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One Thing: Andrew Fishburn

17 May 2024

One Thing: Andrew Fishburn

Continuing the blog series that asks industry professionals which single change would make a significant difference in business is Andrew Fishburn, Vice President Sales for the UK & EMEA region with the powered access machinery supplier, Snorkel. Andrew is a passionate supporter of UK manufacturing and the industrial heritage of his homeland in the north-east of England. 

ONE THING that would really help businesses individually and UK plc generally would be if people and governments focused on the longer term, and the future implications of their buying and investment decisions, instead of short-termism. 

People should consider the whole-life costs of the products they buy and the wider sustainability implications. It’s easy to buy things that look cheaper from the other side of the world but their carbon footprint has to be taken into account. 

Snorkel Europe, for example, manufactures machines in our factory at Washington, Tyne and Wear. We have our own powder painting plant and use a two-coat system [mentioned earlier on the blog] giving a finish that is three to six times thicker than the norm and salt spray resistance which is twice as tough as typical automotive standards. Owners won’t have to repaint a machine within the first three to five years under normal wear and tear, saving around £1,500 without downtime and transport costs. 

In fact, we are applying to join the Made in Britain organisation whose members have to meet certain criteria regarding the proportion of manufacturing it undertakes in this country, as well as the sourcing of components and materials. 

But action is needed more widely. The government needs to do more to encourage British manufacture. Some other nations beat us hands down. The French drive cars made in France and are proud to do so, yet we have closed production plants here. 

And once we built ships in the north-east of England. I come from a family with a background in shipbuilding and steel production– one of the early jobs in my career was promoting cast and forged steel products for use in the oil & gas industry, and even the Trident submarines have components we sold in them. 

Britain has closed steelworks in the north-east and, most recently, in Port Talbot. Yet we need, steel today, tomorrow and well into the future. Why don’t we produce it ourselves? I know there are environmental arguments against making steel here but I think they are pretty weak: you just need to invest in the technology that addresses these issues. 

Again, looking long-term, if Britain manufactured more we would preserve and create jobs. In South Korea they have shipbuilding facilities employing 40,000 people. Why can’t we? 

Not investing in people and production facilities has major downstream implications for communities in aspects such as health and wellbeing. Perhaps it’s not surprising that 30 or so years after the closure of the mines and manufacturing facilities, there are some areas with severe social deprivation and massive strains being placed on the National Health Service. 

This shows the importance of meeting ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) obligations. 

And many people have mental health issues. I heard recently that those aged 14 to 35 years old make up the largest proportion of those affected. Perhaps many of them have never had a decent job. 

So we need to think about the long-term effects of our decisions. Perhaps companies could write a requirement into their trading terms and conditions that a certain proportion of materials must come from local or UK suppliers, as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibilities). The government could also introduce a points system offering tax breaks for organisations doing so, as an an incentive. 


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