This year's National Manufacturing Debate (NMD), hosted by Cranfield University, focused on the enormous potential of reshoring manufacturing to the UK.
The return of production that originated in Britain but moved abroad is increasing, driven by a number of factors including shifting consumer preferences and companies' desire to exert greater control over quality and supply chain risks.
Cranfield's Professor Rajkumar Roy launched a white paper, analysing the UK's reshoring capability and following recent work undertaken by the University in collaboration with the ERA Foundation.
The paper, which is available on the NMD website (www.national-manufacturing-debate.org.uk/reshoring/), looks at the factors that will help UK companies to reshore production and the impact of reshoring on the national economy.
The debate also focused on the challenges of sustaining reshored manufacturing in the UK over a long period.
Keynote speakers at the event held at the Cranfield campus included John Cridland, Director General of the CBI; Dick Elsy, CEO of HVM Catapult, which supports the growth and success of high-value manufacturing in the UK; Ian Pearce, MD of Brinsea Products, a UK manufacturing company; and Harry Moser, Founder and President, Reshoring Initiative, USA. Panel members included Clare Marett, Assistant Director, Advanced Manufacturing and Services at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace at Cranfield.
Opening the event, Lord Alec Broers said: "Manufacturing is so essential to the UK, perhaps now more so than it ever has been. Reshoring is a topic being discussed all over the world, and the potential job opportunities that it presents."
John Cridland commented: "Companies want to be nearer to their innovation centres and customers, and further from global risks....to further reshoring, we need to create an innovation culture that is both competitive and world-leading."
He added that: "Reshoring is not guaranteed, and we have to ensure that a trickle becomes a flood. The prize for strengthening our supply chains is enormous."
Ian Pearce of Brinsea Products, which makes all of its products are made in its Weston-super-Mare factory, commented: "We design and assembly our products in the UK, but we were bringing in plastic components from China. Each plastic part is injection moulded from an expensive steel tool – major assets to the business. The decision we had to make was should we bring that process back to the UK....three years on, Brinsea benefits from lead times down from 16 weeks to just one."
Reshoring production to the UK has started, but we have to support reshoring to move from 'a trickle to a flood' and then sustain it here. Factors to attract and sustain reshoring such as supply service, quality and innovation environment, business ecosystem and culture, labour and skills, resource costs and regulations will achieve this.
The National Manufacturing Debate 2015 report will be published in July.