Are you reshore about that?
It has been a few days now that I wanted to take a minute and write a few lines about this. However, I knew it would take more than a minute and, also, a whole batch of new dies (yep, new slogans) arrived so I spent the time arsing about with Jems testing them. In any case, loads of new stuff on its way so keep an eye on the site.
Right, back in the room. Where were we? Yes, Kate Hills, from Make It British (worth following if you want to stay up to date on all things manufacturing), posted on her blog ten days ago about a new government initiative called 'Reshore UK'. I know, a bit boring as names go. I would have gone for something more exciting, like 'Operation Badger Nuts' or 'The Kestrel Has Landed', seeing the amount of casheroonies they want to pump into it. Alas, I am not here to discuss the endless list of cooler names the government could have picked but the proposal itself. So, what is this new proposal? Well, it tells us in the first line, that is "UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has joined forces with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to launch Reshore UK, a new 1-stop-shop service to help companies bring production back to the UK." Brilliant, right? The government is going to invest to bring the companies, that pissed off a couple of decades ago, back home. New jobs will be created and the employees will be spending their wage-package inside the borders, inflation goes down. Boom! We will all be donning perms, dressed in over-sized shoulder-padded power suits, discussing Dallas! at the water cooler all whilst talking on XL mobile phones before we know it. Thanks, Reshore UK! Let's see who is involved, shall we? Warning: there are a couple of boring but very necessary lines coming. Ready?
UKTI is a non-ministerial government department (basically certain smaller sectors are not overseen by a minister, so a bunch of civil servants are sent down to manage, they love a bit of managing them lot) that does some good things like helping British companies get into foreign trade-shows and stuff. It has a budget of about £270 million a year (2009-2010). That is a fair chunk and it is nice to see serious investment made in a body that, according to its own accounts, "provides expert advice and support to UK-based businesses wishing to trade internationally, as well as support to businesses based overseas wishing to locate in the UK." Wait a tick! What is that second part? The UKTI helps 'businesses based overseas' come to Britain. So, the government is going to invest in a 'new' scheme that is already being carried out by the UKTI? *Kapowzersquishsplash* - the sound of my mind being blown.
MAS, on the other hand, gets only about £13 million a year (£50 million for 2012-2015) of hard-earned government money to help manufacturers. Here I want to quote Kitty as she has had to deal with them in a past life. "MAS masquerade as as 'free' service to help manufacturers. They are in fact robbing Peter to pay Paul. You pay them 10k and they will give you 20K of 'free advice' on how to run your company. *an array of expletives*!" Now, I don't know what happened but she's our Kitty and I am sure that some day she will open up about her MAS experience. However, the sense I get is that any budding manufacturer should perhaps think a thousand times before getting "free" advice from an office suit on how to run a factory. We have seen recently what happens when a 'specialist' decides to dabble in manufacturing. Am I right, Mary?
Phew, that is the boring bit over. Here is a picture, a little breather, before I tell you what we think of this latest gimmick.
Reshore UK is going to bring companies, that produce abroad, back to their roots. Hold on, let me rephrase that! Reshore UK is going to bring companies, that pissed off abroad to exploit cheap labour and tiny overheads, back to their roots.This has nothing to do with the rising prices in Chinese production or shipping costs, not to mention the shifts in the exchange rates. I am absolutely sort of not really convinced that the government did not take these variables into consideration when proposing 'Reshore UK' and that it was all to do with home economics. I mean, why produce in China if you can now, with the help of the government, carry the 'Made in Britain' badge for an ever-decreasing difference in cost? And that badge, as you know, is finally having a bit of a revival. You see, £70 million has been set aside for this new project (add to that the £270 million and the £50 million from before) which will be invested in, get this, not manufacturing but more 'advisors'. Not a word, of course, is mentioned about the numpties, i.e. people like us, who are already on British soil. Seventy million is a fair sum to spend on 'advisors'. I don't know how much an advisor costs but I can tell you what you can get for that money. Let's do it in pointers, nice and neat!
- we could run our factory for 466 years
- you could run 7 small factories for 70 years
- you could buy 7000 second-hand (in very good condition) leather-cutting machines
- you could run 14 small factories for 35 years
- you could buy 35000 second-hand (in very good condition) embossing machines
- you could run 50 small factories for 10 years
Well, you get the idea. Alas, they will not be spending this money on, perhaps, helping existing factories buy the necessary machinery that will be required with this influx of returning manufacturers - they will have to make their stuff somewhere. That would be far too logical and, let's face it, there are never enough advisors. All that moolah will be spent on consultants that will basically source existing British factories to take in these returning companies. I know a cheaper way of getting that information, it's called Google, and it doesn't come with all those pie and flow charts that MAS like producing. They do love a good ol' flowchart the folk down at MAS.
But, in a way, I feel for 'Reshore UK' because they have their work cut out. The serious lack of production here means they will be knocking on the few factories' doors asking us to take in some poor homeless manufacturer. But we might not have the space. So, maybe that money would be better spent on helping existing British producers go from small to middle-sized and, thus, have the space to take these prodical sons in. The infrastructure isn't in place to accommodate a return of manufacturers, but the advisors are ready to go! The government has been willing to give cash hand-outs to expand factories here in the past. I mean, Mulberry - with a revenue of £168.5 million in 2012 - secured £2.5 million of taxpayers' money to open a second factory in Somerset. So here is some genuinely free advice to Cameron and cohorts: please, do invest in bringing manufacturing to the UK. That makes us happy. But tell the 'Reshore UK' advisors that they can rehouse the returning producers in the Mulberry factory. We don't have any space and we don't like lending out the machinery we bought as we can't afford to buy more. It is just that people tend to treat stuff that isn't theirs with less respect. A bit like taxpayers' cash.