I grew up in post war Britain, accustomed to rationing and shortages in a period when consumer items – if available at all – were generally ‘Made in Britain’ and proudly stamped so. Growing up in the back streets of Birmingham we had little in the way of possessions but we were given a work ethic that said ‘if you can’t afford it you can’t have it’ and ‘if you’re well enough to go out you’re well enough to go to school/work’
At a Chamber of Commerce meeting some years ago Tony Blair referred to manufacturers as ‘dinosaurs’
As a SME owner for the past thirty years I have seen at first hand the fall from grace that was manufacturing. At a Chamber of Commerce meeting some years ago Tony Blair referred to manufacturers as ‘dinosaurs’ illustrating the then government view. In the past couple of years though there seems to have been a much more positive view of producers from the Coalition and it is great to see that there is a new buzz word around – onshoring! To bring back production of certain items from overseas, particularly China, will be a slow process but as there is now only a small cost advantage to producing in China this will become an option that is considered more and more.
Despite the media doom and gloom we have seen growth of around 20% year on year since the crisis of 2008, have invested heavily and look to invest more in the coming years in both plant and people. We look on the future as an exciting challenge helping British companies to manufacture their products in the UK . . .
Difficult as it is we can all play a small part by actively buying British in preference to imported goods. It might take a bit of effort but it is surprising how much we do make and how much effect we can have by being a bit selective. Often it turns out that the British product is cheaper and almost certainly better than foreign goods.
So, where I am I going with this?
I guess the first thing for Britain to do is to change the culture of ‘soft options’ whether it be in the perception that we [the UK] are a soft touch for everyone or whether it is the emphasis on ‘soft’ business. At long last Government seems to be recognising that manufacturing is essential to wealth.
If there is a moral to this story it is that, even today, there are opportunities for anyone to be good at what they do. If you are a road sweeper, be proud to have the cleanest street in town; if you are a bus driver be the smoothest driver, the friendliest face, if you are a businessman [or woman] be the most honourable and ethical person you can, in other words always give of your absolute best. The mind set of ‘take’ has to stop in the Britain of today. With the lead of Government, parents and educators we need to encourage work as a norm not an exception, not everyone can be a pop star or a premiership footballer but an approach of giving of your best rather than a shallow ‘take what you can’ attitude must be good for the individual, their employer and eventually for Britain. In particular, there is a bright future for anyone who is prepared to go into 21st Century manufacturing. It may not be overly glamorous but can always be interesting and challenging and sometimes very rewarding.