account, however (as far as I understand it) an infringement will need to be tackled in the country where it occurs so may be more "open to interpretation" and harder to prove
Made in Britain: That's our understanding too and that has two issues, firstly as you say is the interpretation of it and secondly the significant costs associated with it.
Response: Not sure about this, but seems like a big risk. By working with UK manufacturers we have much more oversight and peace of mind, not to mention the quality assurance
Made in Britain: That's a massive benefit of manufacturing in Britain, we understand what is needed for IP protection and we understand the legal system too - two huge benefits
Question three: If shipping costs and times continue to rise what impact will this have on British manufacturing?
Response: It will definitely increase the costs of the materials.
Response: unfortunately that is what I thought.
Made in Britain: Are there opportunities here for British manufacturers?
Response: I will follow that question with...are we seeing a drive for local sourcing, and are the quality and prices at the expected level? Are they affordable? Are they of high standard?
Made in Britain: It is a difficult one because there could be a decision to be made: buy these now at £X or order these on a lead time of 3 months at £?? - contracts are important here and potential surcharges
Response: I agree
Response: 40’ Container shipping costs from China have gone from $600 in August 2019 to £16,000 in recent reports. The offshoring trend of the 1990’s is starting to lose its sheen. There will be a time lag as we build new manufacturing capabilities in the UK.
Made in Britain: The irony of this is that we are probably reliant on other countries for many of the machines that are needed to build this additional capacity?
Response: There are many skills and suppliers still in the UK. It would be better to take time, use UK based companies and build "state of the art" equipment to be ahead of international competition
Response: Yes and the delays are huge as well which isn't helping
Response: The "Get it cheap" fashion of the 1990's is not so fashionable now. Looks like an opportunity to rebuild our merchant fleet to service the export of British manufactured goods and back loading of imports. Note: There are no container manufacturers in the UK
Made in Britain: No container manufacturers and no container shipping lines? or very few? It is interesting that these get little coverage unless the news media have a photo/film. The Ever Given in the Suez pushed this onto the news even though that was the tip of the iceberg really.
Response: This is a golden opportunity for the shipbuilding industry
Made in Britain: Shipping is a strategic resource which is important for the future - electric ships which I think Denmark are leading on?
Response: We definitely think so!
Question four: What would it take to stop start-ups and inventors going overseas for contract manufacturing?
Response: What would it take for all of us to start buying British in our personal lives? Once that is answered, extend the response.
Response: Sums it up :)
Response: The Government could 'assist' start-ups and inventors to start their manufacturing in the UK?
Response: Yes also educating them on the risks of off shoring which we have touched on here. Shipping costs & delays, transparency, IP protection etc... There are initiatives & training about, but I don't think there is enough resource and emphasis on promoting these from the Government.
Made in Britain: That's a really good point and it would make a fabulous training/info session for start-ups/inventors. Many of these factors won't have been considered - add into that exchange rates too.
Response: Let's see and act on what we can do first before what the government and others can do. We cannot do one thing in our personal lives and preach something else to others
Response: Maybe the R&D and Patent Box tax regime needs a rethink/review?
Response: There are also several grants and packages of assistance - and yes they are not easy to obtain
Made in Britain: It's two part then. Make these more visible and make these easier to get?
Response: I might do a blog post on this very topic in the next few weeks. I will tag you on the tweet, hopefully it'll be a valuable read for you and the others. The response spectrum for this question needs more than a few tweets, which we both can agree.
Response: It is in everyone's interest for them to start manufacturing here. You hear too many stories of this group going to China to do it..... so yes, something needs reviewing
Response: It is the industrialists of the past that drove the industrial revolution through innovation and technology. They manufactured in the UK as we had a cheap labour force. Reduce labour cost with Automation and robots and we can compete on any level.
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