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Vince Cable highlights opportunities for the auto industry supply chain - ‘re-shoring’ trend underlined across UK manufacturing

The UK automotive supply chain could be in line for £3BN of new business in the UK according to the an update to a 2011 report published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Automotive Council. As a call to action for growing the UK automotive supply chain in response to increased spending by UK auto manufacturers, on Friday Vince Cable (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) described this as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to install a step change of capacity in the supply chain” 

The vehicle makers that responded to the survey, reported a total spend of £23.6BN, an increase of £3BN on a 2011 survey. Auto manufacturers spent a third of this figure, £8.4BN, on UK suppliers and, it was claimed, actively wanting to buy more in the UK. The new survey looks at where UK companies can win a bigger share of the business.

The report found that UK based vehicle makers have seen an upturn in demand, while at the same time their spend with UK suppliers has increased by at least £1BN from the £7.4BN identified in the first survey. UK suppliers reported new business with UK vehicle makers, and rising export sales of UK automotive parts, but the survey suggests there are further opportunities for further increased local sourcing. The total value of business placed by UK vehicle makers with UK suppliers could rise to well over £11BN. 

The 2011 Office of National Statistics (ONS) trade figures showed that while we exported £4.7BN of auto parts, we imported £10.8BN of auto parts.

Sourcing opportunities were indentified across the range of vehicle components from high value forgings and castings to consumables like batteries or interior parts. With the UK producing 2.5M engines a year, one of the biggest opportunities identified by value, was engine parts at £540M.

Professor Richard Parry-Jones, who co-chairs the Automotive Council with Vince Cable, said “As well as looking at the here and now, the 2012 survey shows that, with more low carbon vehicles coming onto the roads, this is creating new supply chain opportunities as well. Capability assessments show that UK technology providers are well placed to benefit from this growing demand particularly in areas such as energy storage and intelligent mobility.”

The key findings of the 2011 report were that ‘proximity’ was the key competitive advantage of UK suppliers for UK based auto manufactures. In operational terms proximity allows for lower logistics cost, better support for UK-built vehicles, the responsive configuration of parts, as well as more flexibility to volume and product mix fluctuations. In strategic terms proximity also acts as a general proxy for risk reduction the supply chain, as well as a hedge against currency fluctuations. 

As to the reasons why UK suppliers lost to oversees suppliers, the primary reason given was cost, with the next most important reasons being, in order of prevalence, the lack of accredited suppliers; required processing capabilities not being available; quality and logistics not being competitive. 

Looking to the positive, the automotive Council’s boilerplate text for why investing in the UK Automotive Sector is a good idea lists the following local characteristics:

  • Low corporation tax (reducing to 22% by 2014) 
  • Lowest labour cost in Western Europe, and a highly flexible workforce 
  • Over 100 tax treaties to avoid double taxation 
  • Leading location for research & development 
  • 130% tax credit on R&D spend 
  • Patent Box reduces corporation tax to 10% 
  • Competitive personal taxes 
  • Most extensive air transport system in Europe and over 100 ports 
  • Leading ICT infrastructure 

Re-shoring trend to mitigate supply chain risks according to manufacturers' organisation

To underline opportunity to suppliers across manufacturing, today EEF (the manufacturers' organisation for UK manufacturing companies) reported the finding of its survey of 150 manufactures showing a trend for, what it calls, re-shoring.

This trend is, it says, a response to supply risks, such as disruptions caused by recessions and natural disaters.

EEF founds that two-fifths of companies brought production back in-house, whilst a quarter have increased their use of local suppliers. It does not state, however, what the equivalent findings were for previous years in order to back that up the finding as a genuine trend, or to say for what time period is used as a baseline.

Additional findings from the survey reported are:

  • The average manufacturer has 190 suppliers, with one in five saying half their suppliers were located outside the UK.
  • Around a quarter of manufacturers have seen an increase in the use of suppliers outside the UK in the past two years.
  • Actions to improve supply chain resilience have included better inventory management; increasing collaboration and forward planning with suppliers and investment in IT to improve supplier management.
  • Companies also reported seeing benefits from these activities, including reduced costs and improved flexibility.
  • However, despite the potential risks to disruption the survey also showed that only 11% of companies monitor their entire supply chains and 16% of companies do not monitor their suppliers at all.


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