UK manufacturing back on the front page – for the right reason

Before the explosion of technology prowess seen in East London, and financial firepower that now calls Canary Wharf home, the UK was built on a strong history of manufacturing.

Whether it was textiles in Manchester, steelworks in Sheffield or ship building in Liverpool, the UK economy was largely driven by these hubs during the start of the 20th century.

Then the internet came along and we decided that we were better at providing services than products. Now, however, it seems that a return to manufacturing is on the cards – and not a moment too soon.

There have been a couple of developments in the past week which have given reason to be positive about the state of manufacturing in Britain.

The first was a survey compiled by the business group CBI, which recorded a first rise in new orders for a year. Firms increased production and employment as outlook improved in the three months to the end of July.

Next in line to deliver a positive injection of news was John Lewis, which is setting a two-year 15 per cent growth target for all sales of goods in its shops that are made in the UK.

Retail chain John Lewis has weathered the storm better than many of its rivals, so it is great to hear that such a high street staple is putting its weight behind supporting the UK manufacturing sector. Sales of UK-sourced products added up to £480 million in 2012 – a 9 per cent increase for John Lewis.

So we’ve got some positive figures coming out from the industry, and a pledge from a big retailer to give homegrown products a leg-up. Now all we need is a few companies to bring their operations back to the UK – step up

British SME announced that it was moving 25 per cent of its manufacturing from China back to British soil, great news. It is understandable that so many companies decided to outsource manufacturing to cheaper climes. But, with places like China no longer such an affordable place to build, and a greater consumer emphasis being placed on local products, let’s hope that many more will follow the example being set by and bring manufacturing back to these shores. makes the case that, not only will they be bringing pounds back into the UK, but the business will also be able to bring products to the market quicker and more in line with trends.

Case in point

Back in April, I visited the new manufacturing facility of Fairline Boats in Northamptonshire. Luxury yacht builder Fairline is a prime example of a British manufacturer that is determined to compete against the lower cost parts and manpower that can be found overseas. 

After a few turbulent years where sales dropped by 40 per cent, Fairline was acquired by Better Capital in partnership with the Royal Bank of Scotland and has now invested £2.8 million into its manufacturing facility. It is now back in profit and shining beacon for those which say that large-scale manufacturing is not economically viable in Britain.

Depending upon sources, manufacturing in the UK is worth about £160-170 billion to the economy, and is equal to about 12-14 per cent of GDP. With the positive figures coming out, and big government drives behind factors such as exporting and apprenticeships, lets hope we can build on these numbers.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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