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Volume manufacture of Raspberry Pis in the UK is good news for the industry

Over the last decade or so, a perception has developed that the UK is not a manufacturing base. It's a view which certain parts of the media who should know better have done little to disabuse.

While that might be the case when it comes to some more traditional products, those closer to the shop floor know better; manufacturing is alive and well in the UK and represents a significant contribution to the nation's economy. Today, manufacturing has a bright future – particularly as the Government tries to move the UK's economy away from an unhealthy dependence upon financial services.

While perhaps not at the forefront of people's minds, electronics manufacturing has endured something of a roller coaster ride since the turn of the Millennium. Since the 'old days', when UK products were largely made here, manufacturing has moved eastwards at a fair clip. The point was reached where it was 'taken as read' that electronics products had to be made in China or elsewhere in Asia – and, in many cases, it made no sense for these products to be 'offshored'. Companies found out to their cost that not being near the manufacturer had significant downsides in terms of dealing with quality issues, coping with short term changes in demand and having your products stuck on a ship somewhere.

Slowly, high value, low volume manufacture has returned to the UK and there are signs that some high volume work is being won by UK suppliers in the face of competition from Asia.

We'll be examining the question of how competitive the UK's electronic manufacturing sector is nowadays in the next issue of New Electronics. In the meantime, there's an encouraging sign with the news that Premier Farnell has struck a deal with Sony to make 300,000 Raspberry Pi boards at the latter's South Wales facility. It's a product that would have been offshored without a second thought even a couple of years ago. How quickly times change.

Graham Pitcher

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