Woodbridge: Brafe Engineering flies flag for UK manufacturing

David Caddle of the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS).

David Caddle of the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS). - Credit: Archant

Reducing costs is the main driver for small to medium sized manufacturers in the East of England looking to bring production back to the UK, according to a new survey.

More than a quarter of respondents (27%) to the Manufacturing Advisory Service’s latest Barometer survey stated that concerns over the cost of offshore production was the principal reason for “reshoring”, followed by improving quality (23%) and reducing lead times (15%).

However, the cost of domestic labour continues to remain the biggest barrier for producing within the UK according to manufacturing SMEs, with well over one in 10 concerned about the price of capital equipment.

David Caddle, area director of the Manufacturing Advisory Service in London and the South East, said: “There is certainly a growing desire from our companies to bring production home, with 11% of firms surveyed either actively planning or considering reshoring, compared to just 5% that have offshored in the last year.

“This marks a major change in approach from five years ago when the Far East and Eastern Europe seemed to be the destination of choice.”


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He continued: “Buyers have realised that there is more to the ‘landing’ price than meets the eye, with delays in logistics and issues around quality adding a whole layer of hidden costs.

“At MAS, we have experts in place who will work with companies to review the viability of reshoring through cost/benefit analysis, not to mention supporting them in taking full advantage of new opportunities driven by UK manufacturing’s growing popularity.”

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The Barometer, which featured the views of more than 50 manufacturing SMEs from across the East of England, reinforced the recent feel good factor, with nearly half (49%) enjoying an increase in sales over the last six months and 53% expecting to grow between now and April 2014.

There also appears to be a pattern of steady growth in companies embracing new technologies (35%) and investing in machinery and premises (42%). The latter represents a 3% increase from the same period last year.

Mr Caddle continued: “The recent Foresight Report detailed the need for industry to move to more advanced, higher value manufacturing and this is being reflected in the Barometer.

“We have seen a further increase in the number of firms investing in new technologies and this tells us that manufacturers are not only optimistic about the next six months, but also have one eye on the longer-term picture.”

Suffolk-based Brafe Engineering was one of the companies questioned in the MAS Barometer and reflects the positivity currently being felt across the East of England

The firm, which manufactures specialist alloy castings for valves and pumps, has seen growth across all of its markets in the last year and has been able to create 16 new jobs in the process.

“We provide components for end use in power generation, chemical refining, nuclear and petrochemical and there’s definitely been new projects starting in each of these sectors,” said Andrew Dalby, managing director.

“Better still, we are seeing increases in our forward order book which gives us the confidence to invest in the longer-term future.”

He continued: “With this in mind, we’ve just purchased new machines and an additional furnace to ensure we have the capacity and flexibility to meet the rise in demand.”

Brafe Engineering, which currently exports 95% of its turnover, is firmly committed to developing the next generation of manufacturing experts.

As part of its recruitment drive, the firm has taken on seven apprentices on four-year training schemes, including one young person being trained as an Inspector.

Mr Dalby added: “Our approach is to keep all of manufacturing in England. Whilst others decided to offshore, we preferred to focus on adding value and securing the highest quality standards. Our base in Suffolk gives us the best chance of achieving this.”

The publication of the latest MAS Barometer marks the start of the first ever Manufacturing Matters week, which is looking to showcase England’s manufacturing SMEs – a sector that currently accounts for more than 110,000 businesses and 1.1 million jobs.

In addition to this report, there will be over 50 events held across the country with a specialist focus on access to finance, innovation, international trade and offshore wind.

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