Yes, in a world where our footprints are now counted in carbon, arguably what we really need to do is to take a step back to a time when life was altogether more local; because in this increasingly globalised and competitive world, supporting British manufacture just makes environmental and economic sense!
There is much talk about food miles – that is to say using the distance food travels from field to plate as a way of indicating the environmental impact of our consumption – but the same principal can be applied to the miles incurred by our product supply chains. And, just as it is irrational for us to buy potatoes from Israel or strawberries from Spain when they are being grown on our doorstep, the weakest link in the carbon-intensive import story must surely be the fact that many of the products and materials that are imported at such a high environmental price could also be sourced much closer to home.
We live in a materialistic society with an ever-increasing demand for the latest consumables; our industry thrives on this very fact. But to meet this demand, our goods, products and materials are transported further than ever before, often by air, packing a serious carbon punch in the process and making it a major contributor to greenhouse emissions and climate change. Undoubtedly, buying products and materials that, wherever possible, are produced locally in the UK keeps distribution costs and pollution to a minimum – a product is the sum of its parts and at Future Automation we take pride in the fact that we use domestically sourced raw materials in the production of all our mechanisms.
For every ecological argument for supporting British manufacture, there is also a commercial one. By reducing our environmental impact in this way, we will all gain from being more efficient across our supply chain. The idea that buying from abroad is cheaper is an increasing fallacy; rising fuel and shipping costs and a rapidly-inflating global cost of living are eating away at this margin. Any savings are often false economies, made to the detriment of quality and at a high price to the environment. At a time of worldwide economic slowdown, buying British allows us to keep cash in a national economic loop which flows more easily between manufacturer and customer. By supporting UK manufacturing operations, we are reinvesting in the UK economy and giving home-grown industry a boost at a time when it is much needed.
So, it’s not only in the supermarket that the call to think local and buy British can be heard, and the message has never had more resonance than at this time of much-anticipated recession. Supporting national manufacturers and their local infrastructures is the first link in an ever more ‘organic’ supply chain. By helping UK suppliers meet their growth potential we are in turn investing in those that support their local community. Our own UK operation, for example, has grown significantly over the last seven years, and we made a conscious decision not to move away from our roots. As a consequence, we now have a 20,000 sq.ft. facility, staffed from a pool of skilled, locally-based labour.
The home electronics industry is often criticised for its energy-guzzling ways, with the much-maligned standby button at the heart of the argument. We all know the flip-side of this: the increased efficiency of a ‘smart’ home with precise management of HVAC and lighting. But as business owners in this industry, we can all go a step further by looking at the carbon in our products on their way up the supply chain.
Anyway, environmental and economic rationale aside, buying from the UK brings with it many other advantages. Having your suppliers and manufacturers in the same country can allow for a better level of sales and after sales service. There is also the added security of having a more robust and reliable supply chain, and one which can respond quickly and efficiently should any problems or defects arise. Having built our business up from scratch, we have an unrivalled understanding of what we are selling which adds to the transparency and traceability of our products. We take in pride in our ability to work closely with customers to deliver bespoke solutions to the challenges they face and frequently meet with custom installers on-site. This efficient and personal level of service is undoubtedly easier to achieve by being in the same time zone!
Custom installation is all about quality: quality products for quality solutions. Using UK manufacturers allows CI’s to take these quality checks to the nth degree – being able to visit a factory and see how a product is put together, and to ensure that it is being produced to the highest possible standard, allows you to pass a quality assurance onto the end-user in a way that is rarely viable with a manufacturing operation abroad.
But, as with anything, a good environmental policy needs to be administered with commitment and needs to evolve. We are continually reviewing our best practice. For example, we are in the process of switching to locally-sourced aluminium as the primary material for our mechanisms because its inherent ability to be repeatedly recycled, with no loss of quality, makes it a ‘greener’ option in terms of waste, energy consumption and environmental damage.
The message for carbon-aware CI’s out there is that it’s time to consider the wider environmental and economic factors across your supply chains by taking into account the full life cycle of products, from production and distribution, through to installation, use and disposal. So, put yourselves on a carbon diet and develop an appetite for local!
For further information visit: http://www.futureautomation.co.uk