Major frailties exposed in the global supply chain have created the perfect opportunity to bring thousands of manufacturing jobs back to the UK, says a leading UK-based manufacturer of aerospace parts.
Chris Ford, managing director of South Shields-based Ford Engineering, says major disruptive events such as the pandemic, delays at customs following Brexit and the blockage of the Suez Canal by a grounded ship, have shown weaknesses in global shipping networks.
He’s hoping the situation will lead to more major UK original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) sourcing their parts from within Britain, leading to more jobs, an increase in skills and boosting the economy.
“There’s been a perfect storm of circumstances that has led to huge delays – there are now global materials shortages that are affecting most industries. You’d like to think nothing on this scale could happen again, but it has shown there are weaknesses that can have a huge impact,” he said.
“I think – hope – it could lead to OEMs reviewing their supply chain strategies and looking to source more parts from within the UK. It would provide a major boost to the economy, to jobs and would help to keep British manufacturing at the top table for years to come.
“I’m not saying every part should be sourced here. We’re part of a global industry and that wouldn’t be practical,” he said. “But a dual-sourcing approach, where manufacturers source parts from both the UK and overseas, would still provide a major boost to our industries and economy.
“There are now major benefits to buying British. The cost of shipping is already so high that there is less value to be found overseas.
“Plus, in our experience, the quality of British-sourced parts is higher and more consistent – and it’s easier to implement rigorous quality control. Our aerospace customers want products to UK industry standards. Talking to them it’s clear that they have grown tired of poorly-made, sometimes unsafe goods, produced in countries with less-than-ideal standards,” Ford added.
“And, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t take much to grind major shipping channels to a halt. If an incident such as the Ever Given in the Suez Canal happens again, surely it would be reassuring to know you had alternative suppliers to call on.”
He says Ford Engineering, a fourth-generation family manufacturing company that supplies to some of the biggest names in aerospace, has been affected by materials shortages in the same way as many other companies.
“We specialise in low-volume manufacturing runs. We are fortunate in that we can be agile and flexible in our approach to meet demand, but not everyone can move so quickly,” he said.
“Our core capabilities mean that we offer a diverse range of services to customers – no matter how big or small a job is and it has proved a powerful catalyst for growth. We can produce customer designed products to the aerospace and defence industry in quantities ranging from single items to large batches of 50,000.”