The Brit squad defends heritage

The ‘Made in Britain’ marque has always denoted quality and durability when it comes to manufacturing, and this is no different for catering equipment.

Numerous UK-based catering equipment producers have now lined up to detail why they are located here.

One of these is Hobart Cooking Solutions, which has a 5,000m² facility in Barnstaple. Established in 1960, the premises manufactures Bonnet high speed steamers and charbroilers, plus Hobart planetary mixers.

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Product manager Paul Godfrey explained: “The benefits of British are far reaching: reliability and after-sales service are second to none, while full product performance specifications are also readily available to support CE marking.”

Hobart’s in-house operations aim to ensure close control through every stage of manufacture, assembly and test. Local and group purchasing initiatives also help to ensure shorter manufacturing lead times, which the firm believes is an important aspect of being local.

However, Godfrey cautioned: “The biggest challenge for manufacturers is a shortage of skilled engineers. Schools and colleges need to do more to positively promote our industry. This should be supported by focused government investment in the UK catering equipment manufacturing segment.”

Another company that is proud to be British is water boiler manufacturer, Instanta. Sales and marketing director, Graham Crisp, said: “Despite the influx of many inferior products from overseas in the catering equipment market, it is still widely accepted that when it comes to quality, consistency, reliability and ongoing after-sales support it is very hard to beat British manufactured products.”

Instanta is constantly investing in the latest technology and wherever possible it tries to automate various stages in the production process through the utilisation of CNC machining centres, punch-presses, folding equipment, automatic placement in electronics manufacture, mechanical handling equipment etc. [[page-break]]

“However, our products are still ‘hand-made’ as such, and human labour is still very much a critical part of the manufacturing process,” emphasised Crisp. “One of the beauties of being a British manufacturer, as opposed to a supplier, is that we can create bespoke products in response to customer requirements.”

Elsewhere, Glen Dimplex brand Burco has a manufacturing base in Prescot, Merseyside. Jon Usher, head of UK sales and marketing, said: “Manufacturing much of our Burco Commercial range within the UK allows us to be in control of our own destiny. We are able to respond quickly and efficiently to customer requirements, while also being able to pay close attention to quality control.

“UK manufacturing also gives us the flexibility when required to offer smaller runs of our equipment which need slight modifications to meet specific customer demands and new business opportunities.”

However, he recognises that manufacturing costs are expensive here, saying: “While we won’t always be the lowest price, we do offer a consistent quality at an affordable price. Our research has shown that customers do seek a quality product and are prepared to pay a little more to guarantee this.”

Glen Dimplex has invested in its dedicated factory and financed the training and development of the local workforce. Next on the list is a planned programme of repatriating much of its range to the UK, including its new range of convection ovens and its range of water boilers.

Induction hob manufacturer Induced Energy has always been based in Britain, creating all of its products from its workshop in Brackley, Northamptonshire. “We also source 90% of our components from Great Britain in support of UK PLC,” said sales director, Nic Banner.

“As a British manufacturer we feel very well placed to be able to offer a guaranteed price that we can hold for a full year without currency fluctuations. We are big enough to cope well with all the orders we receive, but small enough to be individual and to care for our dealers’ clients.”

He believes the company can easily react to any small niggles that may arise with its hobs. “Induced Energy has a policy whereby our on-road engineers are the same people that build the units in the factory, giving total continuity of service.” [[page-break]]

All of Induced Energy’s induction hobs and hotplates are hand built and bench tested on site. “This means we can make minor adjustments as necessary,” said Banner. “Whilst the induction technology basically remains constant, the carcasses of the units are constantly under review.”

Ventilation equipment manufacturer, Mansfield Pollard, recognises that there are advantages to being based in Britain. “At a macro level the current strength of the economy and the broadly pro-business approach to policy are creating confidence and commercial opportunities which in turn support investment and stimulate growth,” said Andrew Glen, sales and marketing director.

“By manufacturing in Britain we have been able to build a highly responsive supply chain. It’s seen as a mark of quality and contributes to the development of our reputation and our brand.”

However, he acknowledged that the UK is a relatively high tax environment in which to operate and the burden of legislation can add costs to operations.

Mansfield Pollard focuses on R&D across all of its product divisions and reports that half of its turnover comes from products it has developed over the past 5 years.

Active Food Systems, manufacturer of the Synergy Grill brand, knows the advantages of being based in the UK, after having attempted to carry out some early stages of product development outside of the country. “It was a most frustrating and unrewarding endeavour,” commented Morag Anderson, operations manager.

“We found that even though we specified certain standards in both assembly and supply, these boundaries were often moved or changed without any sort of consultation.

“Admittedly, we were also developing and testing the design, but the communication and cultural gap proved to be enormous for us. It remains my belief that any company manufacturing a quality product abroad would need to invest heavily in controls and procedures and great amounts of effort to enforce them across a cultural divide. [[page-break]]

“Our offices and administration is located right next door to our factory in Cambridgeshire and the communication and understanding between the two areas is second to none. We also use only British components from British suppliers and therefore we never run out of components or parts.”

