New Collective of British manufacturers – Initial signs are promising

A new collective of British manufacturers have just met to discuss how they can take more control of the future of the ailing sector. The results were very positive.

Earlier this week the MD of MSE UK, Alex Henderson (a British manufacturer of medical equipment), and I organised a meeting with manufacturers to discuss how we might influence change in the sectors at this time of political upheaval.

Firstly, we were overwhelmed by the response to our invitation to attend (or our call to arms, if you will).  In attendance for the round table event we representatives from, what seemed like, every conceivable sub-sector of British manufacturing and from all over the country.

A far larger number of manufactures contacted me in response to the invitations apologising for not being able to attend but wishing to know the outcome. For those interested, here is a brief summary of the action points to come out of the meeting:

It was clear that, as a collective of manufacturers, our specific priorities differ. That being said, there was consensus that it was an over-arching cultural change in attitude towards British manufacturing that was required. This included in change in consumer buying habits, political rhetoric and in education. It was also clear that we were all keen for the net result of any activities undertaken by the group resulted in increased sales for UK manufacturers both domestically and through export.

There was further consensus that what was required was a well-funded ‘marketing organisation’ rather than a lobby group per-se. There was reference to the activities of the organisations such as the Milk Marketing Board and the Meat Marketing Board who managed to successfully change British consumer culture in the mid-20th century, the legacy of which remains to this day. It was recognised that the formation of a ‘Manufacturing Marketing Board’ would take considerable resource and infrastructure as well as requiring a long-term view but would be a worthwhile exercise.

There was some concerns raised by the group about the number of differing organisations that exist claiming to be working in the name of British manufacturing. It was agreed that there needed to be some push to combine the associated efforts of these dispersed groups. However, it was also acknowledged that the differing priorities of these organisations, the commercial nature of some and the egos of those involved may frustrate a call to arms under one banner.

Ultimately, it was considered that the formation of a formal organisation at this point was currently beyond the reach of the group. That being said we have agreed to a number of first steps in an attempt to put the group in a more powerful position to do so:

  • A Statement of Intent, or mission statement, will be drafted and agreed by those present by the end of the year. Alex Henderson will offer a first draft for consideration.
  • It was clear that, within the room, we have a powerful reach to other manufacturers and other collectives. With that in mind we will reach out to others from within our own networks in order achieve significant backing for the Statement from industry. This could be in the form a 38 degrees campaign. This will begin early in the New Year.
  • Given significant backing a collective approach to government will be made as well as to other manufacturing representative bodies.
  • James Bradshaw will organise some method for ongoing collaboration for the group which will allow for group input ‘virtually’. This could be a forum or another such online collaboration tool.

Personally, I believe that yesterday we achieved consensus on a path to move forward. We certainly had enough passion in the room to make me optimistic that such enthusiasm will be contagious as we approach others.

If you were unable to join us for the meeting but would still like to be involved please contact us directly.

James

Can battered UK manufacturers keep up with post Brexit demand?

banksyUK manufacturing is on the cusp of a revival say insiders but is an industry that has suffered 50 years of gradual depletion up to it?

The emerging renaissance in UK manufacturing has been driven by the rising cost of overseas production, particularly in China, and an increased need for flexibility in supply chains. And now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, optimists believe demand for local manufacturing will grow. However, the manufacturing industry has been decimated since the 1970s and 1980s.

The UK fashion industry is expected to be one of the big Brexit winners. Around 100,000 people are now employed by the UK’s clothing and textile industry. This is actually the highest number since 2007, but is still dramatically less than the early 1970s, when it provided jobs for more than 1 million people. A recent report from the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) this summer revealed a 7.6% increase in the number of UK companies manufacturing textiles and clothing over the past year. This is clearly a break from a long-standing downward trend but if Brexit does trigger a sudden rise in demand can the much depleted sector keep up?

UK factories no longer have the capacity for volume manufacturing, so meeting any boom in demand will be far from easy.

