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Why manufacturing needs to invest in ethical supply chains

WHAT IS AN ETHICAL SUPPLY CHAIN?

Businesses are waking up to understanding just how essential Britain’s manufacturing industry is to the UK’s continued economic success. In today’s business world, many companies find themselves pulled between financial and commercial concerns and the values of ethical behaviour and social conscience. This is clearly illustrated in the manufacturing supply chain. This article looks at the challenges faced by UK supply chains and why they are critical for future success. But first, let’s take a moment to establish what exactly we mean by an ethical supply chain.

WHAT IS AN ETHICAL SUPPLY CHAIN?

An ethical supply chain is one that acknowledges workers’ rights and wellbeing. It also recognises environmental concerns such as sustainability of materials, pollution prevention and waste reduction and ensures human rights issues are acknowledged and addressed in business decisions. An increasingly competitive global marketplace has seen a rise in the demand for agile supply chains that are responsive to changing priorities. They also need chains that keep costs low, schedule in a timely fashion and ultimately deliver – no small feat for those in the chain who have to meet these demands.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Advances in technology, coupled with increasing and fluctuating consumer demands, are set to transform modern manufacturing. And consequently, this will have enormous implications for the supply chain. Growth in outsourcing has led to a situation where components may be manufactured in one part of the world, assembled in another, and sold to a third. Although often expedients and profitable, this supply chain has brought with it a host of challenges, not least ethical standards such as regard to health and safety and environmental regulation. Currently, the UK faces intense competition not only from emerging economies but also from highly industrialised nations such as Germany and Japan. And although here in the UK, ethical standards are high and rigorously adhered to, this is not the case across the globe. With Brexit on the horizon, now is the time for UK manufacturers to invest in more ethical supply chains to ensure that, going forward, we maintain those high standards we have come to expect – not only for the sake of our workforce but for the future of the planet as a whole. Ensuring the UK is the best environment for manufacturing suppliers in the industrialised world will boost innovation, skills and export levels among our supplier base. It will help UK suppliers retain significant market share in mature, high-value sectors such as the automotive industry, and slow the growth in imported components.

WHY ETHICAL SUPPLY CHAINS ARE CRITICAL

In a recent report, the CBI estimated that increasing competitiveness across our manufacturing supply chain could boost the UK’s economy by around £30 billion by 2025. Failing to remain competitive could see a vicious circle form for UK suppliers, with a loss of critical skills and ‘ know-how’ in the workforce, resulting in more companies looking to sourcing from overseas. Its, therefore, crucial to maintaining knowledge growth, sharing, and investment in the next generation to ensure the UK remains competitive as well as managing and increasing ethical standards. Strengthening UK supply chains will also help safeguard UK jobs. It has been estimated that expanding our ethical supply chains could create 100-200,000 extra UK jobs by the mid-2020s. And these are skilled jobs – developed as a result of the UK’s reputation for high-quality manufacturing. This high-value manufacturing will also help to safeguard jobs and apprenticeships at all levels, helping reduce unemployment and developing a new generation of skilled workers to take the manufacturing industry forward. As well as safeguarding employment opportunities, robust, local supply chains can benefit businesses in many other ways, including:

THE WAY FORWARD

Skilled individuals joining a business are its lifeblood; critical to its future success. Working in partnership with universities can ensure a steady talent pipeline feeding the manufacturing sector and enabling new talent to help shape the future of manufacturing. There has been a recent rise in the number of businesses in the manufacturing sector working collaboratively with educational institutions. These partnerships help forge the crucial connection between education and industry and allow for fresh, innovative thinking that new blood brings to a business, alongside the practical skillset needed for successful careers in manufacturing. Here at Croft Filters, we understand the value of skilled employees, and that to stay ahead of the competition, it’s critical to be ready to innovate and deliver new ideas consistently. That’s why Croft Filters work in collaboration with the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation at Lancaster University and their postgraduate researchers, to support a new generation of students with PhD support and practical experience in our Year in Industry placement. The benefits are not only to the student, who gains the opportunity to work in ‘ real-life’ scenarios and learn from the experience of placements but for the employer who sees benefits such as the lessons learned for future innovative applications from the studies that they fund. Exploring new ideas, developing new products and contributing to the educational courses for the next generation will see the manufacturing industry in the UK propelled forward to be ready to do business across the globe:

• Reducing risk and improving supply chain transparency
• Reinforcing business resilience
• Offering higher quality goods and services
• Supporting innovation, such as greater customisation, leveraging the UK’s renowned world-class research base
• Offering agile design and production opportunities – including bespoke products
• Providing consistent and timely delivery and logistic costs

CONCLUSION

A recent government report indicates that the UK manufacturing supplier base has been eroded over the last 30 years. And while issues vary from sector to sector, some themes could benefit suppliers across most industries, including manufacturing. These include investing in innovation, developing workplace skills, strengthening collaboration across supply chains, and becoming more resilient and adaptable. For manufacturers, building ethical supply chains now will see a return on investment of reliable, sustainable and resilient suppliers going forward into the next decade, with guaranteed high standards of production that recognise the rights of workers on production lines as well as maintaining a robust environmental strategy and positive attitude to ethical output across the board.

HOW CROFT FILTERS CAN HELP

Here at Croft Filters, we pride ourselves on being a leading manufacturer of bespoke filters, with over three decades of experience in our industry. With many years of experience and a comprehensive range of strainers and baskets, we’ve proved ourselves time and again as a supplier of high-quality, reliable solutions that meet each customer’s precise needs. As specialists in custom filtration, were always ready to tackle the latest demands of our new and loyal customers – no matter what they may need from us. Thats why were continuously investing in the latest tools, technology and even the future generations of manufacturing talent. With our state-of-the-art tools, award-winning custom filter options, additive manufacturing knowledge and our environmental mission, were always on hand to help you accomplish your goals for a more efficient and productive business.