Since its decline during the recession, the British engineering sector has made a good recovery and is reportedly strong and performing well, with the UK currently ranked as the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world.
As with all successes born out of difficult times, inevitable changes in processes led to fears that UK based engineering firms could lose out to cheaper services abroad (namely China and Europe) and a rise in companies making a move to in-house facilities.
Yet the latest figures from EEF seem to allay this fear. Highlighting manufacturing profits within Britain (most notably within the Aerospace and Automotive sectors) to be rising consistently without the need to look abroad.
The findings also suggest that the manufacturing industry now places a greater emphasis on service and bespoke goods, which has in turn led to a trend for subcontracting cutting, fabrication and forming to specialist firms offering a wealth of knowledge and experience.
The drive to outsource within the UK rather than increase in-house capacity or take on extra equipment is primarily influenced by cost. Laser and waterjet cutters are hugely expensive to purchase and run, whilst the complex skills of fabricators and welders are that of a delicate art.
By using a dedicated firm, manufacturers can be assured of consistent quality and the additional problem solving capabilities that come from the many years engineering experience held within these organisations.
“We have never been busier,” says Mark Causer, director at Emsea Ltd. “The trend for bespoke parts seems to apply across all sectors and as a result we are undertaking a huge variety of work as companies look to our expertise and our endless design possibilities.”
Retro Track and Air Ltd, a design and manufacturing organisation specialising in vintage cars and planes, have customers around the globe yet still prefer to use manufacturing services in the U.K.
“The quality of workmanship here sets us apart from the rest of the world,” commented Peter Watts, director at Retro Track and Air Ltd. “Whilst we usually like to complete all aspects of our projects in-house to guarantee adherence to our impeccably high standards, we do at times require a company with specialised engineering knowledge and bespoke cutting capabilities.
“It is then that the design through to completion facilities offered by Emsea become vital to us. Most recently they reverse engineered an armoured plate for the refurbishment of a crashed World War Two Spitfire, something we could not have accomplished in-house.”
So, has UK Engineering had its day? It appears not. Prepare for the journey, UK manufacturing looks set to go from strength to strength.