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Turning our back on 2020

14 December 2020

Here Chris Billinge, Group Business Development Director at TFC, explains why UK industry is ready to take on 2021.

(Image: Shutterstock)
(Image: Shutterstock)

Many of us will be pleased to see the end of 2020. Though the coronavirus pandemic has thrown us a huge curveball, 2021 will be full of opportunities. Our entrepreneurial, innovative and adaptable spirit will see us bounce back from the economic downturn – we have the skills, experience and strength to push forwards. 

The birthplace of the first industrial revolution, Britain has always been a global trading nation. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), our industrial sector has increased its output by 1.4 percent a year since 1948. This increase has been attributed to better quality, a more skilled workforce, a shift from low to high productivity goods, improvements in technology, investment in research and development and a more integrated global economy. Our manufacturers learnt the hard way to never stand still – through three industrial revolutions and all the changes they brought, we have learnt to be lean, dynamic, cost-effective and innovative and better prepared for the current revolution – Industry 4.0. 

High quality, low waste

Lean manufacturing principles are now engrained in the UK’s manufacturing culture – engineering out waste from the outset is a mindset. With global competition increasing, efficient business operations are critical to generate positive returns and our lean mindset helps us compete on the international stage. 

UK manufacturing has also become a synonym for quality. Our focus on quality is balanced with the need to be lean and cost efficient, but they are by no means mutually exclusive. We have learnt how to run processes efficiently and to a high standard, as well as to manage our supply chains to feed an optimised process.

Strategic sourcing

The supply chain is a critical part of any manufacturing business and it has never been more important to ensure a reliable, robust and adaptable supply of materials. Capturing the advantage of global sourcing, while protecting quality and preserving availability has become an increasing focus for many manufacturers. Efficient processes and systems ensure that the supply chain does not distract the business from its core functions, the development of people, processes and products.

Over the years, the UK has built strong international relationships and economic ties. Manufacturers can benefit from this by strategically sourcing the components they need, to gain access to low cost, high-quality materials, while optimising and refining internal processes to best manage costs. Our strong, flexible, global supply chains mean we can keep international competition at bay. We can therefore fuel home grown manufacturing and innovation using imported materials, which may be considered somewhat ironic.

Our manufacturing success is maintained by our highly skilled workforce. Despite advances in automation, people remain central to our progress. We have learnt the value of training, upskilling and welfare, running our businesses in an ethical, sustainable and people-oriented way. 

Bright past, bright future

The domestic and international demand for high quality manufactured products has not gone away. Although some industries were temporarily interrupted, demand has accelerated in many sectors because of the pandemic, such as caravan manufacturing, fuelled by the advent of staycations. The food production and processing industries also stood up to unprecedented and exponential growth in demand at very short notice. 

UK manufacturing has shown innovation and resilience once again, by rising to unexpected challenges, adapting to survive and preparing to bounce back quickly. The sudden pooling of technical expertise to design and manufacture new ventilator equipment was first-hand evidence of our manufacturing skills, innovation and excellence.

UK manufacturing is the flagship of a positive, innovative, creative and hardworking population. 2020 has been a challenge for us all, but I believe we have what it takes to compete on a global stage, in 2021 and beyond. The UK is a great trading partner, and we have a lot to be proud of – and to look forward to.

For more information on how TFC can support your supply chain, visit

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