Brexit has delivered more costs, more paperwork and more challenges, but, once you look past the initial pain, there are many opportunities for UK manufacturing, says Rowan Crozier, CEO, Brandauer

I’m not your typical Brexiteer. If anything, my two feet were planted firmly in the Remain camp as the business case for staying in supported a much healthier alternative for our company Brandauer, one of the UK’s leading independent precision stampers.

I’m not a politician, I’m a UK manufacturer, and we have made an entire career out of making the best out of the playing cards we are dealt with. That could be the financial crash of 2009, MG Rover collapsing or even Covid-19, a pandemic that none of us saw coming but whose impact has reverberated across the world.

Whilst Brexit hasn’t delivered many broad economic benefits yet, it has presented some opportunities for SME exporters that are nimble, innovative and offer competitive advantages that international rivals can’t match.

Since we officially left the EU on 31 January 2020, we have seen reshoring opportunities increase by 20% and we have successfully secured more than £1.5m of new business with clients in France, Netherlands and Slovakia, delivering millions of components for use in pharmaceutical products, industrial plumbing fittings and several automotive electronic applications.

It's quite a diverse portfolio, but a portfolio that shares similar traits: the need for high tolerance, difficult-to-make parts in large volumes, made using tooling that delivers repeatable quality.

This new work joins a list of everyday items that we play an essential role in making at our state-of-the-art factory in Newtown, on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter in the heart of Birmingham.

We started life 160 years ago, manufacturing pen nibs for some of the world’s most important people, and that ingenuity continues today.

If you’ve made a cup of tea this morning, we have made the electronic connectors that power more than 90% of the world’s kettles, if you’ve not been glared by a trailing car due to a self-dimming mirror, that one is on us too.

We’re also ramping up stainless steel frames for a global male grooming product and, topically at the moment, we make hundreds of millions of nose clips used in face masks for medical staff and, well, all of us these days.

Innovation and diversification are part of UK industry’s DNA and continues to be an important weapon for post-Brexit Britain.

Electrification is one of the most exciting races in modern times and the UK is in a very attractive position on the grid. There is an immense amount of work going on behind the scenes when it comes to developing supply chain capacity and new technologies that will power, steer and sustainably improve the driving experience.

We’ve seen this first-hand thanks to our involvement in consortiums with Jaguar Land Rover, Ricardo and Saietta. Working with the larger manufacturers to secure Government funding is key for SMEs, allowing them to dedicate precious responses to vital research and, as a result, Brandauer is now at a stage where we are carving our own niche in laminations that are paper thin and ideal for electric motor applications.

Collaboration, with academia and other manufacturers, has also been worth its weight in gold. In particular, our involvement with the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), a seven-strong group of sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency, has been crucial.

Covid-19 brought unchartered waters for many management teams and being able to share pains and lessons learned with other MDs was essential. It helped answer a lot of questions and ensured all businesses in the group remained operational and emerged from lockdown in a relatively strong position.

Operating in a post-Brexit world hasn’t been easy and we’ve spent way too much time and resource trying to understand tariffs (and their effects) and delays at ports continue to cause numerous planning headaches.

There is also still the Northern Ireland protocol to be resolved and the illusive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US, two major hurdles that the government can certainly do more to help business with.

Despite the challenges, UK advanced manufacturing is in good health and remains an attractive partner to international customers and a growing number of domestic firms who are bringing production back.

It’s time to shout about our strengths and leave the politicians to go round in circles.