Lincat manufactures cooking equipment from a base in Lincoln. Marketing manager Helen Applewhite detailed: “One of the main advantages of being a British manufacturer is that we have first-hand knowledge of UK catering requirements and can develop products to meet these needs.

“This also puts us in control of our own destiny and gives us the ability to react quickly to changes in demand patterns. We have better control of product quality, availability, price and after-sales service.”

Earlier this year the firm invested more than £1m in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to keep pace with the demand for its products. The new equipment includes a fibre-optic laser cutter, robotic welder and a press brake folding machine.

According to Applewhite: “With a great track record of fast, reliable delivery we sometimes feel that we are the victims of our own success. Dealers have rightly come to expect that Lincat products will always be in stock or on a very quick lead time. This may mean that they afford more leniency to importers.”

Warewasher producer Classeq’s main manufacturing plant is based in Staffordshire. The company also tries to source 100% of internal components for its products from the UK.

CEO David Smithson said: “Having our workforce in Britain enables us to keep close controls and measures in place to guarantee that the product is of consistent quality and that our team have the necessary training, skills and knowledge.

“On the other side of the coin, one of challenges we face as a British manufacturer is the competing costs of products from overseas. Many customers will see the price of a product and go with the one that fits their budget rather than taking the time to realise the benefits and high quality of a product made right here in Britain.” [[page-break]]

Foster Refrigerator operates from a 25acre site in King’s Lynn, Norfolk and sources 51% of components from within a 35mile radius of its five onsite manufacturing plants.

Paul Veried, vice president of parent company ITW European Refrigeration said: “Foster has invested millions of pounds in the King’s Lynn production facilities to ensure the business has the capacity and skills needed to be a leading British manufacturer.”

He also cautioned: “Some imported goods leave customers unsure about how the product will be supported if there any issues after purchase, whereas Foster’s spare parts are available for at least 10 years after the product is launched, with fully trained engineers and installation teams in place to support customers.”

However, he cited the fluctuation in exchange rates will as being an issue for a UK-based manufacturer “as the movement in Sterling against the Euro during 2015 adequately demonstrates”.

Pland Stainless is happy to be close to the market and customers it supplies with fabrications. “This is so important for Pland where a large proportion of our business is bespoke supply,” said MD Steve Duree.

“Being local means that we are able to share new product ideas with customers easily and if we need to visit a site installation to advise, we can do so quickly.”

He believes that while some customers assume that Far Eastern manufacturers are cheaper, due to lower workforce salaries, raw materials throughout the world are now stabilising across continents.

“When transportation is factored into the equation along with lead times, the cost of UK supply is very competitive indeed,” he said, emphasising: “We have a very experienced workforce here at Pland Stainless; they are our greatest asset and we have no plans for that to change.” [[page-break]]

Another British manufacturer which specialises in bespoke fabrication is Moffat Catering Equipment. “Working in the UK gives us stable economic conditions and predictable sources of supply of raw materials, with a highly skilled, motivated and loyal workforce,” commented John Wannan, sales and marketing manager.

“British manufacturers can give excellent service and support and, by buying British, you are supporting the British economy. In addition, imported equipment is often of a lower standard, and maintenance can be a problem due to difficulties in obtaining spare parts. Safety is also a concern as imports sometimes do not comply with UK legislation or meet expected standards.

“Being a British company means manufacturing in the UK, employing local people, buying components and services from within the UK where possible, paying taxes in the UK, and supporting the local community.”

Blaenau Ffestiniog-based Metcalfe Catering Equipment feels that British manufacturers can ensure security of supply, unlike their overseas counterparts. According to MD, Neil Richards: “For evidence of this one need look no further than the problems being caused by the current disruption at the Eurotunnel.

“Quality control is also a big issue. As a UK manufacturer we have complete control of design, development, manufacturing process and quality, whilst reduced stockholding requirements for components and finished machines/products help us to provide reliable support whilst keeping costs down.”

Metcalfe is currently investing in new machine tools and design software in order to increase the efficiency of its manufacturing facility, improve current production models and design new, innovative products to add to its range of food preparation equipment.

It also works closely with the local University in Bangor as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) which provides opportunities for graduate design engineers to gain employment and experience in industry.

Fellow food preparation equipment and barware manufacturer, Mitchell & Cooper, benefits from the short lead times and flexibility of being based in Britain. “It also makes us highly accessible and able to maintain a strong relationship with our dealers,” said MD, Guy Cooper. [[page-break]]

“However, competition from Asia means that operators initially prefer the cheaper option, which suggests that the quality and durability of British manufacturing can go undervalued.

“Whilst there is an increased interest in hand-made and authentic items, skilled craftsmanship and the renewal of time-honoured manufacturing traditions, we feel that there is still a knowledge gap which needs to be bridged.

“Like any business, British manufacturers need to constantly look at internal processes and have a continual improvement attitude towards running their factories, looking for wastage and inefficiencies, plus where best to invest to give a competitive advantage over low cost economies.”

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