 

Calling all British manufacturers – it’s time to be heard!

alex-and-james-mse

Alex Henderson MD of MSE with James

Do you own a British manufacturing company and want influence positive change in UK governmental policy affecting the sector?

As a small group of British manufacturers we invite interested and impassioned business leaders to join us for an informal roundtable discussion on the subject of how the UK manufacturing sector can influence positive government change.

Whatever your political opinions, we have a narrow window of opportunity to make our recommendations for the impending Brexit negotiations. We are sure that your hope, like ours, is that leaving the EU will ultimately positively benefit the long suffering UK manufacturing sector rather than continue to stifle it.

Our immediate ambition is to ensure that the manufacturing sectors’ voice is heard during these negotiations and then, beyond, we are well represented in future policy.

We feel that this can be achieved through the creation of a new independent lobbying body set up by industry to represent the voice of its members. On the evening of the meeting we hope to set, by mutual agreement, some positive plans for immediate action and appoint a board of directors.

Important Note: Only a small number of seats are available for this roundtable discussion. If you are not the owner or an officially recognised representative from a manufacturing organisation your application to attend will be refused. However, at a later date we will value passionate supporters and welcome you to register your interest to attend future events to james@britishfamily.co.uk

To register your interest to attend this event please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/british-manufacturers-lobby-group-first-meeting-registration-9300328533

 

Download our press release in WORD or PDF

Marmite -V- Tesco – the true cost of Brexit

marmiteMarmite, the salty yeast based breakfast staple, is at the centre of an on-going row between two consumer giants. Unilever are saying that Brexit is responsible for the massive price hike of it’s products and Tesco are saying that they should not foot the bill. Tesco has since gone on to embargo affected Unilever products meaning that stocks of the Marmite are no longer appearing on shelves. However, Marmite is actually made in the UK. So why is it’s price being effected by the falling pound?

Marmite has been exclusively produced in one factory in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire since 1902. While the exact recipe is a trade secret, its main ingredients include yeast extract, vegetables and spices and was originally produced in the town because of it’s rich brewing heritage. There were once 30 breweries in the surrounding area which supplied the waste yeast as a by-product of beer making to the Marmite factory but now the raw materials come from across the country.

The pound has fallen 17% since Britain voted to leave the EU. Some suggest that these are fantastic conditions for UK manufacturing to grow and thrive and, in any case, why should a UK produced product consisting of all UK produced ingredients suffer from such currency fluctuations. Well, the answer is simple – while the product itself is made in the UK the bottles aren’t. Like many similar products, the bottles are likely to constitute the majority of the value of the finished. Basically, the cost of the container is more expensive to produce than the content. After all, the main ingredient is slurried yeast!

Unilever are asking for 10% price increase in a number of their products and some are suggesting that the increased costs, in real terms, are unlikely to be that high. So are Unilever trying to take advantage of the current political situation? The answer has to be ‘quite possibly’. If successful are other food producers going to try something similar – almost certainly.

With the falling pound it is clear that imported goods will likely suffer a price hike but the majority of UK produced items should remain static. As consumers, in the short-term, we will certainly need to begin scrutinising the location of manufacture of goods far more rigorously in order to get the best deals. This is unless unscrupulous producers begin trying to pull a fast one.

UK manufacturing suffering but it’s too early for Remainers to gloat.

uk-manufacturing-outputs-slight-june-growthThe plunging pound is failing to boost demand for UK exports British factories suffered a worse-than-expected drop in activity after the Brexit vote.

Eagerly anticipated data released today by the Office of national Statistics (ONS) showed a sharp contraction in the manufacturing sector in July of 0.9%. This news comes despite hopes that the Brexit-hit pound might make British made good an attractive proposition for overseas buyers.

However, the figures appear to show a small 0.1% rise in overall industrial production for the same period which seems to somewhat contradict the doom and gloom.

Whatever you politics many sources are using this news as an ‘I told you so’ to underline their stance on the recent Brexit vote. However, if recent history has taught us anything it is that we should be careful not to talk ourselves into recession.

