The ongoing uncertainty over the Port Talbot steel works and the possible effects on UK manufacturing of a Brexit after the June referendum is continually filling hundreds of column inches in the broadsheets, red tops and online news platforms.
The underlying assumption people have is that UK manufacturing has taken a terrible hit over the last 50 years. This was most notable with the closure of larger industries during the 80s and 90s. The truth is that UK manufacturing has fallen as a proportion of GDP but not in real terms.
Indeed, the UK is still a significant global player in the manufacturing sector. In the five decades leading up to 2007, UK manufacturing actually grew in 35 of the 50 years.
There is no denying that things have certainly changed. Once powered by our coal reserves employing hundreds of thousands in large-scale industry, we are no longer the home of the industrial revolution.
Whilst we are a global leader in high tech and other highly-skilled manufacturing areas, more could be spent on R&D and productivity to help us retain a strong position.
The increases in China’s employment and manufacturing costs has started driving manufacturing back into the UK and between 2011 and 2014, one in six businesses brought production back to the UK.
I know you’re now wondering why I’m writing about UK manufacturing – aside from the obvious benefits to the UK economy and a blatant plug for our new-found status as a UK manufacturer.
Did you know, for example, we now make three million recycled pencils a year in our factory in Stourport-on-Severn?
UK manufacturing has fantastic benefits for the environment.
The reduction in carbon footprint to take a material sourced and produced in the UK and then sold back to a customer here is very significant.
The peace of mind and confidence a buyer has in an eco-friendly product produced here is not to be underestimated.
Everyone questions the authenticity of ecological product made in the Far East, and quite rightly so.
An increase in confidence for authentic green products will make them more desirable, particularly from worried corporations who are nervous that they’ll be the next ones caught up in a scandal that could ruin their reputations for years.
The efficiency of UK manufacturing, compared with the Far East or other developing countries, also reduces the need for so much energy, which is produced in highly polluting ways.
It’s important to use, buy and purchase British for many reasons, as well as being far better for the environment.
Other benefits, to name but a few, include credit terms, recourse on issues going wrong, shorter lead times and (very importantly) having a product that conforms to UK and EU rules and regulations.
Originally featured in PPD Magazine May 2016 http://www.ppda.co.uk/pubs/PPD-issue0072-MAY2016.pdf