24 July 2007 | Paul Snell
Buyers have been urged not to forget about UK manufacturers when sourcing products.
In his first speech as the new chairman of the CBI's Manufacturing Council, Andrew Reynolds Smith said the sector in the UK has a strong future, but needed more government support.
Reynolds Smith, executive director at engineering firm GKN, told delegates at a CBI event: "Manufacturing is misunderstood. Public opinion is of a small, declining sector, owned by foreigners and on the brink of being totally offshored to China."
There are around 150,000 manufacturing businesses in the UK, he said, with a collected turnover of £500 billion. They also account for 60 per cent of UK exports.
He said buyers should look beyond the "make" and remember businesses also do research, design and marketing and deliver their products. "Manufacturing is no longer just about a factory floor. We must stop thinking of 'manufacturing companies' and think of 'businesses that manufacture'," he added.
And he said the government needed to work with the sector to make it competitive. "Competition is fierce and global, and government policy can mean the difference between success and failure, between doing business in the UK and moving it overseas.
"If government is to play its part in enabling modern UK manufacturing to compete on the world stage, it needs to believe in manufacturing and understand it has an important role to play."