At worst todays news is a mixed message. I believe, that given the right governmental support the UK manufacturing sector could emerge from Brexit stronger than at any other point in it’s recent history, but it will be a long game. It is far too early for ‘I told you so’ and certainly far to early to worry about recession.

  • James

After nearly a century MG cars are no longer made in Britain

1280px-mg_tf_blue_frontThe last MG branded car to be built in the UK has already rolled off the production line. After 90 years of production the Chinese owners of the MG marque have decided to more production… yes, you guessed it – to China.

Shanghai-based SAIC Motor acquired Chinese automaker Nanjing Automobile in 2006 following their purchase of the MG marque and the Longbridge facility (for £53 million) just 12 month earlier.

The British-badged carmaker, first established in 1920, sold 2,300 vehicles in the UK last year. However, SAIC suggest that the move will only cost 25 jobs in the UK.

The low redundancy figure can be attributed to the fact that much of the actual manufacturing was off-shored soon after the initial 2006 deal. The production line in Longbridge, as I understand it, was mainly for screwing on the bumpers and other last fix assembly.

So, the reality is that, if you have bought a new MG in the last 10 years. Its claim to be ‘Made in Britain’ might be considered to be illegitimate.

Ultimately, the latest news is the final nail in the coffin for the manufacture of these iconic British sports cars in the UK.

Evans Lichfield Cushion

20160927_085150We have been lucky enough to have recently been sent a beautiful British made cushion from Evans Lichfield. Utilising the the work of a talented stable of British artists, Lichfield Evans specialise in fabric cushions that would feature wonderfully in any country house.

The company currently employ 50+ people in their West Midlands factory and create a product of outstanding quality (especially considering the price). Their cushions seem to me to be within a pretty reasonable price bracket – between £10 – £20.

The sample we were sent is made from 60% cotton and 40% linen and comes filled with a fibre-filled inner. It is a perfect sofa-size measuring in at 40cmX60cm and features large pink, purple and blue flowers printed to one side. Rather spookily they decided to send us a cushion that seems to fit our home decor pretty well. However, I am unable to find the same design on their website so am unable to tell you the artist.

While on the subject of their website, Lichfield Evans suffer from one of our pet hates – a great British made product underpinned by a poor online offering. Thier own website does not allow you to buy online but after some further investigation I was able to find an Amazon account for them which appears to stock much of their range (click here).

While there range might not suit all tastes, if you are going for a classic British country house look their cushions could be just the thing to finish off your living room.

  • Emily
Editor's Rating
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Total British Family Rating60/100

A fully British watch movement is ‘weeks away’

I just had a quick email from Robert Loomes who informed me that his ultimate ambition of creating an entirely British made watch movement is close to fruition. This is certainly exiting news for anyone with a serious passion for watchmaking.

More details will be unveiled soon. But in the meantime here is a fabulous video about Robert and his passion for British made watches.

 

 

 

 

A Comprehensive Islay Distilleries Review

Late last month a friend and I set off on a 1500 mile pilgrimage, in a Reliant Robin, to the home of Scottish whisky – Islay. Having managed to visit all 8 distilleries on the island, here is a brief account of our adventures plus a personal reflection on the best Islay has to offer.

Your first question might be… why a Reliant Robin. M20160823_152655y response would be ‘why not’. If your travelling the length of Britain on a road trip then why not choose a classic icon of British motoring.

Tony and I had (somehow) negotiated a week away from the wives and children to fulfil a real bucket-list ambition. We set off on the Friday evening with the plan of wild camping the whole week (wild camping being in a tent without organised campsites and other such luxuries).

We gave ourselves plenty of time, in case the 30 year old car struggled with the mileage, as our ferry left from the port of Kennacraig at 6pm on the Saturday. We made great progress, slept briefly in some guys field and were awoken to the sound of shotgun fire at around 6am. Not wishing to pick buckshot from Tony’s behind for the remainder of our journey we decided to scratch our camp in a hurry and scarper. Luckily, when on the island, people were far happier for us to camp wherever we wanted.20160821_115743

The second leg of our route saw us pass Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne both of which feature some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever witnessed.

