Since the UK voted to leave the EU, the doom- and gloom-mongers have been in their element. Exports will collapse, the manufacturing sector will go into decline, jobs will be lost… But step beyond the headlines and the rhetoric and the reality for producers up and down the UK is entirely different.
The EFF warned us that loss of access to the single market and the customs union would condemn the UK manufacturing sector to a painful and costly Brexit. We are the 9th largest industrial nation in the world and in 2016, 52% of all manufactured exports by value were destined for the EU. Add to this the fact that over decades, the manufacturing sector has evolved complex trading relationships and supply chains that span multiple European borders. Everyone expected that the decision to leave the EU would sound the death knoll for British manufacturing exports.
In fact, the UK economy grew by more than previously reported in the final three months of 2016. And Gross Domestic Product (GDP) actually increased by 0.7%, up from 0.6%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The revision upwards was mainly due to the manufacturing industry having done better than expected. Great news? Apparently not. The ONS still said they saw signs that business confidence was wavering as a result of Brexit uncertainty.
But it hasn’t. And one year on from the Brexit result and there’s no sign of a downturn in British manufacturing anytime soon.
Take the stainless steel industry. After Brexit, the value of the Pound fell and British exporters became even more competitive than before. British stainless steel producers have reaped the rewards.
Stainless Band, a Yorkshire based business with 34 employees, produces stainless coil for use in multiple sectors from petrochemicals and automotive to construction and pharmaceuticals – it’s a prime example of a traditional British manufacturing business. Over the last seven years, Stainless Band has seen significant growth in spite of the recession. They’ve even moved to larger premises to cope with their success. The company is clearly firing on all cylinders and has seen sales steadily grow at a rate of 20% year on year. That upward trajectory has continued post-Brexit according to Managing Director, Jonathan Hanson.
“Business is good and exports are on the rise, despite the opposite impression given by the media. We export half of what we produce and the vast majority of that goes to the EU. We also rely on our trusted network of EU suppliers and will continue to do so. Those relationships remain strong and secure, despite so much negativity being reported in the media. The truth is, our business is booming.”
It is perhaps although worth remembering that despite the endless discussions about the minutiae of tariffs and customs arrangements, the best and most sustainable business deals are done based on solid relationships and trust.
Stainless Band is a manufacturing success story primarily because it has built up loyal base of direct customers and distributers who trust them to consistently deliver excellent quality and competitively priced product, all backed up by good-old fashioned customer service. To do that, Stainless Band has invested in its people and its plant, enabling it to offer in impressive array of capabilities as Jonathan Hanson explains:
“Adding tensile, hardness and chemical analysis testing as an in-house service has help us offer total traceability of materials during production and supports our ISO 9001 quality assurance system. We have also added three new production lines Oscillate winder, polishing /blanking and precision slitting, all of which takes our capacity to unprecedented new levels.”
“But responsiveness is key. We can ship product on a Friday and it’s on a production line in Europe the following week. Compare that to the extensive lead times that result from less reliable supply chains than ours and our customers appreciate the difference. We build solid relationships up and downstream, which is why we are confident in keeping our promises and meeting our customer commitments.”
Clearly for Stainless Band, the future looks bright.