If the UK is to play to its strengths, what exactly are they?

In light of recent political and economic events, there is an opportunity for UK manufacturers to reassert themselves on the world stage. However, doing so relies on better leveraging and promoting what they do best.


UK Manufacturers - The amount of companies expecting an improvement in the global economy has reached the highest level in four years.
The amount of companies expecting an improvement in the global economy has reached the highest level in four years.

UK manufacturers are expected to benefit from a boom in overseas demand in 2018, according to new research by EEF.

The amount of companies expecting an improvement in the global economy has reached the highest level in four years, with more than 40% of businesses anticipating that trading conditions will be better this year than in the previous 12 months.

The Manufacturer recently sat down with members of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) cluster group to discuss their views.

MAN is one of the UK’s leading manufacturing collectives, comprised of eight sub-contract specialists and an engineering design agency. All are small or medium-sized companies and, for the most part, all are based in and around the Midlands.

Tony Sartorius, chairman and owner of Wednesbury-based aluminium casting producer Alucast, commented: “Internationally, something from Britain is still associated with being a well-made, quality product which carries a certain related kudos to it.

Aluminium casting producer, Alucast, has seen its order book reach a five-year high - image courtesy of Alucast.
Aluminium casting producer, Alucast, has seen its order book reach a five-year high – image courtesy of Alucast.

“That’s particularly evident in the automotive sector, though by no means exclusively so. Brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce all appear to be doing very well and growing.”

Sartorius highlighted growing markets in Asia (particularly China) and the Middle East (particularly Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Qatar).

Both are regions that view ‘Made in Britain’ as being an asset, he noted, and therefore should be a focus for government and industry to work together to not only further increase automotive and aerospace exports, but also to look at broadening demand in to other sectors.

Regarding automotive, Adam Cunningham, managing director of subcontract machine group Muller Holdings, highlighted what Tata had achieved since taking over Jaguar Land Rover in 2008.

He noted: “JLR could be a considered a niche brand, producing low volumes compared to other comparable automotive OEMs such as BMW or Toyota.

Jaguar land Rover is to open a new software centre in Ireland - image courtesy of JKR.
In 2013, Jaguar Land Rover sold almost 375,000 units. In 2017, that figure jumped to 604,000 – image courtesy of JKR.

“Tata have been very successful in driving JLR forward. For example, they are now approaching 40,000 employees, almost double the workforce they had five years ago.

“Tata has taken a well-respected British marque and ramped up production without sacrificing quality or their USP, that’s not an easy feat to achieve.”

In 2013, Jaguar Land Rover sold almost 375,000 units. In 2017, that figure jumped to 604,000.

Embrace change

MAN Group members were unanimous in their support of embracing change. Every market will face disruption, either external and internal; the critical factor was how you addressed that disruption.

Did you accept it and push forward, or did you stick steadfastly to past practices and allow yourself to be overtaken or pushed aside?

Brandauer is a precision stamper and toolmaker, with an annual turnover of around £8m – of which almost 75% are exports – image courtesy of Brandauer.
Brandauer has an annual turnover of around £8m, of which almost 75% are exports – image courtesy of Brandauer.

Rowan Crozier is the CEO of Birmingham-based precision stamper and toolmaker Brandauer, a business where exports account for 80% of its sales. The company celebrated its 155th year in business in 2017 and is still owned by the same family.

Crozier said: “Why has Brandauer been so successful? Why have we survived both world wars, financial recessions and multiple other events, when so many other businesses failed?

“It’s because we’ve always filled a niche, offering a high tolerance, very difficult product. What people would call ‘advanced manufacturing’ or ‘high-value manufacturing’.

“Companies such as ours are willing to reinvest, reinvent and re-approach based on core competencies. These are the businesses which not only survive, but flourish. Clearly, they need to be well run and all the other facets of any successful business, but I firmly believe that’s what has given Brandauer its longevity.”

Get insights like this delivered straight to your inbox

5 Digital Briefings | 5 Front-of-Mind Topics | 5 Days a Week

  • Monday: Manufacturing Innovation
  • Tuesday: Manufacturing Leadership
  • Wednesday: Digital Transformation
  • Thursday: Industrial Automation
  • Friday: Industrial Internet

Sign up for free here