3rd May 2016
by Edward Sheppard

With the current focus on UK manufacturing as “The March of the Makers” (BBC 2016), the strategy for steel (Huffington Post 2016) and “Buy British (Telegraph 2014)” sentiment, I think it is worth addressing the point; British Suppliers can be much better.

At DTR Medical, we pride ourselves on our core values of; Innovation, Quality and Service. To deliver consistent results, we must engage with like-minded suppliers, who can bring their skills and expertise to our customers in a dependable manner.

Our supply chain is located around the world, which enables us to see who performs to meet our high standards, and who can – and should – do better. Historically, Far Eastern countries have been criticised for being difficult to work with. Communication, delivery and product quality are usually the main reasons. Due to this, considerable management time is wasted.

Localising Suppliers Should be a Benefit

For these reasons, we have endeavoured to localise manufacturing and return production to the UK. This has been a successful approach, with over 40 product lines returned to our home market, including our Frazier and Microlaryngeal Suction Handles and Tumarkin, Rosen, Oval & Shea Ear Specula.

Our UK supply base has a number of advantages including; modern technology, close proximity and better channels of communication. These benefits provide opportunities for us to deliver superior single-use instruments to our customers.

However, UK manufacturing still has the potential to achieve world-class standards.

Customer Service is Important

Healthcare providers, including the NHS need confidence that their suppliers can provide an excellent service.

Many UK suppliers fail to recognise that poor service can lead to avoidable consequences. Failure to deliver leads to delayed or cancelled appointments which is frustrating for both the patient and health worker.

We understand our customer needs, which is why 97% of our orders are fulfilled within the same day. Our stock levels are managed hourly to ensure our customers punctually receive their sterile single-use instruments.

The Highest Quality is Essential

With the widespread introduction of ISO standards, we expect our partners to understand and buy into quality. Too often, this is compromised and there is a tendency to not accept responsibility. We see customer concerns as an opportunity for continuous improvement, but suppliers rarely take the same view.

This culture and attitude takes time to change, but with training, senior management commitment and acceptance of the risk of failure, good consistent quality is achievable.

From our experience, this wins business and builds customer relationships for the long term.

Growth and Innovation are Key

We want our UK manufacturers to innovate, through investing in new equipment and techniques in line with growth. Gaining knowledge in these areas can give suppliers a competitive advantage because they are able to offer stronger contributions to new product development.

Our Cervical Biopsy Punch with rotation is a great example of how this can work well; we have invested in tooling that means the production runs can grow smoothly with our demand from around the world. It also means our customers can afford this product in the important fight against Cervical Cancer.

Support for Competitiveness

At DTR Medical, we recognise we are only as good as our last delivery. This is important to our customers, who depend on us.

Government and politicians strive to improve the country’s competitiveness, its ability to export, and investment in growth and product improvement, so this message will be a disappointment to them.

The impact of their schemes seems nullified either by corporate incapability or a narrow perspective of owner managers. There are enough support programmes to help with training, innovation and investment, but the desire has to be strong enough to grow and improve.

Hope for the Future

We work with many suppliers, we change providers when they cannot meet our standards and we seek recommendations on good companies to work with. Despite this, we feel hampered by our supply chain who continue to hold us back.

British manufacturers can do better to deliver service quality and innovation. Achieving these will enable them to compete effectively with across the world. More importantly to me, we will have a supply chain that gives us exactly what we need for our customers.

I said at the outset, there is more publicity and attention focused on UK manufacturing that has been the case for a long time. This provides hope that such an important sector is treated with respect by society and the organisations providing such services respond with world class professionalism.

“The March of the Makers” must take place to the drum beat of Innovation, Quality and Service.