Use Our Cutting Edge; David Wright on Taking Advantage of the Weaker Pound to Win Export Contracts

The Birmingham Post (England), February 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Use Our Cutting Edge; David Wright on Taking Advantage of the Weaker Pound to Win Export Contracts


Byline: David Wright

Spotting silver linings in what is universally acknowledged as a cloudy sky for manufacturing companies at the moment is not easy.

However, out of adversity comes opportunity and it has never been more important for companies to look beyond the doom-laden headlines and begin seeking answers to the questions of survival overseas.

As chief executive of the Manufacturing Advisory Service - West Midlands (MAS-WM), I have the privilege of working alongside businesses that are succeeding in seeking out the few opportunities for growth that do exist.

Almost every day, we see companies that are taking the initiative, coming out fighting and prospering in the face of turmoil.

The weakness of the pound has provided a much-needed opportunity for manufacturers to look overseas at new and previous customers-who are under the same pressures to reduce costs as United Kingdom businesses - while also taking a long hard look at whether outsourcing work overseas themselves is actually the best way forward.

I suspect that everybody who is deciding whether or not to opt for an overseas holiday will be all too aware of the weaknesses of the pound.

While this will, perhaps, make the two-week summer break a markedly more expensive proposition, it also opens the door for manufacturers in the West Midlands to target new business.

Compared with this time last year, the weakened pound automatically means that UK manufacturers have a 30 per cent competitive advantage in price.

Suddenly, the cost of products made in the UK will be considerably more attractive to export markets, meaning our manufacturing sector is in its strongest position for some time to compete with rivals in Asia, the Far East and Eastern Europe.

This is not simply a passing fad, but a chance in this volatile climate to make hay while the sun shines. Yes, buyers at potential customers in export markets will have their minds focused, but what will really win the day is the fact that, when the playing field begins to level itself out, our manufacturing sector is fit enough to compete.

Manufacturing has been forced to adapt, to become leaner and stronger.

Now is the time for manufacturing to take advantage of its competitive edge through a three-pronged approach.

The first and most obvious way is to aggressively attack new markets and look at potential opportunities overseas.

Then, companies should be looking back at their trading history and reviewing all business lost and leads that proved fruitless in the recent past because of price.

If your company is not keeping a record of unsuccessful leads and learning from them, perhaps you should start. It is best practice and I would urge businesses to adopt it right across the sector. …

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