Can do? or Can’t do? – which are you?

18 09 2007

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I am in London this week and attending some of the events at London Design Week. My interest in this event stems from helping UK based manufacturers to build competitive barriers to manufacturers from low-cost economies by improving their innovation and creativity. its well known that the UK produce some of the best designers in the world, but why do they have to go overseas to ply their talents?

I met the CEO from one of Britains top furniture designers and manufacturers and asked him about his supplier sourcing policies. He responded by saying that most of his companies products were now sourced from manufacturers in China. I was suprised at this since his company work at the high quality, high price, low volume end of the market where design is often said to meet art. However, his reasoning was simple:-

“in China I meet manufacturers who are always responsive to our needs… they always say they can do what we want, even if it means investing in new processes, plant and machinery. They take a longer term view that they can build their business by meeting market needs. In the UK we so often get a can’t do that response, and an unwillingness to change how they make something, or invest as a partner”.

Is this true? are our manufacturers averse to new opportunities? Is their return on investment horizon too short? What do you think?

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