In the past, the majority of the manufacturing within the UK automotive sector was undertaken in the country, with little sourced from overseas. Prior to concerns about global warming or reducing carbon emissions, supply chains for UK car manufacturers were short, often within the same county.
But then in the 1970’s it all started to change and many have argued this decade was the start of the decline of the UK automotive sector. Giant conglomerate British Leyland, which had swallowed up all the smaller UK brands, relied on a supply chain of over 40 factories at its peak.
New manufacturing methods championed by overseas competitors, such as Datsun [now Nissan], Toyota and Volkswagen, put UK car factories under pressure. And still without having to worry about the environmental impact of their decisions, cheaper overseas suppliers were sought.
In the decades since the 1970’s, car manufacturing in the UK changed to become more assembly plant than factory, with few if any parts made on-site. With the rise of vehicles of different brands, even different manufacturers, sharing the same platform, designing and building new cars requires a big supply chain.
The automotive supply chain is recognised as one of the most complicated, with often six to ten levels of suppliers between the car maker and the source of raw materials that enter the manufacturing process.
This supply chain is now a pyramid, with a large number of manufacturers of small components, rather than supplying the car makers direct, working with a small number of global supply chain partners that provide larger assemblies to the automotive manufacturers.
Unfortunately, for manufacturers like Borough, the prospect of cheaper components from overseas, saw business leave the UK. Little was made at the time of the increase in supply chain length and carbon emissions, to say nothing of a drop in quality – but we would say that.
Global supply chain requires new approach
The need to improve quality, shorten supply chains and reduce carbon emissions, combined with the strengthening of UK manufacturing, has seen the manufacture of many car components return to these shores. But many of the global assembly suppliers remain outside the UK.
As the UK’s leading manufacturer of injection moulded and chrome plated components for the automotive industry, we are regularly contacted for advice and quotes to supply components. Often these connections would require a trip abroad by our team, or to the UK by the buyers.
But now thanks to the wonders of technology and a considerable investment on our part, we can liaise effectively with contacts around the world, without leaving our meeting room. We know we could meet on Teams, via laptops in different rooms, or squeeze in front of one, but it’s not the impression we wish to project as the UK’s pre-eminent chrome plater of plastic components.
Our meeting room is now equipped with a Samsung 85” CU7100 UHD 4K Smart TV and a Logitech Meetup video conferencing solution, which allows us to connect with clients, contacts and colleagues in real-time, as if they were in the room with us.
The image clarity and size of this solution is important as we often need to discuss components, the surface finish and what our clients are hoping to achieve with our help, whether it’s interior parts for a new car, bar fonts for the drinks industry or a touch of class on cosmetics packaging.
Being able to hold up a part to the camera and explain what is needed, or to show a prospect on the other side of the world what finishes are available, whether copper, nickel, satin chrome, bright chrome and recently added tinted chromes.
The finishes and especially the new tints are difficult to explain or even show in still photos. The way reflections play on the surface when the component moves or the light catches a different angle, is a major part of the attraction of the finishes we offer and a good reason to invest in this technology.
Less travel allows more working time
Of course, less time spent travelling for the team here at Borough, or for designers, specifiers or buyers coming from overseas, not only frees up valuable working time, but also reduces the carbon emissions associated with travel – a genuine win-win.
Whilst the technology is proving useful for communicating with clients such as Antolin and its team in Spain, it is just as useful to connect efficiently with their UK head office in Leamington, given the congested nature of the road network in the UK.
Time zones, broadband speeds and the occasional language barrier [more a hurdle theses days than an actual barrier] make some meetings more of a challenge. But remembering airport queues, business hotels and time away from home, ensure we quickly focus on the positives and extract maximum value from our time with clients and prospects.
We recommend a similar solution if you’re still crowding around a single laptop, or being banished to another room to avoid audio feedback problems. It will help you get closer to your clients whilst reducing travel and carbon emissions. It will also help build stronger relationships too, as only seeing people clearly, rather than sharing a call on loudspeaker, can do.
We look forward to meeting with you soon in Ultra High Definition 4K, so please remember to look your best and dress for a conference call, not a phone call.