Roger Matthams (left), Europlaz chief designer, and David Buckle, project engineer design and develop products in partnership with the customer, taking into account end user satisfaction as well as efficient manufacturing.
UK contract manufacturer of finished devices Europlaz has seen an increase in customers returning from China after the promise of Chinese outsourcing has not quite lived up to the reality.
As the Chinese economy grows wages are increasing and this has a huge impact on the cheap prices that once manufacturing in the UK could just not compete with. There is also the cost of visiting and ‘checking up’ on manufacturing processes in China as quality standards are not necessarily adhered to in the same way as here in the UK.
It is this uncertainty bringing customers back to the UK. Lead times are obviously high when you take into account the distance; a regular supply on a 4-6 week wait is manageable, unless of course there is a problem with stock. One mistake or oversight can mean obsolescent stock, wasting time and money throughout the entire supply chain.
Injection mould tooling is a particular area we have seen a preference for UK based manufacturing. The bespoke tool can be made, trialled and modified in a very short time meaning there is no delay in starting production. This is an attractive proposition for most customers. Europlaz also offers a maintenance and modification service, so although a tool can be made in China once it is in the UK all the necessary improvements are made in house alongside manufacturing process.
Conversely, end users are increasingly asking where things are made and a forgotten prestige seems to be coming back to products made in the UK, perhaps as an indicator of quality and reliability.
UK manufacturing is alive and well and although China has a reputation for beating price this is slowly changing and medical companies in particular need to ask if price really trumps competence and the ability to find a true partner for flexibility and continued development.
Katy O'Keeffe, marketing and PR executive, Europlaz.