The stricken container ship that blocked the Suez canal for days, delaying almost 12% of global trade passing that way on route to Europe and beyond, again exposed the fragility of extended modern supply chains, with many UK businesses suffering from lack of supply.
This recognition, combined with the pandemic and Brexit is expected to boost the efforts of UK manufacturers to encourage customers to favour domestic production, according to Chris Butler, a Director of funeral furnishings business John Wilde & Co.
“Reshoring is now being seen as increasingly important for UK supply resilience and ensuring that manufacturing supply chains are in the best shape possible to fulfil a growing domestic market, particularly in the funeral services sector.
“The funeral services sector, perhaps unsurprisingly, weathered the pandemic reasonably well, but the supply issues that struck early on with delayed shipments from the far east in particular and the astronomic rise in container fees, highlighted the risks of chasing cheap imports.
“A large proportion of the goods being sourced abroad can be designed, manufactured, stored and shipped from within the UK, relieving many of the pressures associated with long supply chains, when products pass through many hands on route to the UK.
“Thanks to our ability to increase manufacturing of our range of coffin handles, relying on our UK supply chain, we were able to not only fill the gap left by the problems with imports, but supply a better quality product and meet the tight deadlines imposed by the import delay.
“The argument against choosing UK suppliers like ourselves, has typically been based on cost. But the balance is swinging in our favour as other factors achieve greater importance, with the potential cost of supply disruption and risk mitigation evening out the playing field.
John Wilde & Co. has been manufacturing its broad range of funeral furnishings, from coffin handles and burial ornaments to soft linings and tassels at its Birmingham headquarters for more than six decades, supplying coffin manufacturers and independent funeral directors across the UK
Butler concludes: “Manufacturers are not looking for special treatment, just a fair assessment of the total impact on the UK economy of looking to China for supplies, particularly as we need to boost businesses here in the UK if we are to create the new jobs the country needs.
“For too long the focus has been on cost and the ability of the Far East to undercut UK manufacturers, but now is the time for customers to look closer to home and take advantage of short, robust supply chains.
“In addition, the growing demand from customers to reduce the carbon footprint within their supply chains, ensures that looking to the UK first, makes sense practically, economically and environmentally.”