The pandemic has shined a bright light on our UK manufacturers and demonstrated not only their innovation and their resilience, but also the skills and ingenuity of the workforces to adapt and overcome. With so much uncertainty in the global economy, many businesses are understandably concerned about mitigating their risks. Those with existing offshore manufacturing and those looking for manufacturers are weighing up the pros and cons of where to manufacture.
It is true that low cost, high volume consumer products can be difficult to manufacture competitively in the UK and on this factor alone many would say it might appear not to be commercially viable for a business to reshore their product manufacturing or to manufacture in the UK.
In our experience, so long as the comparisons are like for like and the full picture is considered, the answer is not as black and white as some would suggest.
Here are ten reasons why manufacturing in the UK can benefit a business and counterbalance a lift in the unit price.
1. No language barrier. This facilitates clearer negotiations and ensures words used are ‘interpreted’ correctly. It is quite normal for many offshore companies to employ translators who have no technical training. They are often unable to express the true meaning of emails and drawings to the shop floor. Notes on control drawings are a classic example of critical information which often gets ignored or miss interpreted.
2. Reduction in financial paperwork and no need for currency conversion. Many businesses are concerned about exchange rates and the redefining of what money constitutes. They ask if they should throw their weight behind bitcoins? The dollar? The Euro? Or sterling? Buying domestically largely solves this conundrum.
3. There is immense value in having a team come together around a table or a machine at a moment’s notice to solve problems. Sadly, it is unlikely that international travel will be as convenient as it used to be for a very long time. Getting to almost anywhere in the UK is comparably very easy and very quick. Once local travel restrictions are ended it will be easier and more cost effective to make UK site visits as and when they are needed.
4. International shipping costs are sky-rocketing and problems with landing and forwarding are causing many logistical nightmares.
5. Import and taxation are not easy and the landscape is changing as the UK adapts to post Brexit and other international trade deals.
6. Domestic manufacturing reduces the risks of variable delivery times and partial-shipping can often be resolved with less trauma when the supplier is ‘around the corner’.
7. The UK is arguably one of the most constant and stable nations on earth with a working infrastructure and tolerant population. Political wrangling, global disaster events, civil wars etc have shown how vulnerable many businesses could be to events out of their control.
8. Importantly, and something that is often missed – domestic manufacturing will provide a certain level of protection from intellectual property theft and give confidence in compliance with standards and regulations governing product performance and manufacture. Counterfeit materials, dodgy certification and inferior quality can ruin a business.
9. Can you be certain that the supplier is looking after your best interests? Inspections and sign offs are easier to arrange and verify when parties are local to each other.
10. Let’s not forget the golden rule - you usually get what you pay for.
There are strong arguments for domestic manufacturing and especially for reshoring but we must not forget that many businesses are very successful in manufacturing offshore. They achieve this by nurturing strong, mutually beneficial relationships with proven partners. They get the right balance between cost and volume and marry the right manufacturing partner to their needs. Hillside Design have extensive experience with manufacturing here in the UK and offshore and we think the best way to tackle this question is to approach it with an open mind and look at both options in depth, matching capabilities, understanding cost, weighing up the risks and benefits.
Need help taking your product idea to manufacture? Whatever the budget for tooling, required production quantities and preferred country of manufacture we will work very closely with our clients and manufacturing partners to determine the optimum manufacturing solution to meet the demands of the project. We can help to ensure suppliers meet the quality you expect, both in pre-production trials and once production has started.
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