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Supporting strong UK supply chains

16 September 2021

To further strengthen its support for manufacturers and suppliers across the UK’s engineering market, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) continues to work with Reshoring UK and its other industrial engineering partners. Here, Julia Moore, chief executive at Reshoring UK explains to AirUser how this unique collaboration of 33 leading industrial engineering associations is continuing to grow.

AT RESHORING UK, we aim to connect manufacturers with trusted, accredited UK suppliers capable of providing technical support, specialist products and niche services. Our role is to evidence the skills and resources of our supply chains to help those manufacturers that are considering domestic production for new projects or when relocating other work programmes onshore.

Shorter supply chains in the UK mean faster parts delivery and therefore faster customer deliveries. There is also rising public popularity in 'Made in Britain', with many consumers championing the ‘buy local’ message, and a tangible sense of support for local companies during an incredibly tough 2020.

However, while public support may be high during these challenging times, we cannot ignore the very real impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has left in its wake.

For this reason, we found that we were receiving increasing number of enquiries and requests for support during for the first lockdown in March 2020. It proved a real test for many manufacturers, as vulnerabilities in their supply chains were exposed, such as a high reliance on overseas suppliers.

We understand how challenging it is to set up new supply chains, but manufacturers need to be conscious of the risks to their businesses when the shipping of key components is delayed. It is important that the risks are addressed by manufacturers to avoid the impact that future shocks may have on production and deliveries.

Local sourcing

The price benefit of outsourcing production to overseas economies is no longer as advantageous as it has been, with industry now starting to see costs creep steadily upwards.

The price benefit of outsourcing production to overseas economies is no longer as advantageous as it has been.

This, alongside other factors such as longer lead teams, higher quality expectations, local supply infrastructures and the ease of face-to-face interactions are driving an upturn in UK supply.

We are not expecting that all UK manufacturers will shift entirely to local sourcing, but we strongly encourage them to consider dual sourcing. Unforeseeable events, such as the current pandemic, could happen again and we must devise strategies to mitigate their negative impact in the future.

Reshoring in action

The proof, as the saying goes, really is in the pudding and during this tough year, it has been really encouraging to see many manufacturers take advantage of the support available from Reshoring UK member partners to add greater resilience to their supply chains.

Recent highlights include:

- Thomas Keating, an experienced designer and manufacturer of space flight hardware and systems won a share of a contract to design, manufacture and qualify three components for the Microwave Sounder Instrument (MWS) Quasi-Optical Network, which forms the front end of the MWS.

- Automotive parts’ manufacturer, Albert Jagger, reshored production of almost a quarter of a million fastening components from China. The firm was able to produce fastening components which had previously been imported for between 20% and 50% of the cost. In addition, the company has slashed stockholding costs by 50% and created space in the factory for future growth.

- British children’s bicycle company, Frog Bikes, a Queen’s Award winner for Enterprise for International Trade in 2018, has also looked local. ReshoringUK helped the business connect with UK-based suppliers for some of its key componentry, instead of using dominant Asian suppliers.

- BEC Group in Hampshire, a manufacturer of specialised technical mouldings has helped several customers with technical mouldings that had been sourced from abroad to overcome common problems: long lead times, quality and, more recently, border delays caused by Brexit – by buying locally instead.

The manufacturing sector now needs to increase its networking, across sector, to realise its true capacity

In conclusion, the manufacturing sector now needs to increase its networking, across sector, to realise its true capacity. More of this kind of lateral thinking and cross fertilisation of capacity would make UK supplier 'clusters' a stronger proposition for OEMs that need quality components in volume.

Advice and support

BCAS continues to provide advice and support to its members and the wider manufacturing industry. This has included lobbying for flexible furlough to better support service providers, advising on other Government support available, such as the Chancellor’s super tax incentive and helping the industry navigate changing regulations and standards post Brexit.

For more information, visit: www.bcas.org.uk