British catering equipment manufacturers are becoming increasingly conscious of customers’ expectations that British components and raw materials should be used to make British products. And that is driving them to think carefully about where they source the parts that make up their products, as well as the viability of being able to create a supply chain that can legitimately be considered as close to home as possible.
For cooking equipment manufacturer Lincat, this is an ongoing challenge, as the location of components suppliers needs to be balanced with ensuring the items meet a host of other important requirements.
“Our components are sourced from suppliers who offer the best combination of quality, reliability and price,” said purchasing manager Sarah Flaherty. “Where possible, we try to use suppliers based in the UK and Europe, to support fellow British businesses and to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, we always use stainless steel from Europe.”
Other suppliers echo those sentiments. In the interests of supporting the UK economy and, in particular, minimising its environmental impact, Precision Refrigeration claims to go one step further than buying British, prioritising local components and raw materials.
Its aim is to purchase from as near to its factory as possible. “This is important to many of our customers, who are looking to buy local equipment, and work with a British company,” said marketing manager Christine Hartshorne. “Precision sources 90% of the number of its supplier components and raw materials from UK businesses.”
While buying British is a high priority for many manufacturers, just as it is their customers, product quality sometimes has to come first.
Jonathan White, marketing manager at Mitchell & Cooper, commented: “As a British manufacturer, it is imperative that we excel in building quality, reliable and durable products for our customers.
“We strive to build strong relationships with our suppliers to ensure that the quality of our materials remains consistent throughout the manufacturing process. As such, the majority of our components and raw materials are either made here in our factory in East Sussex or sourced from suppliers in the UK. However, some more elementary components are sourced from the Far East, from key suppliers that are important to our business.”
Hoshizaki manufactures all ice machines for distribution across Europe at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Telford. Components and raw materials are sourced from countries across the globe before being stockpiled at the site.
National sales manager Roz Scourfield says the priority for it is ensuring that the highest quality materials and components are being used to manufacture its products.
“Having thoroughly researched the ethics and conditions of each of our raw material and components suppliers, we as a brand can guarantee that the materials and components that have been sourced meet the high social corporate values that Hoshizaki are proud to hold,” she said.
In contrast to the idea that a more global company will be faster to incorporate new innovations into its products, many suppliers suggest the opposite is true. In fact, Clifton Food Range marketing manager Charlotte Cross said: “We are fortunate in that within walking distance of our factory here in Weston-super-Mare we have a leading manufacturer of surface mount technology components and a software development company.
“Their close proximity to us means that they are really an extension to our own development department and we can work closely together on new innovations and ideas. Their experience in their own markets means we have access to the new trends and technological advancements with the result that we can be reactive and make use of the latest innovations.”
Other companies agree, saying that there are indeed benefits in the form of innovation and communication to being in the same country as their suppliers.
Lincat’s Flaherty says that working closely with suppliers allows the company to be reactive when it comes to innovation and bringing new products and developments to the market.
“Over time, we have built strong, two-way working relationships with all of our suppliers. We are in constant contact with them, keeping them up to date on our future plans and goals, and they share the same information with us. Our purchasing and R&D teams also consult them on ideas in the NPD pipeline. It’s this transparency and collaborative way of working that enables us to respond quickly to trends and changes in the market.”
Craven Solutions managing director, Noel Baker, believes that shortened lead times are a big factor in innovation and tailored services. All its products are manufactured and delivered out of its UK factory and warehouse in Knaresborough.”
Baker said: “Craven Solutions’ reaction to innovation comes mainly through shorter lead times. If a customer needs an alteration or a new design, because we source from the UK and have very strong relationships with suppliers, we can make these changes significantly quicker than if we were to supply from outside of Europe.”
Sourcing raw materials and components in the UK and Europe is all well and good, but the potential to cause or minimise environmental impact does not stop there. A streamlined manufacture process and efficient delivery system is key to being an environmentally conscious and also profitable operation.
Pland Stainless has a 65,000ft2 factory in Leeds, West Yorkshire. It is near to the M621, which gives it easy access to the major roads network.
“The factory is laid out to give us process flow with raw materials coming in one door and finished products either leaving straight away or being stocked in our warehouse area,” explained MD Steve Duree.
“Our usual method of delivery is via parcel carrier or pallet carrier which is always consigned on a next-day service. Whilst this is slightly more expensive than say a one- or two-day carrier, we are able to ensure we are meeting customer expectations. We also run our own delivery vehicles mainly to minimise damage in the delivery process.
“When handling stainless steel, though it’s stronger than mild steel, there is a perception that it can be handled roughly without consequence. Sadly, that’s not the case, and we try wherever possible to deliver product on our own transport.
Pland’s manufacturing process is not typically high volume, with half of its products bespoke in nature.
Duree continued: “We can manufacture anything from a small handwash kitchen basin to a 4metre-long, bespoke washtrough so our products are usually moved around the factory on either A-frames if in sheet format or the traditional way with manual labour.”
Clifton’s Charlotte Cross described its factory similarly. Internally, its manufacturing process is streamlined.
“Sheet material is folded, formed and assembled into the familiar Clifton bath profile, then on to the build, calibration and testing. After packing, products go to the despatch warehouse. For delivery to our customers we use a national courier for our UK shipments, and for our growing export market we use freight forwarders who in most cases are nominated by our overseas customers.”
Mitchell & Cooper’s Jonathan White, meanwhile, cites the importance of a robust quality inspection phase.
“Our experienced production team inspects the components and assembles the products before the final quality checks take place. Once these checks have been approved, the product is packaged and taken to our warehouse for next-day UK delivery. Our rigorous quality control procedures ensure that the products leaving our factory are of the highest quality when it comes to performance, reliability and durability,” White said.
The topic of stockpiling versus ‘just in time’ delivery is a recurring theme in the manufacturing sector. Warewashing supplier Classeq is among those that endeavour to utilise both methods.
According to marketing manager, Adam Lenton: “We produce over 15,000 warewashers each year at Stafford and have the capacity and adaptability in response to market needs. Our factory is sizeable in terms of warehousing space too, so we have the ability to do both – hold stock and manufacture ‘just in time’ deliveries, if our customers and the market dictates.
“We do hold some stock of our main machines and components to ensure we always meet demand. Our experience and knowledge have helped us to simplify our product ranges so that where possible, different models share components to limit the need for large amounts of stock holding.”
Lenton insists the company is in a strong position to offer speed of availability and honour its next-day delivery promise to UK customers, whether for a new machine or for spare parts.
“We have complete fluidity of supply,” he said, “whether from stock or via our streamlined manufacturing capabilities for ‘just in time’ deliveries – to help limit downtime for customers, which is vital in today’s busy and competitive foodservice industry.”
Synergy Grill is another company that has weighed up the pros and cons of stockpiling versus JIT production. Most of its major components are sourced and manufactured in the UK in keeping with its ‘Best of British’ philosophy but it has evolved its production process to support the growth of the business.
“Many of the major components of a Synergy grill are sourced and manufactured in the UK – a conscious supply decision that we took in order to stay true to our ‘Best of British’ philosophy as well as support other British companies,” said chairman Justin Cadbury.
British manufacturers are united in their belief that there is a bright future for companies that can build catering equipment on these shores, but their approach to supply chain management is very much an individual one shaped by a whole host of factors.