Should you buy British?

By Richard Bate, technical director of Build Check.

The events of the last couple of years – including the coronavirus pandemic, the US trade wars with China, and Brexit, just to name a few – have given many of us food for thought with regard to the sourcing of finished products, component parts and raw materials.

Many factors inevitably inform our procurement decisions for anything we require, and these may include the price, the cost (not the same thing at all), lead time and availability, quality, reliability, carbon footprint, sustainability and maybe even good old patriotism.

The Brexit issue certainly stirred up feelings regarding purchasing patriotism, evoking both national pride and continuation and conservation of British jobs. These sentiments have perhaps been heightened further by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and concern for our road to recovery.

Shipping things from the other side of the world has also become more costly and complicated in recent months as the Covid crisis has seen some ports lock down, reduce their workforce or restrict movement. Shipping companies needed to reduce capacity as global trading plummeted, and this has, in some instances, been the cause of container and space shortages, lengthy delays, and significantly increased cost.

While the purchase prices of some items from far-flung lands may seem extremely attractive, you obviously need to satisfy yourself that the quality of the products will meet your requirements and that the suppliers, as well as the products themselves, will again satisfy the needs of your business. These factors, together with the cost (financial, resources and emotional) of actually getting said products to your facility, will make a significant impact on the actual cost of doing business; it really is not the same thing as the price.

Bringing products across the world also has an almost inevitable negative impact on the carbon footprint of said products and your business, which is then passed in part to your customers. Maritime transport contributed 1,000 million tonnes of CO2 annually – around 3.1% of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Third International Maritime Organisation GHG Study in 2014. At pre-Covid growth rates, shipping could represent 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Given the UK commitment to carbon neutrality by that very year, this is food for thought indeed.

The UK is generally considered a ‘service-based’ economy, which means that services – such as financial, legal etc – account for the bulk of economic output and employment. Manufacturing, however, only formally accounts for around 10% of the economy, and 9% of employment. Manufacturing’s importance for the UK economy, however, far outstrips its relatively small size. Manufacturing accounts for a disproportionate share of total exports (45%), wages in manufacturing are around 15% higher than the national average, and manufacturing accounts for 65% of private sector R&D spending. There is a wide range of excellent products at most levels of fenestration including profile systems, glass and glass units, hinges, handles, window locks, door locks, fixings, reinforcement profiles and more, all manufactured in the United Kingdom.

Your reasons for buying at home or abroad will of course be determined by your own views and the needs of your business. Whatever you decide, you are responsible for the components and products you include in your business offering and the capability of those components and products to meet the required mandatory standards as well as your own business needs.

Given some of the recent uncertainties and the frequent warnings by economic forecasters of supply shortages on the horizon you might want to consider preparing alternatives upon which you could call in the event of any shortage or difficulty that could cause your business serious problems. In this case you would need to be fully prepared to be able to switch items, including having all the necessary testing and accreditation in place.

Wherever you decide to source your requirements, and however you decide to move your business forward in the coming months, Build Check would be delighted to help you with your testing and accreditation needs in building your platform for success.