Plans to create a “knowledge hub” focussing on bringing manufacturing back to UK shores have been announced by a Lancaster University lecturer and a marketing director.
Dr Marta Zorzini, a lecturer in operations management at Lancaster University, and partner David Bell, director of Morecambe based Transparency Marketing, are looking to secure government funding to set up a university Knowledge Hub to enable local businesses to take advantage of the opportunities of both reshoring and the Made In Britain status for local industry.
Following an initial round of research they have highlighted a key question for businesses locally: How can we take advantage of this reshoring phenomenon and thereby help the local economy grow sustainably, as a direct result of the increased opportunities our new road link will offer?
David said: “Having watched the slow decline of North West based manufacturing since the mid-1970s, when many students left school with no qualifications, yet were still able to secure a job in a factory, those days are now, seemingly, gone forever.
“The UK has lumbered from being a manufacturing giant to become a typical developed nation whose economy is being driven, predominantly, by service-based industries.
“However, as the last recession has shown, an over-reliance on service industries has recently prompted David Cameron to launch the government backed Reshore UK, a service to help companies bring production back to the UK.
“The prevailing thought of business is that we just can’t compete with China, India, or any other developing nation on price - because they have so much cheap labour available and less stringent environmental and safety laws.”
David said that “reshoring” offered a glimmer of hope.
He said that manufacturing organisation the EEF stated that a Make it in Britain survey it carried out in 2014 found evidence that reshoring in the UK is growing, with 40 per cent of manufacturers bringing back some manufacturing capacity to the UK from previously outsourced overseas capacity. But there are many companies who are still continuing to grow their offshore supply chains.
David added: “The ultimate issues regarding reshoring, is, like any other business decision – about risk. The “break even” point at which offshoring is attractive may indeed be moving higher, due to the rising costs in some low cost countries like China, but we also need to bear in mind that the availability of skills and skilled workers around us has dropped, as manufacturing has been starved of investment and has less pull in attracting school leavers.”
But David added making a conscious decision to reshore, or capitalise as a manufacturer in a supply chain can also provide competitive advantages, such as shorter lead times, higher involvement by the ultimate buyer, and long term benefits to customer relations.