Building Resilience within UK Manufacturing

Posted on 12 Jul 2021 by Tom Lane

The past 18 months have marked an unprecedented time for businesses across the world, and not just in the manufacturing sector. RS Components is a leading supplier of semiconductors, interconnect, passives and electromechanical, automation and control, electrical, test and measurement, tools, and consumables.  It operates in over 32 countries around the world and offers a product range of over 500,000 items through the internet, catalogues and at trade counters to over one million customers.

RS Components along with its customer base, has had to adapt to a new environment of trading; from production, supply chain and a customer support angle, uncertainty can take a real toll on business operations.

It has not just been the fact we have had to adapt to the shock of a global pandemic, but British manufacturers have also had to adapt to life post-Brexit.

The UK’s manufacturing sector has demonstrated a stern resilience and a can-do attitude to facing these problems head on. RS Components’ newly created Resilience Index aims to help manufacturers build long-term prosperity and adapt to shocks in the market.

The Manufacturer spoke with Emma Botfield, UK & Ireland Managing Director for RS Components, to find out more about the research and how the company has been helping its customers thrive in these uncertain times.

The fabric of the country

Emma Botfield, UK & Ireland Managing Director for RS Components

Emma has a firm belief that manufacturing keeps the UK moving: “Manufacturing is the very fabric of our country, it has helped us evolve, innovate and be at the forefront of so much. We should all appreciate the manufacturing sector. Yes, there are lots of other sectors, but manufacturing is absolutely the fabric of who we are, what we stand for and how it will set us forward for the future.”

The Resilience Index looks at practical solutions to larger market issues. In particular, our in-depth look at how to build resilience across plant, focuses on five key points that can help manufacturers not only survive but thrive in times of uncertainty, drawing on their own experiences of navigating this unprecedented market shock.

Emma explained: “We commissioned some independent research which looked at 20 years of data across six different sources, including investment, productivity and employment as well as data from the Health & Safety Executive, Office for National Statistics, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

She continued: “I think it’s really given us some insights in terms of what is happening and highlights three key areas – plant, process, and people. The latest report is focused on plant and how it’s  a key factor for strategic resilience and understanding where to invest.”

  1. Anticipate Shocks – from cyber attacks to changing trends in customer behaviour, using thorough research and analysis.
  2. Resist Disruptions – build resistance to disruptions, for example, through flood or cyber defences or relationships with trade unions.
  3. Absorb Shocks – this could be through establishing multiple production lines or facilities or adapting product lines or finding substitutes.
  4. Invest in Recovery – in the broadest sense, not just IT – such as insurance policies, systems and a culture that enables remote working and other measures to get back to capacity.
  5. Innovate for the Future – innovation requires an outward looking, agile company culture – just the kind of attitude that helps to progress the previous four resilience-building investment areas. Investing in transformation, including innovation and R&D, is not just about making reactive incremental adaptions, but the proactive creation of new systems, products and business models to ensure a business continues to be relevant. This type of transformation involves an element of target disruption to grow the business.


Out of any big market shock there comes an opportunity to embrace the challenge and create a new path for your business to thrive. The key to resilience for any manufacturer is having the adaptability to pivot into these problems and find practical solutions to move the business forward.


Brexit was just one example of how RS Components has kept its finger on the pulse and successfully navigated issues as they arose.

Emma said: “For Brexit we did lots of due diligence around that and our customers’ needs. We were continually talking to our customers and suppliers as Brexit approached. We have footprint across Europe and, of course, we experienced challenges ourselves. But some challenges are outside of your control.

“We couldn’t control customs. But what we could do is work with them to figure out how to solve the problems we were facing. How can we give them better data and insight to speed up that whole supply chain process?” she added.

The resilience of infrastructure is key in overcoming these obstacles and having a proactive approach to the challenge at hand, informing customers and suppliers of potential delays. Having a dynamic where you look at every aspect of the supply chain – from order to delivery and communicating across channels to alleviate disruption through proper planning.

Emma has implemented a shift in how stock is being managed: “There used to be a phase around just-in-time stock, but now it’s just-in-case, because there are so many critical elements within managing and running plants. Those supply chains have to be robust and reliable, to meet our customers’ needs.”

Hand in hand

Through its own learning, RS Components has been able to directly help its customers deal with these market shocks and gain more resilience in the process. Emma says: “We looked at how can we help customers with inventory, maintenance and procurement solutions. So how do we get the best solution to meet the customer need or challenge? Product and solutions go hand in hand and the solutions that we’ve implemented and provided for our customers have been invaluable to them.”

A big part of building a resilient business is the people within the business. Giving your staff a sense of purpose, a sense of being part of the bigger picture. What the pandemic did was bring manufacturers together for a bigger purpose, Emma explained further: “Our purpose is making the amazing happen and never has that been more real for people in terms of what they were doing every day.

“We worked with customers to support the ventilator programme, we played our role in keeping production lines open for food, for energy, for all of those things. Our team really felt that purpose and they could understand how the role that they were doing contributed to bringing that purpose to life. It meant something; we were helping them (our customer) to make amazing happen for their customers. Purpose has been absolutely critical – it really came to life through our people every day in lots and lots of different ways. The examples of people just pulling together was amazing to see,” she concluded.

To find out more about how RS Components can help your business and to obtain a copy of the Resilience Index: Plant report, please visit