Isn't everything made in China?
First, let me explain the reason for this post and the purpose of posting so many pictures below.In the past couple of months I have been asked on several occasions, “which country do you buy your stainless steel products from?” and “you don’t actually make your products do you?” and even "we heard you buy all your products from China. It that true?". To be honest, I’ve been quite taken aback when asked these questions. It’s clear many people, not the least our own clients, have absolutely no concept of where our products come from, or more importantly, know anything about the people who are creating them; so I thought I would clear a few things up.
The Facts About Britex
Just 20 metres from where I sit in the Britex, Melbourne office, there is an adjoining factory filled with a large team of manufacturing staff who are all 100% employed by Britex. The majority of this team are stainless steel sheet metal workers. They are cutting, bending, welding, grinding and polishing stainless steel products. All day, every day. They are joined by our auxiliary fabrication staff who are designing, programming, assembling, plumbing, bonding and packing these products. Britex is a family-owned and operated business with a 75 year history of manufacturing stainless steel products and we are unequivocally committed to maintaining a strong Australian manufacturing presence.So does Britex make everything it sells? No we don’t. Aside from being physically impossible for us to do so, as we don’t have all the necessary tools and machinery, the reality of competing in the commercial building supplies market necessitates that we must also offer specific product solutions that hit a certain price point. A price point that is simply not achievable using Australian labour. The influx of imported stainless steel products in recent years has changed the market's perception of what constitutes a fair and reasonable price point for some items. For the most part these are high volume 'standard' products that importers/distributors have found opportunity to source from Asia and sell into the Australian market in volume. To stay competitive and assure the long term viability of our position in the market, we have had to acknowledge and react to this change where necessary, or suffer the consequences.
Creating The Right Balance
The absolute irony is that if we made the decision not to import anything, if we committed to manufacturing all products in our range here in Australia, we would in fact end up employing far, far less of our current manufacturing team. Why? Well, in short, we would lose a lot of revenue from contractors and wholesalers who insist we provide price-competitive products in so many product categories; revenue that adds to the overall financial viability of the business as a whole and provides capacity to employ a substantial manufacturing workforce. It's because we complement our Australian made products with imported 'merchandise' items that our Australian manufacturing facility can prosper. Strange isn't it?Let me put it this way: Whenever you specify or buy ANY Britex product, you are helping assure the prosperity of our Australian manufacturing team.When I first started working for Britex almost 8 years ago, it was expected by our clients that virtually all products in our range would be subjected to a lead time of 2-4 weeks for manufacture. Virtually nothing was ‘off the shelf’ and anything we did have in stock that was imported was met with something bordering on distain from clients who shuddered at the thought of buying something that was ‘Made in China’ or not Australian made.....but oh how things have changed in just a few years.
The Status Quo of Our Industry
Today, when we provide a lead time of 2-4 weeks, clients automatically think this is some sort of an allowance for the next container of stock to arrive into our ‘warehouse’, as this now seems to be the norm for dealing with suppliers of commercial building products. When we tell them, “no, this is how long it takes us to make it in our own factory”, clients are repeatedly aghast. Really? Yes... really. Products that we used to make in Australia over a 3 week period and sell for say $800, the market now expects next day delivery and to pay $400. The sole reason for that change in expectations is the dramatic increase of imported stainless steel products from Australian companies capitalising on inexpensive labour in regions like Asia, predominantly China.With that in mind and before you read on, if you're a specifier of stainless steel products, a plumbing contractor or a wholesaler, let me ask you, where do the stainless steel products you normally buy/specify really come from? From an Australian company probably, but who is being paid and trusted to fabricate them? How do you personally feel about the importance of supporting Australian manufacturing, of helping to keep Australian trades people employed and supporting our economy by buying from companies who employ provide jobs to Australian trades people? The truth is, whilst there's a lot of companies selling stainless steel products, the vast majority don't actually make what they sell, nor do the products they sell get made in Australia. Today I saw on the website of an 'Australian owned and operated' company selling stainless steel products, a statement that they can custom manufacture a range of products for your next project. What if I was to say this company didn't employ a single stainless steel sheet metal worker and that their 'factory' is in reality more like a 'warehouse' filled with products imported from Asia (mostly China) and that any 'custom manufactured' products they sold were really sub-contracted out to another undisclosed fabricator? Is that misleading? I don't know the answer. It's just a question.
A Glimpse of The Britex Factory In Action
On a daily basis I take a walk through our manufacturing facility to see what products are going through the production line, to see what new manufacturing methods we’re utilising, to see what custom designs our clients are requesting, to find out what part of the world our products are being sent to and just to say “good morning” to our factory staff, some of whom have worked here for over 25 years. Walking through the factoryTODAY, I saw the following products being made (pardon the quality of mobile phone pics):
For the sake of context, the products in the photos above represent a small fraction of the items currently in our production schedule and the team members in the photos are but a few of the staff on our factory floor. Believe it or not, even behind all the welding masks and colourful tattoos, they're quite camera shy and reluctant to be photographed. Who would have thought? With that said, there is always an open invitation to any of our clients (both existing and prospective) who'd like to come and learn a little more about the process that goes into manufacturing stainless steel products. Just give us a call, drop in and we'll gladly take you on a tour.So as you can see, not everything is 'Made in China', far from it. Britex is the real deal. A bona fide manufacturer of stainless steel products. Our facility is not so much a ‘warehouse’ like so many others, but a fully functioning ‘factory’ where skilled workers are creating and crafting the proverbial truck load of Britex products every single day, like we've been doing for 75 years... and that's just the way we intend to keep it.