reshoring uk

Reshoring outlook recharged?

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We spoke with Brandauer and KimberMills International, two UK SME manufacturers that are leading the reshoring charge, yet are insistent that backing from the Government will be necessary to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity


There’s something exciting happening in UK manufacturing. “And, for goodness sake, don’t whisper it…shout it out loud”, that’s the message Rowan Crozier, CEO of metal stamping specialist Brandauer, who wants everyone to hear about it when it comes to reshoring.

His business, nestled in the industrial heartland of Birmingham, has sealed over £500,000 of new tooling projects in the past 12 months, projects that were previously carried out in the Far East and EU.

Better still, the business has a further £1M of potential opportunities in the pipeline and with an increasing number of companies looking for security of supply it is a trend that Crozier believes is just beginning.

“We’ve been talking about reshoring for some time, but the good news is we’re finally seeing the hyperbole turn into real orders,” says Crozier.

“Despite the challenges and complications of Brexit, there has been a definite shift towards more UK sourcing of precision tooling and that has certainly been driven by an overwhelming desire to shorten supply chains.”

Rowan, who has invested more than £1m into new Yamada and Bruderer press machinery to cope with an increase in demand, explains that for customers de-risking supply is high on the list of priorities after the disruption seen because of geopolitical pressures, Covid-19 and, more recently, a global lack of materials.

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“However, the interesting conversation that we haven’t had before is that domestic manufacturing is now as competitive as our international rivals,” he says.”And this is all about the price of the landing part – so the total cost of a product on its journey from the factory floor to the customer. When you take this overall picture into the equation, there is no reason UK manufacturers can’t be bolder when going after international opportunities.”

there is no reason UK manufacturers can’t be bolder when going after international opportunities

It’s a train of thought that is echoed by KimberMills International, a manufacturer of high-quality forgings and finished machined parts based in Cradley Heath, which has also seen a surge in export orders, primarily from the oil and gas and construction markets.

The Both firms are members of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) and key signatories to the MANifesto, a new blueprint for making the UK globally competitive and a direct response to a lack of a coherent industrial strategy from our Government.

The collective launched the plan of action last month and is lobbying the powers at Whitehall to provide additional support towards the four key pillars of investment, people, sustainability and international trade.

“We have seen the damage offshoring has done to UK manufacturing, now is the time for us to reverse the trend,” states KimberMills sales manager Hamish Campbell, who has worked in industry for the last 30 years.

“There’s a lot of things we can do ourselves as manufacturers, but we also believe it is important that the Government understands the situation. Yes, reshoring is happening, but if we are going to sustain it then there needs to be a concerted push to support sectors that are growing.”

Campbell suggests that this could be by building OEM presence in the UK or ensuring that there is more domestic content in the development of products for electrification for example. “Encouragingly, we do have a model to follow in the defence industry, where we lead the world. There’s no reason why a similar approach couldn’t be easily replicated for other markets,” says an enthusiastic Hamish.

Another important element of the MANifesto is a unified call for a replacement to the business support programmes that have closed due to EU funding ending.

This leaves a significant void for SME manufacturers who previously have been able to access grants or specialist industrial advice to help them overcome challenges and maximise growth opportunities.

Crozier, who is also chair of the National Advisory Board at Make UK, has been banging the drum for swift action.

“We’re sorely missing structured business support and the way in which the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is being delivered at a local authority level could lead to a postcode lottery at best, and at worst, assistance that is too general and doesn’t really understand or get industry.

“Action must be sooner rather than later. We’ve got some existing schemes, such as the Manufacturing Growth Programme, that have a proven track record in successfully supporting businesses like Brandauer and KimberMills to grow. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Campbell concludes: “It’s simple. We’ve got a once-in-a-generation opportunity when it comes to reshoring, let’s not follow the same course of action we did in the 1990s and 2000s. Now is the time to write the most positive chapter in our industrial history.”

All parties agree that noise needs to be made to achieve reshoring, but without a clear national strategy the boom of returning manufacturing business risks running ashore before making it to profitable longterm waters.

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