Campaign launched to reshore manufacturing

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
3 June 2020

A group of manufacturing companies has launched a campaign to encourage reshoring and the build-up of UK supply chains.

UK Manufacturing Unite (UKMfgUnite) said coronavirus had made “glaringly obvious” what the country needed but doesn’t have or “can’t get quickly”, coming as it did against a backdrop of low productivity since the 2008 crash and Brexit.

So far the campaign has 35 members and secured orders worth £625,000, but the aim is to hit 100 members by the end of June.

Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation, a contract manufacturing company that was a founding member of UKMfgUnite, said: “We don’t have enough coronavirus tests or test material, amazingly including cotton swabs and common reagents. We don’t have enough ventilators, negative pressure rooms, ICU beds and we don’t have enough surgical masks, eye shields and medical gowns.

“We could have these things, but we chose not to. Specifically, we chose not to have the mechanisms, the factories, the systems to make these things and we chose not to build.

“You see it in manufacturing. Why has so much production been offshored to places with cheaper manual labour? In the UK, we know how to build highly automated factories and there is little doubt this approach would create lots of higher paying jobs, raising UK productivity to the levels we crave.”

Hague said a combination of apathy, misunderstanding around the potential of automation and a lack of finance had contributed to the situation.

“Reshoring activities could create huge and sustainable wealth for the UK economy; it won’t be easy, but now is the perfect time for full throttle, unapologetic and uncompromising political support for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries and in new factories,” he said.

“Just imagine the fiscal impact of a percentage-swing of business from current offshore suppliers to UK-based subcontract companies, who are more than adept at supplying automotive, aerospace, medical or the renewables sectors for example.”

Meanwhile, manufacturing organisation Make UK has urged the government to provide direct support to key strategic manufacturing sectors to ensure their short-term survival, on the back of a poll that showed three-fifths of manufacturers believe it will take more than a year for trading conditions to return to normal.

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