Real reshoring: Vent-Axia

How and why did Vent-Axia decide to reshore its domestic fan manufacturing? Paul Davies, group operations director for Vent-Axia's parent company Volution, explains the process to TM.

In January 2013 Vent-Axia officially opened a new manufacturing line for its domestic fans at its Crawley factory.

This manufacturing growth was particularly significant because it signified the reshoring of production from Vent-Axia’s facility in China.

In January this year, Prime Minister David Cameron visited the Crawley site to celebrate a year of fruitful production back in the UKand on the same day, announced the launch of ReshoreUK, a new advisory service which will help more firms following Vent-Axia’s footsteps.

Below, Paul Davies, group operations director at Volution, Vent-Axia’s parent company explains the decision making process which led to reshoring.

Paul Davies, Group Operations Director, Volution

From where in the business did the idea to reshore originate? – Finance? Engineering? Etc?

The idea regarding reshoring originated in the General Management Forum and developed due to many drivers.

Firstly we could see that the costs of manufacturing in China were increasing and we knew that we had to maintain leadership in service, which can prove tricky when shipping product from the other side of the World. We needed to be able to control stock to meet demands.

In addition, we had just developed a new high performance chassis for our fans and were keen to return the manufacturing to the UK so that we could improve our products.

Lastly, I came into the role as Group Operations Director, a group perspective facilitated the reshoring.

All these factors made it timely to bring production back to the UK – though once the decision was made, it took four years to carry it through.

Which part of the business was most difficult to convince that it was the right choice?

There was no need to convince anyone at Vent-Axia that moving manufacturing to the UK was the right choice, everybody agreed that reshoring was the right move.

Reshoring the balance of our residential fan production to the UK made sense due to a number of factors not just from a competitive position, but also customer service and responsiveness is substantially enhanced when manufacturing our products locally.

Internally the reshoring was well received across all departments since it was set to improve performance and service leadership, giving Vent-Axia a competitive edge at a time when construction was suffering a downturn.

What was the most difficult operational aspect of reshoring?

The most difficult operational aspect of reshoring was balancing the stock.

We needed enough stock from China in the UK to ensure we did not run out of products. However, once the new improved products were being manufactured the old stock would be obsolete. It was a tricky balancing act.

Can you quantify any benefits achieved since reshoring?

There are a raft of benefits that have been achieved since reshoring including the creation of thirty five new jobs on site with assembly jobs specifically increasing by fifty per cent.

Furthermore, for the local community moving manufacturing back to the UK has had a great effect on the logistics and support structure required to support the increased manufacturing.

The new UK production lines have also improved Vent-Axia’s service offering allowing the company to manage stock levels to help with stock availability.

The UK location also makes it easier for Vent-Axia to undertake continuous development of products and make on-going design enhancements to meet customer needs with a reduced lead time.

Reshoring has significantly reduced the lead time required compared to when products were manufactured in China.

Since reshoring Vent-Axia is able to produce its products more quickly in the UK to meet demand and can also produce shorter runs of specific bespoke products to respond to customer needs.

Moving manufacturing to the UK has meant the company no longer needs to hold high levels of stock in its warehouse to anticipate demand. This stock reduction has reduced Vent-Axia’s working capital by approximately £250,000.

Finally, reshoring has reduced the embodied energy in Vent-Axia’s products by reducing transport emissions.

Up to 15 Tonnes of CO2 emissions is avoided each year since reshoring due to the reduction in international shipping.

Learn more about reshoring

If you’re interested in finding out more about opportunities to reshore manfuacturing to the UK attend TM’s Future Factory: Supply Chain conference in London on April 29.

Representatives from ReshoreUK, the new advisory service administered by the Manufacturing Advisory Service and UKTI will present.

The event is free to attend for TM subscribers.

Contact maha@sayonemedia.com for more details.