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Five Reasons to Use a National Supply Chain

Sarah Venning
Metal chain across a lake

In recent years, the UK engineering and manufacturing industries have seen something of a resurgence. In fact, according to figures released by EEF, we are now the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world. It’s crucial to the future of our national industry that we support it and nurture it; furthermore, from a purchasing perspective, you may find that it actually makes a lot of business sense to fulfil subcontract engineering orders locally.

So, why should manufacturing buyers consider utilising the services of homegrown subcontract suppliers? Here are five reasons for you to consider:

Reason 1: Reduced Lead Times

One of the headaches facing many manufacturing purchasers who source from overseas is one of extended lead times which, in turn, impact on the efficiency of their project. International lead times can range from several weeks to even months, meaning that a lot of foresight is required. This can prove extremely problematic - especially when you’re looking to test the market to see how well a product performs.

These lead times can also prove problematic in the event of component quality issues. Because the project, by this time, simply cannot wait any longer, the buyer often finds themselves having to send the components to a UK supplier to rectify any mistakes.

By partnering with a UK subcontract supplier from the offset, manufacturers can enjoy improved lead times, with much more room for manouevre in the event of any component discrepancies. Which brings me onto my next point...

Reason 2: Improved Quality

There’s no shortage of stories surrounding quality issues with components that have been mass-produced overseas. Unfortunately, the enticing costs that international suppliers offer almost always come at a price themselves, and that price is usually a compromise on overall quality and precision. Many UK buyers have been bitterly disappointed, after months of waiting, to receive parts that show no regard to the specified tolerances, or that have been manufactured from poor quality material. In some instances, the parts are entirely unsuitable, leading to further expenditure to have them remade.

The problem is that limited due diligence can be carried out when your supplier is halfway around the world. Many buyers do not have a true understanding of their international vendor’s facilities and setup, which is understandable when visiting their premises warrants a long-haul flight!

By selecting a local supplier to undertake your requirements, you can carry out much more extensive research before committing to placing a production order. This can involve face-to-face meetings and a tour of your supplier’s factory.

Reason 3: You Can Build a Relationship With Your Supplier

The close proximity of using a local supplier also means that you can build a relationship with them. The power of a successful business alliance is often overlooked but if you’re in a jam, then your supplier will be much more likely to help you out if you’ve established a relationship with them.

Whilst you may be able to build a rapport with your overseas supplier via phone, they’re limited to their means when it comes to undertaking last minute orders with short lead times. This means that you may find yourself caught short if you don’t make contingencies.

Even if you’re currently outsourcing most of your manufacture internationally, avoid putting all of your eggs into one basket by keeping at least a portion of it local.

Reason 4: Increased Flexibility

Due to the length of the lead times associated with the use of overseas suppliers, many OEMs find themselves having to order parts in bulk to sustain them between deliveries. It’s also usually necessary to order parts in large quantities to justify the costs of logistics, as well as to secure the lower price per component. Companies are then often saddled with organising warehousing to store components until they’re needed, which, in itself, can be an additional cost. When these fees are offset against the saving per component - and obstacles such as lead times and quality issues are taken into account - it sometimes doesn’t add up to enough to justify the hassle.

By outsourcing to a national supplier, purchasers benefit from having an increased level of flexibility surrounding minimum order quantities. Small batches and ad-hoc jobs are much easier to fulfil, with some suppliers even offering on-demand manufacture to aid with urgent requirements.

Reason 5: Maintain Control Over Your Project

There’s no way of overseeing your manufacturing project when you send it overseas. The additional facet of a language barrier may also make it difficult to express exactly what you need, whilst you run the risk of misunderstandings surrounding required finishes, tolerances, material grades and dimensions. This can sometimes be down to assumption on the buyer’s part - for instance, some drawings fail to specify the units in which the dimensions are measured - a small detail which can lead to no end of problems unless it’s clearly clarified.

Whilst occasional mistakes are inevitable no matter which side of the world your supplier is located, the lack of control and transparency with overseas production means that errors are rarely spotted with enough time to spare. In essence, you’re putting your faith into the unknown, with no way of checking that your supplier is on track until you’re in receipt of the goods. By utilising a UK supply chain, you’ll be able to ensure that mistakes are put right promptly, whilst the delivery and approval of samples prior to full production is a far more efficient process.


If you would like to receive quotes from quality UK subcontract engineering suppliers, then why not click here to try our free Drag, Drop source! service? We’ll distribute your project to members with the relevant capabilities, who will submit a quote to you directly if they can assist. Want to find out more? Please visit www.qimtek.co.uk, or call us on 01256 394 500.

Click here to read reviews from buyers who have used our sourcing service to find their ideal UK subcontract supplier.



About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with eight years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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