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China crisis?

Apologies for the gap in my updates to the blog, I have no excuse and it is especially poor as I advocate most days on how important it is to update your website/blog. Sorry peeps.

Anyway a meeting today inspired me to write some thoughts on the state of our manufacturing industry, particularly in respect of Chinese manufacturing versus the UK. My meeting was to discuss some packaging design work and a new ecommerce website.

We all know about how vast swathes of our manufacturing capability has gone in recent years. Competitiveness (or lack of it) has seen our products become too costly to produce in a global market place. We have seen the emergence of the Chinese as a major force in their ability not just to copy existing products but also to manufacture items of (now) extremely good quality.

Traditionally this has involved selling off our machinery, often straight onto a container ship bounds for the far east, sometimes this even involved our skilled workers flying out to install and commission these machines and train Chinese staff in their use and maintenance. The downside clearly has been the loss of skills, ability to create and obviously then sell goods in the UK, and whole communities suffering economically as a direct result of job losses.

That’s the bleak picture. Today however I had a conversation with a Black Country company who has dealt with the above scenario not only well but in my, albeit limited experience, fairly uniquely.

They still manufacture here but on a much smaller scale than over the past 50 years they have traded. This family company decided to take on the Dragon not by closing and giving up. Not even by doing what a lot of companies do; design here and sub contract the manufacture in the far east. No these guys have done something which frankly astounded me, particularly given their relatively small size.

They formed a Chinese company, they bought some land (in China), they built a factory, they filled it with machinery, they recruited both UK and Chinese workers. They now design and build their globally sold industrial products in China. They spend about half of their management time there and ensure incredibly high standards of manufacture. Their products are sold into the US, UK and all over Europe.

What’s so good about this?

They still employ about 30 skilled works in the Black Country, they pay British taxes, the sell their goods INTO China! And the main thing is…. they are still in business. Unlike very sadly, many of their contemporaries in the Black Country and UK in general.

Is this a message that others should listen to? If the global manufacturing power is currently shaped as a dragon, should the manufacturers in the UK start taking the game into the mouth of that dragon and beat them at their own game? Well they might stay trading at the very least.

Comments welcome.