MANUFACTURING work is returning to Britain – and Plymouth – from China, says the boss of a firm which makes the famous Trunki suitcase.
Richard Bromley, managing director of injection moulding company Inject Plastics Ltd said an important reason for his firm’s relocation from Totnes to Plymouth is it is winning work back from the Far East.
He said companies are realising it is less attractive to manufacture in China once factors such as rising costs and delays in shifting goods to the West are taken into account.
The Herald revealed, earlier this month, how Inject Plastics had outgrown its Totnes plant and will move to a vacant building in Kestrel Park, in Burrington Way, Honicknowle, this summer.
The firm has sealed a deal to make more of the Trunki children’s ride-on case, which became famous when designer Rob Law featured it on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den TV show.
Bristol-based Magmatic, which makes the Trunki, moved production from China to Inject Plastics saying it would make it easier to develop the product.
And Mr Bromley said his firm has also won back two other contracts from Chinese factories and has another for which a UK plant was expressly chosen in preference to one in the Far East.
“People are starting to realise it’s easier to deal with people in the same country,” said Mr Bromley. “We can react faster, instead of having stock 120 days away by sea.
“And China is not as cheap as it was. Raw materials are the same (price) everywhere, it’s down to labour costs, but they have been rising for three years.
“Plus you have to pay for stuff when it leaves Chinese ports.
“When you are taking 120 days to get things over, you have to order six months in advance.
“With the Trunki, we can say ‘what do you want next week?’ and make it.”
Inject Plastics will close its Totnes base on June 15 and plans for its Plymouth plant, twice the size at 23,000sq ft, to be operational on July 2.
In fact, for Mr Bromley, moving to the Kestrel Park factory is like coming home – he used to work in it.
He was technical director at its former inhabitant Kestrel Injection Moulders, another injection moulding company, which fell victim to manufacturing’s gravitation to China a decade ago.
Mr Bromley went to work at Inject Plastics and bought the firm in 2009 along with his wife Lynda Bromley.
Now they are moving 11 moulding machines into the ex-Kestrel shell and Mr Bromley said: “We needed more space and a bit more roof height.
“The Trunki expansion we could have done in Totnes, just about.
“But we have other large projects which need more moulding machines and we have run out of space.”
He said this includes making “a toy product, some white goods, a bit of automotive”.
The expansion will also require more staff.
The firm will expand from 25 workers to 40, possibly 45, and Mr Bromley said: “We are looking for assembly-line operators.”
He added: “With other projects there will be further growth next year, and the number of operators will increase.”
But no matter how large the firm grows, Mr Bromley said it will stay in Plymouth.
“I’m not moving again,” he said. “It’s hard work. And the site we’ve now got offers plenty of room for expansion.”