We made the ferry in excellent time and took the two and a half hour crossing in comfort. I have to say that the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries are rather nice and the customer service is exceptional. Being from the South East of England I am always taken aback, when venturing beyond the Watford Gap, by how pleasant people can be.

The island itself is just 25 miles long by 15 miles wide and so it is somewhat interesting to think of there being no less than 8 whisky producers in such close proximity to each other. We arrived on the island at around 8pm. It was still light and so we set off to find our first camp. Having no local knowledge we naively scanned a map on the ferry and decided that we would head to a large stretch of wilderness called The Oa. This whole area turned out to be a bog requiring the Robin to undertake some serious off-roading. We headed back to civilisation.  Darkness quickly engulfed us and we drove around aimlessly for 2 hours before, more by luck than judgement, we stumbled across a place at which a number of caravans had pulled up. That was good enough for us. We pitched our tents in the dark, set a quick fire, wolfed down down some barely cooked burgers and slept like babies.

20160822_121830When morning came I peered out of my tent to see that we had stopped by a small stony beach with a red sun rising over the water. What a wonderful way to wake up. Over the coming days we got to grips with the terrain on the island and set to camping close to a number distilleries and then walking to them. We quickly got into a rhythm of seeking a new camp in the morning and visiting distilleries in the afternoon before cooking on an open fire and watching the stars in the evening.

Here is my personal view of the distilleries and their general hospitality. I have tried to put them in order from my favourite to my least favourite…because in reality I enjoyed them all.

1. Laphroaig

We took the basic tour at Laphroaig which, like all of the distilleries, this consisted of a walk around the facilities, looking at the stills and a talk about their history. The basic cost at Laphroaig was £6. We arrived at around 12pm, the tour was 45 minutes and we left just after 4pm. Needless to say while the lady behind the bar was plying us with free samples we were going nowhere. I contest that that day I spent the best £6 of my life. However, when we were given a bottle of water each and told to come back tomorrow we felt our welcome had been worn out.

For me, Laphroaig make the best whisky and strangely, having sampled the whole range,  their standard 10 year old is still my favourate.

2. Bruichladdich

Again, we did the tour at a cost of £5 and spend the whole afternoon there. There visitors centre is extremely comfortable and informal and has by far the nicest atmosphere. Again, after ‘sampling’ their whole range a couple of times we were politely told ‘gentlemen, this is not a pub’ and so we took our leave.

A real highlight of of this distillery, and possibly the whole trip, were their range of super peaty whiskies called Oxtomore. At nearly 64% it is a fiery tipple but absolutely fantastic. In my weakened state I very nearly parted with the hefty £300 for a bottle but thankfully Tony pulled me away before I could get my credit card out.

3. Kilchoman

If there is one distillery that you are likely to miss it would be Kilchoman. It is a bit off the beaten track but to my mind, it is the most honest. It is not as glitzy and not as well set up for visitors as some of the others but still well worth a visit. It is the only distillery on the island still owned by islanders and not a big corporation. In fact, we happened to bump into one of the of sons of the owners who was kind enough to give us a personal tour.

4. Ardbeg

Ardbeg is located on a massive site and very accommodating. However, they seem to have put their focus into creating a restaurant feel, which is a little off-putting. However, their whiskies are fantastic and they remain well worth a visit.

5. Bowmore

Located in the small town of Bowmore the visitor centre is very slick. A modern white-walled and glass affair with a modernist water feature in the entrance. It was a little too polished for me but the staff were wonderful.

20160824_1623286. Caol Ila

Caol Ila has a tiny visitor centre which is distinctly uncomfortable. Situated in an 1970’s monstrosity of the building the tour shows an operation more industrial in nature that the rest. However, if you look beyond the building, it is set (like a bond villains layer) in a stunning cove on a beach overlooking a wonderful view.

