RESHORING AND RETRAINING: PREPARING THE PRINT AND PACKAGING INDUSTRY FOR THE BREXIT EFFECT
Leading trade association for the flexographic industry, The European Flexographic Industry Association (EFIA), states that uncertainty over Brexit negotiations is seeing a rise in reshoring - the process of reintroducing domestic manufacturing to the UK.
This offers significant opportunities to the print and packaging industry but only if businesses are prepared to invest in employee training to counter the widespread skills shortage faced by British manufacturers.
While it is yet unclear what long-term impact Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) will have on international trade and economics, it is apparent that there has been a marked increase in UK companies restoring offshore operations and production to home soil.
International automotive manufacturer Nissan for example has greatly expanded its new Sunderland plant with a recent £37 million investment, creating a further 300 jobs in what the company terms a ‘renaissance’ of UK production. This is just one part of a £1 billion 2017 investment in British vehicle manufacturing, announcing great confidence in the country’s post-Brexit reshoring plans. Shoe maker Clarks meanwhile has returned production to the UK with a new Somerset plant, after previously outsourcing production abroad over a decade ago, in an effort to secure British footwear manufacturing prosperity for the next generation.
The reshoring trend can be attributed in part to the current depreciation of the pound, which is resulting in rising business costs and making the import of materials and goods untenably expensive. It is also related to the impact of Brexit upon supply chains, with UK businesses increasingly choosing to source from other home companies to ensure greater procurement security. By restoring offshore operations and production to Britain and sourcing from other British companies, businesses are avoiding having to pay mounting costs to foreign suppliers and assuring themselves that Brexit fallout will not hinder material sourcing. A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) for example found that 32 per cent of British businesses who use European Union suppliers are seeking UK replacements, demonstrating widespread concerns about trans-national supply chain stability.
This is excellent news for the UK print and packaging industry, heralding an influx of business to support the bourgeoning British manufacturing uplift. Home-grown organisations are expected to experience increased demand due to their ability to offer greater cooperation, flexibility and productivity, boosting employment and economic growth. According to a 2015 report by Ernst and Young, such a restoration of UK manufacturing could confer a £15 billion hike to the national economy, creating 315,000 jobs; it is therefore clear that reshoring efforts offer a fantastic opportunity to revitalise the country’s prosperity.
An obstacle to such expansion arises however in the facilities and assets shortfall facing many UK manufacturing businesses. As so much production has been outsourced to other countries in recent generations, organisations must be prepared to make significant investments in installing new plants, factories and lines to meet today’s rigorous standards and cope with increased demand.
More pressing than this is the need to address Britain’s skills shortage that has arisen through years of production offshoring and resulted in a decline in specialist workforce know-how and formal training provision. As well as destabilising the print and packaging industry’s future prosperity by making succession planning precarious, the expertise defecit raises questions about whether UK businesses are ready to cope with manufacturing operations returning home.
EFIA believes that the answer to this problem is the provision of independent specialist vocational training and is working to deliver this across the entire flexo supply chain. The association provides nationally accredited upskilling and education through a range of channels with an e-learning solution, the EFIA Academy, and partnerships with the WCPC and The Retail Institute at Leeds Beckett University to help further improve the quality of the print and packaging workforce. From shop floor workers to senior management executives, EFIA offers the hands-on training, management courses, professional development and apprenticeship opportunities necessary for preparing workers ahead of operational upscaling. It believes that this is a vital investment that companies embarking on reshoring programmes must make to secure their success.
The impact of Brexit for UK print and packaging businesses may be difficult to predict at this stage, but the changes ahead can be positioned as valuable opportunities if appropriate provision is made in advance of reshoring activities. British manufacturing organisations are in a strong position to win important new contracts with their ability to offer superb quality with fewer supply chain concerns, but they must first be prepared with the staff and equipment to deliver. EFIA presents the ideal solution to UK print and packaging training needs, equipping businesses with the skills needed to brave and thrive amid the Brexit tide.