Pat McFadden, MP, has published a pamphlet, under the auspices of the international centre-left think-tank and network Policy Network, entitled <a href="http://bit.ly/JxC0yk" target="new">'Making things – a reassessment of British manufacturing'</a>.
Mr McFadden is Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East and a former UK business minister, political secretary and policy adviser in 10 Downing Street. His pamphlet is a good read, offering thoughtful analysis
One of its elements concerns what the author calls "the ecosystem of making things", by which he means the extended supply chain that supports those well known manufacturing names Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Nissan, Ford and the like.
The pamphlet explains: "Manufacturing is an eco system with interdependent companies all along the supply chain. This eco system, with its network of companies, culture and learning, is what gives a country the capacity to make things.
"For a particular product, there are often more jobs in the supply chain than there are in the prime manufacturer. Any country which cares about making things will pay as much attention to the health of its supply chain as it does to the big household names."
Mr McFadden goes on to example some supplier companies whose names consumers will not see on finished products. And he concludes: "Manufacturing is a chain. If Britain is to make more in the future, we need to think not just of eye- catching inward investment stories, but also the thousands of small engineering firms around the country."
And he suggests that "the Department of Business and UKTI should have a British Supply Chain team working with prime manufacturers on the kinds of changes that would be needed to bring supply chain work back to the UK and to make sure that investors know what is available locally when they make an investment in the UK".
There have been, and are, government initiatives that touch on this – the Technology Strategy Board's £125 million funding initiative, aimed at "helping the UK's existing supply chain grow and achieve world-class standards, while encouraging major new suppliers to manufacture in the UK" – is one of the more recent announcements.
But Mr McFadden is right to raise the issue and suggest a more permanent effort. Aiming to squeeze every bit of benefit for the country out of large OEM investments and business successes, while on the other hand helping to attract inward investors by highlighting UK?supply chain strengths is nothing less than eminently sensible.
First published in Machinery, June 2012