Steve Duree, MD of Pland Stainless, highlights the numerous benefits of UK supply at present, and asks why more buyers are not relooking at their supply chains to consider buying local from a sustainability, speed of stock and aftersales point of view.

Leeds stainless steel products manufacturer, Pland Stainless, has reported a positive ten per cent growth in sales during 2021 despite market challenges faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit uncertainty and the rising costs of its main raw material.

I have put this growth down to an increasing number of buyers switching to local UK supply, not only because prices have been protected to some extent but also due to the sustainable benefits of shorter transportation times assisting costs too.

Based in Leeds, we have been manufacturing stainless steel products, mainly for the commercial market, since 1919 and has seen the largest growth on bespoke made-to-measure products from all sectors including healthcare, catering, secure accommodation, and education.

Pland had a busy year all round with lots of investment secured in the business too. We purchased and have been trialing two robots for welding and polishing, we have had a new guillotine machine installed, a new heavy lifting machine for stainless steel sheets, additional space heaters for the building and new racking for storage. 

Our building, which has been occupied by us for over 100 years, also required some maintenance and we disposed of a 60-year-old press no longer in use. All this as well as investing in more raw material and finished goods stock to secure supply and maintain lead times for customers.

2021 was a busy year for everyone at Pland, but a successful one and it’s all credit to the team that we achieved so much in very challenging and uncertain times. 

We have to plan our steel supply a year in advance and submit our intended usage to our supplier. Forecasting is never an exact science, but it was particularly difficult in the current climate. Our stockholding has increase by around 25% to ensure continuity of supply and all at a time when overall steel prices were running around 18-25% higher than the prior year.

Pland Stainless managed to finish the year without any price increases being passed to our customers, albeit in January 2022 we have had to succumb to a six per cent product increase.

In a business where there is so much fluctuation in raw material prices and a need to constantly invest in the latest, expensive machinery and technology, the experience of the team has a massive contribution to its success. 

Our employee retention record is certainly above average with a number of employees achieving over 30 years of service with the business.

We employ traditional skilled craftsmen and continually recruit apprentices to learn and continue the trades. It’s this experience and knowledge, coming from years in the market, that has helped us make the right choices over the past two years, helping us to grow in unprecedented times.

We are delighted that merchant buyers are now realising the benefits of buying from a UK manufacturer. Over the years many large brands have moved their supply base overseas and we find that some buyers do not know where the products they buy are being made. 

Now is the time to check that and the prices being paid. UK manufacturers are surprisingly competitive, especially when transportation costs and lead times are built into the equation.