As a leading plastic injection moulders in England and South Wales, we’ve been tracking the impact of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, for us and our customers. Here, at OGM our multiple facilities, paired with a large team of experts, allows for dynamic and efficient production to continue – luckily. As we are aware, this crisis is having a major impact on society – sadly, most of them are negative.
Within the manufacturing industry, however, there has been an unexpected focus by the UK government. Admittedly, with the call for manufacturers to help with the production of ventilators and other urgently needed medical equipment, this has been driven by necessity rather than strategic intent.
Nonetheless, it’s a sign that our politicians may, at last, be changing their views on the manufacturing sector in the UK. Strangely, as was reported in The Engineer they initially seemed to be under the impression that companies outside the medical device sector might be best placed to meet their plea for help. It is companies within the manufacturing industry, such as ours, that are ready to rise to the challenge to support in any way we can.
“We’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis,” said a Downing Street spokesperson.
So, the critical question now is what will this mean for the future, once the COVID-19 crisis has abated?
An industrial strategy?
Although various governments over recent years have claimed to have industrial strategies these have rarely had a great deal of substance, neither have they been integrated or designed for the long term. In common with most UK Government initiatives they are driven by short-term political interest, not by a long-term strategic vision for the nation.
It is possible that the Coronavirus will change all this, acting as a catalyst – albeit an undesired one – that focuses the attention of politicians on the importance of the manufacturing sector to the UK economy.
In addition, with the disruption that’s taken place in supply chains that have traditionally extended across Europe to China and the Far East, we’re now seeing major European manufacturers and OEMs reassess the value of sourcing products and services closer to home. Plus, of course, there is likely to be a short-term politically expedient drive to promote UK business as a whole, following Brexit.
All-in-all, we may yet see the emergence of a cohesive and visionary industrial strategy for the UK – a strategy that enables growing and successful companies such as ours to plan and invest effectively for the long-term.
The risk of extended supply chains
In the meantime, the risks to extended supply chains remain, regardless of the way in which the current crisis unfolds.
As we’ve reported previously, there’s a compelling argument to engineer products such as injection mould tool sets in the UK. This can dramatically reduce lead times, to a few weeks for a complete mould tool set, to just days or less for injection mould tool inserts; it is also possible to reduce component costs while improving functionality.
For example, using the latest hybrid metal additive manufacturing technology, it is possible to engineer true conformal cooling solutions for injection mould tools, with complex curved paths, or to create innovative gas venting options. These innovations can make an important contribution to faster cycle times and even greater quality for injection moulded plastic parts.
Just as importantly, local production of critical components gives companies looking for high quality, competitively priced injection moulded parts and assemblies security and continuity of supply at a time when global market conditions are becoming increasingly unstable.