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Red Tape Challenge: manufacturers, now's your chance

18 July 2011

Back in April, members of the public, businesses and community organisations were invited to give a boost to growth and personal freedoms by ripping up some of the 21,000 rules that they believe are getting in their way. The Red Tape challenge website, launched by prime minister David Cameron and business secretary Vince Cable, gives the public a chance to have their say on regulations that affect their everyday lives. The first area of national life to go under the microscope was the retail sector; now (between July 21 and August 11, to be precise) the manufacturing sector has a chance to voice its opinions.

The Manufacturing Advisory Service is now urging manufacturers to seize this unique opportunity to tell the government what they really think about the rules and regulations that affect them. In particular, small and medium sized businesses will be able to share their opinions as to which regulations must stay, which should be simplified and which should be removed. The government promises that burdensome regulations will go, and if ministers disagree, then they will have to make a very good case for them to stay.

MAS frequently works with small and medium sized businesses to help them meet regulatory and industry standards and sees the pressures that they are under first hand. Averaging around 400 enquiries a week since it set up shop in 2002, the organisation is only too aware of the trials and tribulations that SMEs bear in the face of burdensome regulation. Companies like tier one automotive supplier, Gestamp, which MAS advised during a recent ISO 14001 accreditation process, supports the aims of the Red Tape Challenge.

Gestamp’s business development and commercial manager, Mark Potts concedes that some regulations and standards obviously must be maintained in order to promote best practice within industry. But there are regulations that increase the burden on manufacturers without delivering any obvious benefits. He, for one, would like to see a reversal of the lowering of both the Climate Change Levy threshold, which will penalise smaller energy intensive companies such as Gestamp, and Feed in Tariffs, which will affect the commercial viability of installing green technologies, such as solar panels.

Lighting control systems specialist, Zodion is another company with whom MAS worked on a similar project. On the subject of the Red Tape Challenge, managing director, John Fox would like to see a reduction in the amount of bureaucracy surrounding ‘The CRC Energy Efficiency Order 2010’. “For a medium sized company such as ourselves the inconsistency of its application on our customers can present a heavy burden,” he says.

So, if you are a manufacturer and want to have your say, the Red Tape Challenge website  awaits your comments. The input will be reviewed by ministers who have just three months to decide which regulations they will scrap - with the presumption that all burdensome regulations that cannot be justified will go.

Scrappage to the fore once more
It is interesting to hear that the ‘scrappage’ marketing strategy is alive and well and is, once again, being wheeled out to ease the cost burdens associated with going green, while generating some marketing advantage for those willing to go out on a limb.

Siemens is the latest and, to my knowledge, the only motor supplier currently offering allowances to customers upgrading to the new IE2 motor efficiency class, which became mandatory last month. At least it is the first company to announce a discount scheme - albeit time-limited - that is open to all, as opposed to specific deals struck privately between suppliers and their valued customers.

Most will recall the government inspired vehicle scrappage scheme, the success of which quickly prompted similar approaches related to domestic boiler upgrades. And going back to our motors theme, a drives scrappage scheme has also run with some success since last year. These promotions can be tempting but, they are essentially commercial ventures that do restrict your choice by tying you to a single supplier. The more these schemes are rolled out, the more choice you have but, as far as the supplier is concerned, the clever bit is to get the timing right. Siemens appears to be first in on the motors front, but you’d better hurry; its scheme only runs for five months.

Les Hunt


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