David Simpson 27th Jan 2020 2 Min Read
When it comes to the next chapter of the history of British manufacturing I have my own exciting plans geared around the intersection of design and technology. Why then, when I talk to people about the British designing and manufacturing like we do at Andersen, do I illicit bafflement and surprise?
A recent dinner party conversational exchange is typical.
Dinner Guest: “So you install charge points?”
Me: “Yes, and we manufacture the units too.”
Guest: “Really! Oh… so you make the stuff in China and ship it over?”
Me: “No. We manufacture everything in the UK.”
Guest: Perplexed Silence.
I thought I was embarking on a conversation starter, not a conversation killer. It seems there is a lack of meaning, as well as puzzlement and plain disbelief, around the ‘Made in Britain’ marque today.
It’s not just since the gloom and potential chaos around the Brexit decision that the UK appears to have mislaid its confidence. In the manufacturing world, it feels we lost our swagger long ago. Years of erratic government policy and the inability of British management to invest and innovate has left us, as a nation, more than a little pessimistic about the future of the British manufacturing sector. Add to that, tooling costs, complex regulation and limited access to finances and it’s no surprise we don’t nurture the amount or the diversity of manufacturing businesses we once did.
So why take the seemingly foolhardy business decision of making stuff in the UK? My motivation balances both a response to a clear business opportunity as well as a very personal passion.
Let’s consider my own satisfaction first: I get real pleasure out of making great products with an equal emphasis on style, quality and fitness for purpose. My days are spent conceiving ideas for products, then obsessing about design details and manufacturing technicalities – and it never feels like a job to me. I am firmly rooted in a place where technology and design converge and that’s where I see the future of British manufacturing.
There is a pragmatic reason for keeping things close to home too: Unless you are Apple with an army of quality engineers on your staff, you can never guarantee quality from China. It may be cheap but your production batch doesn’t tend to resemble the quality of the lovely sample which landed on your desk courtesy of DHL. Despite its many failings, the UK still tends to deliver on those principal traits of excellence and value. When I order from a reputable British supplier – anything from electronic components to cables, paints and timbers – I get what I asked for. If I keep my supply chain close like this, I can deliver on the Andersen quality promise, which is at the core of everything we do.
So, I say, suspend your disbelief and embrace ‘Made in Britain’ once more. Have something to add to the conversation? I am all ears.
A hands-on design engineer, David is responsible for driving the latest design, engineering and software developments. His experience ranges from hi-fi product design to the programme management of complex financial service software. When he’s not talking about firmware updates, tooling or road maps you’ll see him running in Hampstead Heath or ferrying his kids to school on his electric bicycle.