While the UK manufacturing industries have certainly changed over the past century, this country is still a thriving place for production. Many start ups and established companies are making record profits making goods in the UK, and with a few hints and suggestions, so can you.
UK Manufacturing – A thing of the past?
The United Kingdom has a rich and storied history of manufacturing. From the trade guilds of the middle ages, bursting with skilled artisans producing handmade goods to the smoke belching factories of the Industrial Revolution, products of all kinds have been produced in the UK for millennia.
With that said, over the past thirty years a vast portion of this country’s once strong manufacturing industry has dwindled, throttled by high production costs and forced to relocate to countries with cheaper labour costs and lower overhead, such as Poland, China, Sri Lanka and others.
Vast swathes of formerly industrial land are being transformed into tech firm business hubs and luxury loft conversions, and from a simple look around one could be fooled into thinking that all manufacturing industries have left the UK for good. However, that quick glance would not tell the complete story – there are many firms, large and small, that still continue to manufacture all types of goods here in the UK to this day, and with a strengthening economy it seems that they will soon be joined by even more.
Manufacturing still an important part of the economy
Nearly 10 % of the British work force is involved in manufacturing in one form or another, and while this may be down from figures and statistics of yore, it still represents a large number of average people who rely on these industries for their bread and butter. The automobile production industry in the UK is actually on the rise; 2015 was their best year since 2008, and over 1 million cars were made in this country.
5 manufacturers setting the bar in the UK
From businesses that have stood the test of time to newbie start ups attempting to create a change, here is a small curated sampling of just a few of the manufacturers that are alive and well in the UK in 2016.
- Cambridge Satchel Company – Buttery soft leather satchels and bags in timeless styles and bright colours, all sewn to perfection – this is the (not so) secret formula to the Cambridge Satchel Company’s success. Started in 2008 by a mum hoping to pay her kids’ school fees, this homegrown business has spawned a factory employing hundreds and brick and mortar stores across the world – they are now available in 120 countries. An amazing achievement in less than a decade!
- Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics – A truly British success story, this quirky gang of ragtag cosmeticians began selling their iconic bath bombs, solid shampoos and cheese like wedges of soap in 1977 via a mail order catalogue. Many years (and a few name changes) later, 900 Lush Cosmetics shops are located in forty nine countries worldwide, and yet they still manufacture most of their products in Poole (additional factories in Canada and Japan meet worldwide need). The business world is paying attention – they earned record profits in 2015.
- Rude Health – Starting small was the name of the game for this whole foods manufacturer. Londoners Camilla and Nick Bernard couldn’t find a muesli they liked in 2005, and so they decided to create their own – and now their company Rude Health is available across the country and reaching out to the continent. Priding itself on healthy, nutritious food, Rude Health’s products are made in the capital, to the tune of a 6 million turnover last year. Not so rude!
- Turnberry Rug Works – Established in 1991, the team at Turnberry creates luxurious, bespoke rugs, carpets and wall hangings in a converted granary building on the West Coast of Scotland. They hand make their exquisite pieces out of the finest materials available, and their clients include embassies, celebrities and blue chip corporations.
- Spectris – A global powerhouse in the industrial instrument arena, Spectris was established in 1915 and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1988. They ‘make highly-specialised measuring instruments and controls for some of the most technically-demanding industrial applications’ at their factory in Egham. Employing over 8000 people in 30 countries worldwide, they have annual revenues topping 1 billion pounds.
How can you get started as a manufacturer in the UK?
If you are a small to medium sized business owner and you are considering manufacturing your products in the UK, you first need to be aware of a few factors. These can help you get off of the ground and get started!
- Location – If you want to get started on a tight budget, you will need to consider headquartering your manufacturing base in a relatively inexpensive location. So yes, that means London is out! In a smaller, more affordable area your rent, wage costs, and personal living expenses will be cheaper, and these factors can be the difference between success and failure in the first lean years. Recent studies have shown that Wales might be your cheapest option, but other factors such as transportation might affect your decision.
- Grants – Each year, nearly a billion pounds is made available in the form of grants to help new businesses get off of the ground, and as a newcomer to the manufacturing industry, it pays to take advantage of these. Check the government finance and business support finder to see the grants for which you may be eligible.
- Shared Factories – Running a factory can be a costly ordeal; for those who want to take advantage of the so called ‘sharing economy’ there is an ideal solution. Shared Factory schemes allow manufacturers to group together in order to share the often hefty costs associated with getting a factory up and running.
Manufacturing – alive and well in the UK
As you can clearly see, the manufacturing industry is alive and well in the United Kingdom, and as more savvy young entrepreneurs enter these industries you can expect to see a focus on unique, high quality and handmade goods all bearing the seal “Made in Britain.”