‘Back in 1987 we created our business because there was a gap in the market for a UK based print industry’. This was because what would have taken China a couple months to turn around would take 2 days in the UK. And the demand for screen-printing in Britain was high. The business started off with four partnerships, the business has kept growing since, to now having 27 employees, who’s average age is around 50. Yet this doesn’t seem to bother the owner of the business, as he believes that a lot of people are looking for work in the UK and he will be able to replace his current staff with apprentices when the time comes. Who do you employ? All our members of staff are British citizens even though some by law were classed as immigrants when joining, and the majority of our employees are Indian, because of being based in Leicester. Yet Leicester is a great city for manufacturing and is a “manufacturing hub”. Now the business works indirectly with many major retail companies printing fabrics for furnishings and garments, as it’s rare a major retailer will have an in house production team and often just outsource that work to a factory. Originally they only produced furnishing prints, but there was another gap in the market in which they decided to make prints for garments. Also, the company has kept all prints archived both physically and digitally, unless specified by a company, totalling to around 6000 designs. Do you remember what your first print design was? ‘Yes, our first print was a 2 colour horizontal striped pattern.
Designing in 1987? The designs were often hand drawn and created by the company, some times also made in house. Yet copyright wasn’t as much of an issue as it is today, with manufacturers in; Turkey, China and India willing to copy anything. Designing today though has become a much quicker process with the factories own design team being able to edit and create up to 100 designs a week, granted these may be reduced to 40 or 50 designs. But using technology and software such as Wacom Design Tablets and Affinity Designer it’s sped up the process easily 2 times.
Imports/Exports? ‘We do Import Ink’s from Germany and our Screens from Holland.’ This is due to the quality and standards though; it may be cheaper to get them from China etc. yet the quality outweighs the saving in price and receiving cut cornered products that could harm the business. What are Screens and Screen Printing? A screen is a cylindrical tube that gets a finished design laser engraved onto the thin metal which is as ‘fragile as eggshell’s’ the engraved metal then acts as a never ending stencil to print onto fabric as it passes through. Using the same functionality as the original screen printing but incorporating the ink through the tube as the material passes from roll-to-roll.
Is there a Future in UK Manufacturing? ‘Consumers want everything yesterday, so retailers want fast turn arounds’. Being based in the UK, the factory we visited can provide printed material of 10,000 meters within 36 hours so with this consumer need for products it’s kept a lot of manufacturing within the UK. It may cost the retailer more but for the speed in which it can be produced, retailers are willing to pay. This doesn’t mean the quality is scrimped upon as the “Made In Britain” brand so to speak, has become a staple of luxury not only to alternate countries but also our own. This has been seen, as within the past few years there has been a large increase of factories that produce this home grown, Made In Britain produce. Although the factory we visited stated they don’t export their prints, many factories/companies do due to how sought after our products are in other countries. Also countries like America and even China have realised that products produced within the UK have better ethical points, such as environmental care in terms of chemical disposal and the restrictions on use of chemicals especially when it comes to children’s wear. Whereas manufacturers in other countries don’t have these restrictions in place.
So has Brexit affected you in anyway? In terms of Brexit, the owner of this factory believes it will be better for the industry as there will be less restrictions in terms of exporting to other countries allowing businesses to make their own decisions and in the long run help the factories grow. The only minor effect is the drop in value of the pound, making purchasing imports and fabrics etc. a bit more expensive. Yet this seems to have not affected the amount of clientele coming through the doors.
Machines in Manufacturing, The biggest change recently is the power of the Internet, which has shrunk the world; everything is available to everyone. Which has impacted the amount of large retailers using British made materials and prints etc. Yet the owner believes it’s nicer to ‘put a face to the name… a personality to a business’ which is possible in the UK yet harder for industries to communicate to businesses outside the UK when based in Britain. The only other thing is that machines could replace our workforce in digital printing, yet rotary screen-printing is still a process that needs the assistance of employees. But who knows what the next big invention could be that changes the manufacturing industry?