Surprisingly I found the whisky to be a tad disappointing but then I suppose we had been spoilt over the preceding few days.

7. Bunnahabhain

This distillery is a real trek and when you arrive is very different from the others. It feels like a Victorian prison/workhouse with it’s imposing grey buildings encircling a large courtyard. It felt like the visitor experience was very much an afterthought and the whiskey was, to my taste, pretty awful.

8. Lagavaulin

Along with Laphroaig and Ardbeg, Lagavaulin are on a recently constructed distillery walking route. This makes access to and from the sites extremely easy. The whole route is about a 5 mile round trip with the final mile feeling like reaching the summit of Everest. However, Lagavaulin provided a very disappointing visitor experience. While their visitor centre is decorated in a charming colonial style, the staff seem tainted by disillusionment.  Without exception, all of the other distillery staff had been welcoming and extremely passionate about the product but here it felt the fire had long been exhausted. While Lagavaulin might be one of the best known brands, their whiskey was also not up to the standard of the others. We arrived in their 200 anniversary year expecting a jubilant atmosphere and were sorely disappointed.  We were also given a sample of their special anniversary bottling… which was awful.

So, after 5 days, 8 distilleries and countless drams it was time to leave the island. We were welcome, we saw some of the most stunning views possible anywhere in the world and were truly spent. Our journey back in our trusty Reliant was less eventful that our arrival, our mission to simply eat up the miles. We pushed the Robin to it’s limits and made home in less than 9 hours of almost solid driving.

We had a absolutely wonderful time but the real star of the show was the trusty Robin Reliant who defied it’s doubters to make the whole journey without missing a beat. Everywhere we went the plucky little car was met with smiles and waves. We attained, by virtue of the car, celebrity status on the island and I am sure that contributed to peoples pleasantness to us.  It is however telling that, as soon as we reached Essex we were immediately met by, on more than one occasion, a number of white van men hanging out of their windows imitating the milking of cows and calling us bankers (or something to that effect). Welcome home, I though to myself.

  • James

 

 

Is the reputation of British business being sullied by a greedy few?

philipgreenbhs

The bogeyman of British business?

It is clear that Britain currently holds a special place in the international consumer market. By many countries we are seen as the gold standard in quality and business leadership. However, it has been a challenging time for British business in recent months and it makes me wonder if the actions of a greedy few might be tarnishing the once sparking gilt of Brand Britannia?

Two of the nation’s most prominent retail bosses, in a relatively short space of time, have been the subject of a very public flogging by Select Committees for their mis-conducts, putting the spotlight firmly on business standards in Britain.

Firstly, Sports Direct’s boss Mike Ashley (a seeming unlikable character) was hauled before the Business Innovation and Skills Committee under accusations of abusive practices in their Derby Warehouse. With their treatment of staff being described as ‘Dickensian’ by some, the standards Sports Direct seemly employ clearly fall short of what British business is known for. Much is made of the abhorrent working standards commonly seen in the Far East and this is often cited as a reason to ‘Buy British’. However, when we uncover these similar practices on our own shores by well-known businesses, then one cannot help but feel damaged by it.

Then we have Sir Philip Green, who has been roasted by both the Work and Pensions and BIS Select Committees for his shameful mismanagement of, long-standing High Street stalwart, BHS. Once hailed as the ‘King of Retail’, Green’s fall from grace could not have been further. You cannot help but to consider how much thought the billionaire is genuinely giving to the 11,000 workers whose livelihoods are at risk and the 22,000 more pensioners whose future is up in the air. It perhaps seems now inevitable that Phillip Green will be judged by history alongside the likes of Robert Maxwell.

Both of Ashley and Green represent the unacceptable face of capitalism but worse –  they also represent Britain in an international business market. Brand Britain must be seen as one of our most valuable commodities and everyone that does business from the UK has a responsibly to uphold the standards we have become renowned for. Failure to do so further chips away at the brand of every British business.

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