comment, news and features
We live in a technically connected and dependent world,
it would be hard for any manufacturing not to have to
rely on others .Whether that’s raw materials, processed
materials, IP or fi nished products.
One of the great benefi ts of everyone being dependent
on everyone else is that it helps stabilise the world
against the ravages of full out war. A sort of ‘mutual
economic pain’ which is a lot preferable to ‘mutual
antihalation’ philosophy that maintained the relative
peace during the cold war era.
15 June 2020 / www.theengineer.co.uk
Will the Covid-19 pandemic lead to
reshoring of UK manufacturing?
Our online poll on this topic - which ran from 28th
April – 4th May – received 693 votes and revealed
a strong appetite for reshoring production. 59 per
cent of respondents believe that the current crisis
should trigger a concerted push for reshoring
across UK industry, whilst 32 per cent felt that
this effort be focused on critical supplies, so that
the UK is better placed to deal with future crises.
Only seven per cent of respondents agreed that
offshoring production is the only way to remain
competitive, whilst the smallest sample group
– just two per cent of voters – felt that existing
supply chains are fi t for purpose.
Yes. The crisis should trigger a
UK wide reshoring strategy
I N YOUR OPINION
Critical items may be worth re-shoring – but
it is only when a crisis occurs that ‘critical’
becomes clear. Having buffer stocks is worthy
of consideration (and the associated need to
replenish perishable items such as some PPE),
but this goes against the lean mantra of the
past 30 years or so, which has led in some
cases to fragile supply chains. So maybe now
is the time to review all aspects of engineering
business theory – which has practical impacts.
Reshoring should be focused on
No. Offshoring to lower cost economies
is the only way to compete
The crisis ‘should’ trigger a UK wide reshoring
strategy – the real question is: will it ?
In my opinion, offshoring was a disaster from
day one, for individuals and for businesses. I’ve seen
good people and good companies fold just so some
executive or shareholder could make a few more
bucks. The current crisis should not surprise anyone.
At the very least, we need to identify our strategic
industries and ensure they and their supply chains are
UK owned and protected – and that included the NHS
and care sectors.
All government spending (our taxes) on major
projects and equipment should be focused on buying
British fi rst, then European and only then the rest of
As well as industries we need to ensure that
the private and public sectors are also investing in
people. We need a return to home based engineering
excellence and less buying in of skills.
And, we need all businesses operating in the UK to
be paying their taxes.
To me this is a common sense approach for our
future survival, not a negative, insular, little Britain
approach ! Another Steve
Exisiting supply chains are adequate
I believe it should trigger “reshoring” as a
philosophy; not necessarily because everything
should be made in the UK. But we do need to have the
skills to make things, otherwise much innovation
cannot happen; if we do not develop manufacturing
technologies then we are limited to new opportunities
arising and, most importantly for business/fi nance/
politicians we are ignorant customers and, too, can be
denied access to technology.
The idea of critical technology/supplies is
interesting but has a serious fl aw in that what is
critical will evolve over time and with innovations;
this is followed in the UK with the importance of “high
value” or doing “what we have skills in”; both hostages
to fortune (as, for example, Xerox found when Canon
grew a new, larger, photocopier market) .
The Victorians developed their own manufacturing
technology; developing the iron-carbon alloy known
as steel – and being able to do it at low cost. Today one
might look at manufacturing advanced composites
(e.g. thermoplastic or homogeneous), scalable
microchannel heat-exchangers/reactors or developing
RP manufacturing and see these as opportunities for
innovative manufacturing technologies.
Pandemics come around every so many years, and
the Coronavirus was overdue. The same is true for
wars. The UK had a strong manufacturing industry that
supported the second world war effort, today it does
not. The sad thing is that the USA had a strong
manufacturing industry that supported the second
world war effort, but today it does not. As Britain has
just found out, in emergencies it is essential that it
produces the products in Britain, not overseas. We do
not know who will be the country who will start the
third world war, but history shows us it is over due and
the USA may not be relied on to assist in defending
Britain, so we better have ALL the manufacturing
industry to do it our selves. Finance has been found to
fi ght the Coronavirus, so surely it can be found to
defend Britain. John Patrick Ettridge
With the COVID-19 pandemic exposing the frailties
of many of the UK supply chains, underlining in stark
detail just how reliant many have become on the
overseas supply of critical items, there should be more
impetus put on re-establishing UK production of these
parts and protect SME manufacturing.
Twenty two leading industrial engineering
associations are behind the growing Reshoring
UK initiative which has been developed to assist
manufacturers locate and understand the breadth
of skills vested in the SME engineering companies
capable of delivering UK-based products and services
Everyone behind the Reshoring UK platform
appreciates the complexities involved when
transferring manufacturing from overseas. The
website portal has been created to help re-establish
the capability required to meet manufacturers
demands and those businesses that have used it
in this current crisis have realised just how much
capability and competence is available within the UK.
Julia Moore, Chief Executive, GTMA