Once home to a vibrant steel industry, the United Kingdom is now struggling to come to grips with steel production that’s on life support. Taxpayer funds are holding up a bankrupt British Steel as the government negotiates with a potential buyer and over 4,000 workers’ jobs are in jeopardy. Fifty years ago, the industry employed about 270,000 workers. Since then, the work force has dropped by 80%. This is the bleak picture described by www.theguardian.com in a January 2, 2020 article entitled “What Went Wrong at British Steel?” and other recent posts.
How did the UK steel industry find itself in such a mess? The reasons are many and varied. The Financial Times article entitled “The Long, Slow Decline of the British Steel Industry” puts blame on “a history of poor management, lack of capital and ill-judged state intervention.” There’s also the expansion of the steel industry in China. This country now produces over 50% of the world’s steel. Unfortunately, there’s more bad news. In an article by Chris Rhodes entitled “UK Steel:. Decades of decline” published on www.commonslibrary.parliament.uk, Rhodes suggests that the prevailing tendency that has driven the downward fall of UK Steel will not depart any time soon.
Interestingly enough though, manufacturing is on the rise in the United Kingdom. According to “UK Manufacturing Statistics” from www.themanufacturer.com, the UK is “currently the world’s 8th largest industrial nation. If current growth trends continue, the UK will break into the top five by 2021.” Companies like Qualitetch, for example, a manufacturer of precision steel components for the past 25 years, has a national and global customer base that draws from the aerospace, automotive, defence, electronics, technology, medical device, telecommunications, and renewable energy industries.
An additional boost to manufacturing, according to Rhodes, is the highly skilled UK workforce along with the recent development of manufacturing clusters–geographical connections of industries, suppliers and institutions in a particular field. Their success is birthing the idea that maybe something like the clusters could take place in the steel industry.
One thing is for sure. If there’s a will to revive British Steel, there is a way. Analyzing past decisions, learning from mistakes, and moving forward with a strong, innovative plan can boost the outlook for this vital industry. Out of defeat can come victory. Never give up!
www.theguardian.com, “What Went Wrong at British Steel?”, 2020/Jan/02.
www.ft.com, “The Long, Slow Decline of the British Steel Industry.”
www.themanufacturer.com, “UK Manufacturing Statistics”
www.npr.org, “China Churns Out Half the World’s Oil”
www.commonslibrary.parliament.uk/”UK Steel: Decades of decline”