Gabby Day, Communications Manager at Pentagon Plastics explores the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, and asks, could this crisis bring a new wave of demand for UK manufacturing?
COVID-19, what will it mean for the future of UK Manufacturing?
It is no secret that the lure of low component price, rapid tool manufacture and short lead times is attractive for anyone looking to bring a new plastic injection moulded product to market and for many, overseas manufacture is the go-to production route of choice. However, considering COVID-19 we can’t help but wonder, will this bring about a new wave of demand for UK manufacture?
For many years now UK Manufacturers have been sharing the benefits of having both tooling and production of moulded components carried out here in the UK. Promoting ease of communication, ease of distribution and quality production in facilities that you can go and see. To a degree reshoring of existing tooling has been increasingly evident for a business such as ours from 2015.
One of the main hurdles that UK manufacturing does face is the prevalent skills gap, many people now setting their sights on a desk-based role or chasing the current trend of social influencing, unfortunately for many people manufacturing and engineering are not an option they are considering.
In the current climate, what is it that as a nation we truly need?
We need our wonderful NHS workers, our key workers and more than ever we need UK Manufacturing. We have been so fortunate to be able to get what we want, when we want it, at the touch of a button, that it seems a shock to many that there are not enough ventilators to support the victims of the 2020 pandemic. Having the required volume of essential life-saving and personal protective equipment bought in from offshore is currently proving not to be a simple process, and we now turn the focus on what we as a country can do for ourselves.
It has been nothing short of humbling to see how UK manufacturing and engineering companies have united to help support and develop the much-needed PPE, ventilation systems and test kits in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Firms that may not have previously run products for the medical sector are stepping up to adapt and change their scope of service to support the needs of the NHS, while firms that already serve the medical sector, like us here at Pentagon, are facilitating increased production demand and prioritising key components.
Over 3,000 companies and individuals have registered their services to the governments NHS Ventilator Challenge, offering a range of services and manufacturing capabilities to assist with the urgent demand for life-saving equipment.
Here at Pentagon, around 35% of the products that we manufacture are delivered into the medical sector. We supply products used in ventilation systems, stoma care, fluid drains and other essential medical devices used in hospitals or for general patient care. Both our Toolmaking and Plastic Injection Moulding services are ISO2009:2015 accredited and the level of service we have built up over many years means we are well equipped to provide support to the COVID-19 response, with a wealth of experience on the processing of medical-grade thermoplastics.
Is there any kind of silver lining to this dark cloud that is engulfing us?
Finding a silver lining to the current situation can seem like a real challenge right now. However, there is always one to be found.
As our country pulls together in unity, we are seeing businesses and people come together to support one another on a whole new level. Seeing the resources and the supply chain network that we have on our own doorstep work night and day to keep our country going through this challenging time is inspiring.
The current demand for suitable medical equipment is highlighting just how important UK manufacturing and engineering is to the economy, and what a fantastic career choice it could be. Our industry is working tirelessly to help play its part in drawing us out of the COVID-19 pandemic and what may have previously been perceived as an ‘unglamorous’ option has now become vital in the UK’s fight against this virus.
- Will UK manufacturing earn the recognition that it deserves once the storm passes?
- Will demand for UK manufacturing deliver exciting and interesting career paths and increased employment within the sector?
- Will people be looking to have tooling and products manufactured here in the UK to safeguard their supply chain for the future?
The answer to all of these must be a resounding yes.
Although we never want to experience anything like COVID-19 again, we must learn from the failings and will welcome the inevitable growth in demand for UK services over the coming years.