7 July, 2022

Special 21st Anniversary Report - Eventful journey

12 December, 2017

global landscape changed for UK businesses within manufacturing/engineering over the past two decades? Revell reflected that this is always a double-edged sword. “The Global Village has opened up access to new customers across the globe; but, on the other hand, it has opened our market to previously unknown suppliers,” he said. “This drives the need for competitive manufacturing and/or specialised bespoke offerings. With our production advancements and the UK’s skill base we are in a very good place to continue to provide world class products.”

Buxton reflects that two decades is a long time in any industry. “Generally, I would say that the global landscape has improved for UK companies,” he said. “There is still a lot of foreign ownership in the UK but that is the nature of globalisation. If a company employs British people and pays British Tax, it is effectively a British company. Aerospace and the automotive sectors have made particular strides and after much-needed recognition of the benefits to be realised, automation and robotics are now finally beginning to gain traction in this country. I only hope that Brexit doesn’t stall the process and reduce foreign direct investment (FDI). There are already signs that it is doing so, and I am particularly concerned for the next two or three years. A so called ‘hard Brexit’ would not be good for British manufacturing.”

On the negative side, Hambrook said many factory estates have gone on reducing the amount of local industrial services, and real estate prices have increased with less availability; resulting in a stifling of expansion. He added that there has also been a reduction in good available labour. “Most people now wish to work in the service industry as it offers greater rewards, a cleaner environment and with more personal progression opportunities,” he said.

From a more positive perspective, Hambrook made the point that the cost of machinery has come down in relative terms. He added that the ability to communicate more accurately and effectively in both time and cost with the advent of the Internet has also been a major benefit, as has price and accessibility of computer hardware and some very powerful software.

Sands commented that OEMs have been through a cycle. “Those who saw benefits in off-shoring followed this route, and some of them have since re-shored due to the changing global labour and exchange rate costs, or for production control, stability and quality control reasons,” he said. “The remaining base appears to be more financially resilient and capable of competing on their chosen national or international base.”

Cuthbert commented that in 1996 when Hydraulics & Pneumatics was first published, if you wanted to deal with Europe you had to deal in many different currencies. Then, come the year 2000 everything changes to euros. “From an international sales manager's point of view, this was a very welcome change; it caused some headaches because he/she had a French Franc pricelist, a Deutschmark pricelist and Dutch guilder pricelist and so on, and these had to be harmonised vis-à-vis the Euro. However, that was a one-time pain and now it's really convenient for businesses – we just have this one price list and it manages 27 countries. So, from that point of view there is clearly a major positive difference.”

On the flipside, Cuthbert said this gave visibility to different people within that European market in terms of what the price was of something in a much easier way so there was increased competition. Also, through e-commerce, he made the point that it is now easy to buy many things online from just about anywhere in the world in a foreign currency and have them shipped directly to you. “With this convenience comes increased visibility and increased competition, but it also gives manufacturers such as ourselves an increased reach insofar as we can now communicate with more customers and our distributors in a faster, easier fashion, providing the opportunity to generate more business.”

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