In a previous article, we speculated on trends that may play a greater role in the manufacturing industry throughout 2021 and beyond. These included a greater emphasis on workplace safety, increased adoption of automation and machine monitoring, and greater engagement with the Internet of Things in response to remote working and flexible shift patterns.
Beyond these technological and procedural changes, the greatest lessons of 2020/21 lie in the realms of networking, supply chain re-shoring, and collaboration between companies on shared projects.
Last summer, we caught up with Garry Myatt, Sales Director at PP Control & Automation, to discuss his latest role in helping set up UK MFG Unite. We recently had the chance to sit down (over Zoom!) with Garry again to reflect on the last year, the changes to UK manufacturing, and what we anticipate in the near future…
What Is Re-Shoring?
Garry reckons the big story of the first two decades of the 21st Century was globalisation – and for manufacturing businesses, this involved the creation of complex supply chains strung out across the globe, coupled with a just-in-time purchase model to minimise costs. In a stable world with cheap international transport this made good economic sense but, faced with global natural disasters (e.g. the pandemic), greater ecological awareness, and restrictions on free movement, International supply chains began to look increasingly vulnerable.
Re-shoring involves bringing more elements of the supply chain home to the UK, focusing on upskilling workforces rather than employing specialists from outside the country, and cultivating relationships with UK supply partners.
How Re-Shoring Helps UK Businesses
The re-shoring model shortens supply chains and makes them more robust, while increasing the strength and value of the manufacturing sector as a whole. Re-shoring doesn’t mean turning your back on European and international markets and supply partners, but it does necessitate a renewed focus on bringing purchase orders back locally and dealing with people and companies within a local geographical radius – not just chasing the lowest international prices.
In fact, Covid-19 has clearly exposed the vulnerabilities of overreliance on personnel, training, and supplies from outside the UK. Off-shoring critical areas of manufacture is now a big risk if borders are suddenly closed due to a new pandemic or political crisis, and the ability to employ specialists from other countries is no guarantee in the ‘new normal’.
The next few years offer fantastic opportunities for British companies to develop their markets within the UK, especially in light of the boost to infrastructure investments and R&D in the latest budget.
The UK manufacturing sector has a fantastic research and development community that isn’t fully utilised. And while the skills shortage is a real problem, new companies and technologies are emerging all the time, with skills that can help manufacturing businesses develop their product base.
How Do Businesses Make The Most Of These Opportunities?
Here, again, the past 12 months provide valuable lessons. Faced with an unprecedented national crisis and severe restrictions on normal modes of business, many companies were forced to drastically restructure their operations and work more closely with other local businesses. As Garry says, with the help of manufacturing networks like UK MFG Unite, rather than operating in a silo making specific products or whole units, businesses started to communicate more widely among local networks, using LinkedIn and other channels. The success of this model was demonstrated by the wide scale collaboration of manufacturing businesses to bring ventilation and PPE products to market, and to keep the UK economy moving despite lengthy lockdowns.
This combined with a focus on collaboration, rather than competition, has resulted in a huge increase in networking and maximising the opportunities of our clients and contacts by sharing best practice, knowledge and opportunities. Looking to each other for help, guidance and to locate work within our own supply chains is a huge opportunity and one which is truly displaying the great spirit and co-operation of our World-class UK manufacturing sector!
A Brighter Future
As the UK emerges blinking into sunlight again after the ravages of the pandemic, there is the potential to rebuild better and stronger than before, using the lessons learned weathering the storm of Covid-19.
Thank you to Garry Myatt for his time in putting this piece together!
Image source: AZ Quotes