Guest column: 2021 - A bright future ahead

We're all looking forward to a better, more predictable 2021 after the turbulence of these last nine months. From a business perspective, the home technology space has remained more unscathed than most by the effects of the pandemic, and for that we are all grateful.

However, as 2021 begins, we all face a new era, with the UK becoming a trading nation that will be independent of the EU for the first time since the 1970s. The detail on those arrangements is still to be finalised and may not be known for some months to come. However, at Rako, we are going into the year as a strong business in a positive frame of mind. 

With our extensive range of wired and wireless smart lighting controls and systems, we believe that we’re well placed to capitalise on the continuing resilience and future growth of the home technology sector. 

In 2020, we’ve seen families spend more time at home and use their homes as much more of a multi-functional space than ever before where living, working, education and entertainment must all happily co-exist, often at the same times of day. This has driven investment in the technology, including lighting control, that can deliver the services, the comfort and the convenience that they can now see they need, may never change from or may have to return to at some point in the future. With this investment, homeowners have turned to integrators to help make the technology experience as easy to use, reliable and enjoyable as possible. Substantial smart home technology growth is projected for the UK in 2021 and we’re confident that our industry will be a major part of that expansion.  

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As a UK based manufacturer, we’re also in good shape to avoid any of the shipping delays and extra costs that have been feeding into the product supply chain in recent months and may continue into 2021.   

Let me paint a quick picture of what’s happening. Since September, the country’s biggest container port, Felixstowe, has been handling about 30% more goods than usual because of a combination of factors – a post lockdown surge, the Christmas rush and businesses stockpiling goods ahead of the 31 December Brexit deadline. From this date, we know that there will be changes to processes, facility usage and additional documentation and checks for EU goods coming to the UK.  

Even before those changes take place, many sea freight consignments are already being held at port for three weeks longer than before, in turn, delaying the efficient, timely movement of other containers behind them, no matter where they’re shipped from. Air freight is not really a viable alternative for our industry since many products, such as, amplifiers, speakers and screens are heavy, bulky items that are simply too expensive to ship by air. 

To minimise the impact of these and any other delays, now is the right time for integrators to buy products and components made in the UK, where they possibly can. Of course, we recognise that most goods into the UK home technology sector arrive here from the USA and the Far East. In this situation, our advice would be to make sure that your manufacturer or distributor holds sufficient stock and can guarantee stable pricing in the face of any supply chain uncertainty. 

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One of the key strengths of Rako is that we manufacture 98% of our products at our Kent production facility. It’s why we’re part of the Made in Britain organisation, which brings together the British manufacturing community, united with the use of a registered collective mark. 

Another advantage is that we have a huge stockholding of products and components. We can continue to function as a supplier to our customers, for at least the next 12 months and can respond to urgent, fast turnaround orders very, very efficiently too. This self-reliance also allows us to be confident that we can maintain our prices unchanged until 1 April 2021, irrespective of any delays or price increases that come through from 1 January.   

Ultimately, we are expecting any supply chain delays to last for a short time and that there will be a return to normality once the changes have fed through at some point during 2021. But, it’s best to be prepared, especially with the strong growth that’s forecast for the smart home sector in the UK. That’s why it makes perfect sense to buy from well-stocked distributors and manufacturers who operate in the UK.


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