I am the managing director of a Welsh-based precision engineering company, that will soon celebrate 50 years in the industry. Employing 80 people, we are design and manufacture toolmakers at the service end of manufacturing, supplying other manufacturers with the moulds, press tools and machining services they need to make their own individual products.
As a result, there is a small amount of our technical expertise in most food, drink, cosmetic packaging, cars and medical devices around Europe, and in some cases the world.
Over the years making things has become ‘unfashionable’, but the UK has just had a hard lesson in the folly of an unbalanced economy. Balance is important in everything we do from economics, to our business and personal lives. Unbalanced things can collapse unexpectedly!
Whilst the UK is part of Europe, we also need to remember that we are a small island with a developed appetite as consumers. Sustainable indigenous manufacturing is important in supplying some of this demand. The recession has also taught us the national value of exports and the potential downsides of imports.
Looking ahead, UK manufacturing has a significant challenge. In the global market place, many of our competitors have the advantage of very low labour rates. China is a classic example where people earn a fraction of what is paid in the UK. Any product with a high labour content is at risk of moving out to the Far East as the transport and import duty do not erode this off shore advantage.
Therefore the future of manufacturing in the UK is all about high added value, high quality, innovative products and local supply chains. For this to happen, we need to be serious as a nation about making things, and the Government needs a clear industrial strategy that supports manufacturing business. Higher levels of employment for our people is likely to result.
Quite clearly to replace what we have lost over the years, there is going to be a need for significant investment in new products, processes and facilities to fulfil this strategy.
The Government needs to ensure that there is effective support for business, including the need to be a business friendly taxes regime, direct support for the development of our people’s skills and a reduction in red tape on employment. We have to make the UK an easy place to do business and make things.
As somebody once said - give us the tools and we will do the job.
FSG Tool & Die Ltd