Reassessing supply chains for UK manufacture


Whether because of the vagaries of Brexit or because of the intense scrutiny that supply chains have come under due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many manufacturers find themselves in a state of flux. There is a tangible move across industry to localise production where possible while at the same time maintaining timeliness, cost-effectiveness, and quality of production. In some instances, companies using international service providers have had their orders refused, which was the case for Qontrol, a new client of 3DPRINTUK. Such situations can be catastrophic and have caused numerous manufacturers to select UK-based production services, as MEPCA discovered.

The government was nothing if not persistent in its appeals to business to prepare for the inevitable changes that would take place once Brexit was a done deal rather than simply an approaching date. Ahead of the actual leave date, and reinforced by the need to respond to the disruption caused by the pandemic, 3DPRINTUK had already started to make preparations to ensure that its international clients continued to receive the same high standard of service that they had become accustomed to.

Five months on from the January Brexit date, there continues to be particular concern around road freight for international orders. To mitigate these delays at customs and ensure reliable international deliveries during this period, 3DPRINTUK stopped all road freight. Instead, all orders were and still are fulfilled by UPS Express until things settle.

For our clients based within Great Britain, there has been little to no disruption as 3DPRINTUK provides service as normal from its facilities in London and is in close communication with its couriers who are confident that services will operate as expected. For any Northern Ireland or Eire clients, 3DPRINTUK will also use UPS Express to avoid delays at what is effectively negotiated as a UK border in the Irish Sea.

3DPRINTUK has direct experience of how this may work from one of its customers, Qontrol, based in Bristol. Qontrol makes instruments for use in quantum science R&D, with a mission to make controlling complex photonic devices easy and economical.

The company uses 3D printing throughout the design cycle, from prototyping through to production. It is a recent convert to 3DPRINTUK, which it now uses to produce its custom electronic enclosures and mechanical parts to support its products. One key attraction is that 3DPRINTUK offers selective laser sintering (SLS) and Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF). The team at Qontrol prefers SLS parts for their tactile feel and on-brand dye colourings but finds that MJF parts tend to be cheaper and more reproducible.

But playing to the Brexit theme, the reason that Qontrol made the initial move to 3DPRINTUK is one that other companies in a similar position might recognise.

Dr Josh Silverstone, Qontrol’s CTO, explained: “We have been long-time regular customers of a continental-European print service. Very simply, we needed to place an urgent order with them just before Christmas 2020, and they refused it down to uncertainty around Brexit. Looking for alternatives, we stumbled on 3DPRINTUK, and we couldn’t be happier. 3DPRINTUK’s parts are at least as high-quality as our old supplier, with very competitive pricing and generally faster turn-around, all without the new Brexit customs headaches. We’ve decided to use them as our main 3D printer going forward, and we hope they keep up the good work!”

Customers and potential customers can check out the high-quality industrial 3D printing services 3DPRINTUK provides — SLS and MJF — both for functional prototyping applications as well as reliable batch production services. With its service offering, the company can be an integral support to a robust supply chain moving forward, never more important than in post-Brexit Britain, and when considering the disruption that has taken place to cumbersome international supply chains during the pandemic.


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