Leading minds from the UK manufacturing sector gathered at Cranfield University on 20 May 2015 for the National Manufacturing Debate, a two-day event exploring key challenges for the industry. This year’s debate, featuring eminent guest speakers including The Confederation of British Industry’s Director General John Cridland, focused on the opportunities re-shoring presents for UK manufacturing, questioning what support is needed to help businesses capitalise on this emerging trend.
Though the latest figures suggest UK manufacturers increased production by 0.4 per cent between February and March, output for the sector still remains 4.8 per cent below its previous peak in 2008. Thankfully though, re-shoring could offer a way to regain this ground, with Ernst and Young estimating that there is scope to generate 315,000 new jobs and an additional £15.3 billion for the economy by 2025 through bringing production back to Britain.
Already, think tank Civitas reports that 64 per cent of firms surveyed have re-shored some element of production to Britain, and £1 billion worth of contracts in the automotive industry have returned to the UK since 2012, according to the Automotive Council.
Businesses cite a number of reasons for this shift, including rising wages in international markets, avoiding language barriers and capitalising on the perceived quality of UK-made goods. Similarly, many companies wish to benefit from the enhanced flexibility and reduced turnaround times that manufacturing in the home market deliver.
“We have seen countless examples of firms coming to the rescue of UK businesses that have been hit by quality issues, lead times on delivery and poor communications as well as rising costs due to exchange rates and foreign companies having to contend with rising demands of their home markets,” confirms Julia Moore, Chief Executive of Engineering Companies Trade Association The GTMA.
However, there are also several challenges which must be addressed to ensure firms are able to fully embrace the positives of re-shoring, and overcoming STEM skills shortages in particular remains a key priority, as the comments below from the National Manufacturing Debate highlight.
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