dww articles images full banner uk manufacrturing

The Changing Face of Manufacturing in the UK

October 2020

The UK manufacturing sector is facing an unprecedented set of challenges, with the coronavirus crisis arriving hot on the heels of three and a half years of Brexit uncertainty. While it’s been a difficult year for all sectors, 2020 is likely to prove pivotal for manufacturing – with the UK set to finally sever ties with the EU at the end of December.

Set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, these factors are driving the UK to become more self-sufficient as a nation – with consumers and B2B customers alike realising the importance of supporting the country’s manufacturers and the value of ‘buying British’

Synonymous with quality, the UK has a long and globally recognised history of excellence in manufacturing. British-made products are highly sought after, with manufacturing accounting for 17.41% of gross GDP in the pre-COVID era. Sadly, the coronavirus crisis has impacted manufacturers around the world on an unprecedented scale – swiftly eradicating the market for some products, while ramping up demand for others to unimaginable heights. Businesses everywhere have had to adapt to the new post-COVID reality.

In the UK, navigating the double impact of Brexit and the pandemic poses significant challenges – the difference being that companies have at least had time to plan for the departure from the EU, while COVID-19 has delivered rapid disruption that was impossible to predict. Undoubtedly, both of these market influences have made it abundantly clear that businesses will need to be agile and responsive in the face of an uncertain and constantly changing landscape.

However, it’s unfair to say that the challenging times have been wholly without positive outcomes. Just as we’ve witnessed communities coming together throughout the pandemic, the same is true of the business community – with a growing interest in connecting through manufacturing groups and networks, particularly those that support locally made, British products.

dww articles images inline manufacturing 2

Proud to be Made in Britain

One such organisation is Made in Britain, a network of British manufacturers that are united by a shared code of conduct and are authorised to use the official Made in Britain collective mark. With the express goal of supporting and promoting British manufacturing, the organisation has witnessed an explosion of interest in British-made products over the past year.

Indeed, in a recent survey of 1,000 purchasing and procurement decision-makers at British companies, Made in Britain discovered that three-quarters of businesses are now more likely to buy British to boost the post-pandemic economy. What’s more, 86% of respondents are willing to pay more for British goods, while 64% choose to buy British whatever the cost.

The COVID-19 crisis also appears to have heightened awareness of environmental issues, with 77% of businesses agreeing that buying British could help the nation to tackle climate change – a seven per cent increase from 2019. Encouragingly, this commitment to supporting UK manufacturers appears set to continue, with 78% of businesses admitting that they would like to buy more British products than they currently do, indicating that there is significant latent demand within the market.

Speaking in a recent interview, Made in Britain’s CEO, John Pearce, summed up this demand: “There’s never been a more important time for people to buy something that’s been made in Britain. It’s about trust; it’s about transparency; it’s about availability, but it’s also about extremely high quality.”

There’s never been a more important time for people to buy something that’s been made in Britain. It’s about trust; it’s about transparency; it’s about availability, but it’s also about extremely high quality.

—John Pearce, CEO Made in Britain

Impact of Brexit

The UK’s departure from the EU is set to have a major impact on British manufacturers, but as the end of the transition period approaches, it’s unclear what shape this will take. While this uncertainty is challenging, of course, the potential for reaching new markets – from the key players of the USA and China, to rapidly developing economies in Asia and Latin America – means there are a number of opportunities for growth too.

Businesses that focus on UK-sourced materials and labour will perhaps be better placed to weather the storm, as this can mitigate the risk of delayed goods through UK ports and the potential for increased tariffs on materials sourced from the EU. However, many manufacturers are calling for reassurances that the UK and EU technical and safety regulations will remain aligned – otherwise, they could be required to make products to different specifications for the UK and EU markets and may even be forced to carry out safety tests twice.

For example, UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) is the new product marking that will replace CE marking at the end of the transition period (from 1st January 2021.) This will cover goods placed on the UK market – however, it is not currently recognised by the EU. Therefore, manufacturers wishing to export to the EU will need to ensure their products remain compliant with CE marking regulations. Full guidance on this topic can be found here.

dww articles images inline manufacturing 3

British made on the international stage

At DW Windsor, we believe that the upheaval of COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit, only serve to underline the importance of focusing on high quality, British-made products. We are more committed than ever to achieving the same high standards that we always have, by drawing on our long heritage of craftsmanship.

Crucial to this, is taking a robust and resilient approach to manufacturing, relying on UK-sourced materials and expertise. In the face of an unpredictable economic and environmental climate, we are embracing the need to implement sustainable working practices to protect our supply chain and continue delivering the innovative and design-led lighting solutions for which we are known.

Fundamentally though, we are looking to the future with an optimistic eye. We are a proud British company but we also have a well-established history of international trade – indeed our first major projects, back in 1976, were in Norway, Holland and Germany. Our philosophy is to work closely with like-minded partners, who can deliver a local service to our international customers. For that reason, we are always looking for opportunities to connect with international businesses that share our passion for innovation and lighting craftsmanship. To find out more, please contact us.

With this twin strategy of UK-based investment and overseas partnerships, we are looking towards the future – whatever it may bring.

More like this...