The Tibard Advantage: UK Manufacturing and Skills

*Updated 20/09/2017

At Tibard, we pride ourselves on manufacturing our products right here in the UK since 1979. But why? What difference does it really make? In this post, we’re going to explore some of the benefits UK manufacturing has for the end consumer.

Back in the 1980’s, the UK manufacturing industry first started moving their factories to overseas locations. This was down to a combination of attractive financial benefits, shifts in government policy and a decline in the number of independent retailers on the high street in comparison with the rest of Europe.

Tibard could have taken that option, like many of our competitors did. However, we saw that the cons outweighed the pros from an early stage. We remained in the UK and have since survived and grown through economic uncertainty and the recession to be where we are today. But first, let us give you a brief background on why the British-based manufacturing industry lost so much ground in the 20th century.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, British manufacturing was undergoing something of a transitional period. Economic growth was ballooning and unemployment shrinking, but the manufacturing industry was becoming increasingly stagnant when compared to the rest of the world, due to a lack of investment and a shortage in skilled workers.

As a result, there was a propensity for retailers to import goods rather than manufacture their own, resulting in a loss of market share worldwide.

Moving into the 70’s, “stagflation” hit; rising unemployment caused by low industrial output, married with rising inflation. The money saved by moving manufacturing processes abroad were just too much for most to ignore. Not Tibard, though.

Commercial Director Rick Shonfeld spoke about the opportunity to go against the grain.

“Over 20 years ago, most of the industry moved their production offshore to cut costs. We did the exact opposite.

“We expanded our factory, grew our workforce and have now produced in the UK for 38 straight years.

“We have been able to mould our staff into well-rounded team players, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for them and our agile approach to manufacturing.”

The decision was motivated by a number of customer-centric factors.

Firstly, we get things done quickly and more efficiently because there’s much less red tape. We can complete a custom order faster than it would take another company just to agree a contract with an outsourced factory.

Secondly, we take charge of quality control and production ourselves. We take extra special care when manufacturing our products, and precisely quality control every piece to an exact specification, ensuring you as the customer won’t receive damaged or ill-tailored goods. With mass production, the margin for error is much higher. As a result of our methods, we can retain control over how we deliver excellent customer satisfaction.

For example, if you want something made to order, we can react in an agile fashion, be completely flexible and shorten lead times. If we were based abroad, an order could take weeks to complete, without any flexibility for changes at all.

Thirdly, we have been able to continue to evolve and improve our product design processes. This is down to ease of communication with our staff and our investment in the latest technologies. Being able to work as quickly and reactively as we do to produce the best products available would not be possible if we outsourced our manufacturing to an offshore location.

Many of our competitors in the industry - as well as the wider textiles industry as a whole - are only just bringing their manufacturing bases to the UK as a result of the eroding levels of savings being made manufacturing abroad. Wehave been set up as a UK manufacturer for 38 years, without interruption.

As you can see, there are a number of beneficial impacts that UK manufacturing has on a customer’s experience, and the product catalogue as a whole.

Tertiary to all this is the economic impact on the local community. Over the course of our history, we have created over 200 jobs, with skill specialisms in embroidery, design, stitching, fabrics and more.

These aren’t just people though; they are incredibly talented and skilled craftspeople. Some of our staff are now seasoned veterans with over 20 years of experience manufacturing workwear for Tibard. As a result, they have seen and adapted to the various changes to Tibard’s manufacturing processes, and the advancements in technology. That doesn’t mean we don’t invest heavily in training our staff to the standards we expect of them.

Training forms a huge part of our remit, and the amount of time and energy spent on making sure our staff can produce flawless, quality workwear every time shows. During training, our staff learn the values of using new technologies and more traditional, hand sewing techniques in an efficient, effective manner.

In addition to the longevity our staff enjoy and harness in the workplace, we are big believers in investing in people. We take the time to ensure the right people are brought in to enhance our workforce, as we hold all of our staff to high expectations.

It is impossible to produce high calibre products without a local, well-trained workforce. Our workforce is second to none, and it simply wouldn’t be possible to maintain such high standards if we manufactured abroad.

More recently, we have been engaging with young people to develop an interest in textile manufacturing. While we always look for skilled workers, we understand that we also have to maintain it by training young people with a great appetite for the industry from scratch.

We have formed links with local colleges to ensure that we can continue to foster a steady stream of young talent. Operations Director Andy Shackleton commented on how vital a highly skilled workforce is to the end product.

“We have a workforce with textile skills that are second to none. Investing in these people is vital to our business.

“The combined experience we have in manufacturing ensures we build quality into our products at every step of production.”

We are proud of what we have been able to achieve for our local community, providing jobs and an economic boost to an area which saw massive industrial decline all those years ago.