Ian Melin-Jones

Ian Melin-Jones

New research, commissioned by Wyelands Bank, reveals Pakistan, Turkey and India are the UK’s fastest growing export partners for iron and steel. Exports to these markets are expected to grow by 5.9%, 1.4% and 0.9% respectively in the years to 2021.

Iron and steel exports to these three markets were worth $1.4bn in 2017 and the projected growth could generate an extra $29m a year for the industry’s exports.  

2018 08 20 104323

Alongside Turkey being one of the fastest growing markets, it is now the UK’s largest export market for iron and steel exports.  Iron and steel exports to Turkey have increased by 14% in the last ten years.  Exports to Turkey were worth $815m in 2017, some £100m more than in 2007 when exports to Turkey were worth $715m.

Turkey has become an export partner for the UK, partly because of its infrastructure development fuelled by its economic growth, and partly because the country is a staging post between Europe and the Middle East and Russia.  Turkey itself provides highly technical drilling and extraction equipment into the Middle East and North Africa region and is dependent increasingly on imports from countries like the UK.

The remaining largest markets are the USA ($682m), Germany ($475m), previously the UK’s largest market, Spain ($434m), and France ($384m), making up the remaining top five export markets.  India is the UK’s sixth largest market, while Sweden ($328m), Ireland ($294m), the Netherlands ($255m), and Pakistan ($246m) make up the remaining markets in the top ten.     

Meanwhile, iron and steel exports to Germany have decreased by two thirds over the period from $1.5bn to $475m.  The pattern is similar for Spain and France where exports have declined by $666m and $591m respectively over the ten years from 2007 to 2017.

The decline in exports to Europe can be accounted for by depressed growth in the region until the last two years, but also in terms of a shift in consumption in Europe away from UK manufactured iron and steel.  This is reflected in the rates of growth in the UK’s top export destinations.

Iain Hunter, CEO of Wyelands Bank, said: “Metals exports are at the heart of manufacturing production globally. The iron and steel sector in particular is vital in producing components for all industries, as well as consumer goods.  We can see how the UK’s largest export markets are changing as countries and their economies develop over time.”  

Wyelands Bank, set up to help businesses trade, grow and create jobs, commissioned the research to better understand the role of imports and exports in the UK economy.  It was prepared in collaboration with Global Trade Review, the leading trade and trade finance media company, and Coriolis Technologies, the trade data company, which has provided the data.

The wider metals sector

The UK metals industry as a whole accounted for 4.4% of total UK exports in 2017.  There are 21,610 companies in the sector as a whole which employed 609,499 people in 2017 and had a total turnover of £119.7bn.

Some 17,617, or more than 80%, of companies in the metals sector are SMEs.  The largest ten companies account for 55% of turnover and 44% of jobs in the industry.

Iain Hunter, CEO of Wyelands Bank, continued: “We can see how important SMEs are to UK trade, given the significant contribution (80%) make to this metals sector.  SMEs are often ambitious and entrepreneurial.  In addition, they are an important source of innovation. Smaller companies – especially in manufacturing – play an important role in the UK’s capacity to form part of global supply chains, as these metals businesses demonstrate.”

The UK base metals sector as a whole had a trade deficit of $6.4bn in 2017.  Imports were worth $24.4bn and exports $18bn.  The deficit has more than doubled since 2010 when it was $2.7bn. 

Iron and steel is the largest metals sector within the UK, closely followed by iron and steel products, which is higher up the value chain. The UK had a moderate trade surplus in iron and steel products in 2017, reflecting the higher end of the value chain that the UK’s sector operates in. Imports of iron and steel products were US$5.1bn and exports were US$5.4bn. Imports of aluminium are nearly twice as high as exports at US$4.7bn compared to US$2.6bn respectively.

The UK is one of the most open economies

Trade accounts for 58% of UK GDP; in 2016, the UK exported goods worth US$433.5bn and imported goods worth US$678.1bn. This makes the UK economy one of the most open in the G20, and is more than China, America and Japan.

Regional growth from Asia Pac and South America

Looking at the regional picture for UK exports, Europe remains the UK’s biggest trading partner for exports with a 46.3% share. North America is next with 17.2%, while Asia Pacific (7%), Sub-Saharan Africa (5.4%), Mena (1.8%) and South America (1.2%) follow.

However, the fastest growing market is Asia Pacific, where exports are expected to grow at 3% a year to 2021. South America, with UK exports expected to grow by around 0.5% annually until 2021, is the second fastest growth region.

Iain Hunter, CEO of Wyelands Bank, added “Behind these headline economic figures, trade is important because it creates jobs. It has helped to contribute to the UK’s record employment levels, providing financial security for millions of families up and down the country.

“However, in order for businesses to succeed, they need working capital. It is only by providing better access to funding that we can support businesses to trade, grow and create jobs.”

The analysis is based on the trends and patterns in trade flows which is projects forward.  It does not account for potential political or policy changes.


Two all-electric tube bending machines from Unison Ltd are helping Ultibend Industries to increase the manufacturing productivity of stainless steel tube fittings for the food and beverage processing systems at their manufacturing facility in Wellington, New Zealand. Ultibend purchased two customised tube bending machines to suit their proprietary manufacturing process, the machines from Unison automate the bending of tube fitting shapes such as elbows and U-bends, in sizes from 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. Manufacturing operations have demonstrated that the Unison tube bending machines have significantly boosted their manufacturing speed compared with their previous hydraulic bending machines.

2018 08 20 104113Together, these benders are involved in making all Ultibend Industries bends in the sizes ½ inch to 4-inch diameter. Since installation their 130mm single stack tube bender has produced 320,912 bends and the 80mm Single stack tube bending machine bender that works on the smaller sizes has made 558,441 bends. Bends from these tube benders go to projects around New Zealand, Australia and the US, especially dairy factories, breweries, and in some cases to the automotive industry.

As the company expanded, it became essential to upgrade the bending process and replace the original in house built hydraulic bending machines with modern, low maintenance and reliable all-electric tube bending machines, using software-controlled servomotor-controlled bending. “We knew of Unison ltd as we had had dealings with them in the past. We like that being software engineers, Unison could take our ideas and issues and come up with a tailored solution in the form of a customer specific machine. They’re also an ethical company whose values aligned with our own. This has been proved in our dealings with them with the excellent support and prompt response to issues we have.” Linc Turley,  Director at Ultibend Industries.

Describing some of the key advantages to Unison’s solution, he adds: “The Unison software has been invaluable as opposed to our old hydraulic system, the all-electric servo driven machines give us greater control over bend parameters and increased accuracy (can meet standards consistently). All the data (i.e. pressure values, mandrel position) is captured and automatically adjusted to the correct position during set up as opposed to manual adjustments. This gives us the ability to put lower skilled operators on these machines, as doing set ups and making adjustments is more straight forward. It is also a lot easier and faster to make minor adjustments to the bender settings via a program rather than having to manually adjust threads. This saves us time on difficult products, as we make minor adjustments to get the required quality finished product.”

Ultibend Industries sell their tube fittings to merchants in New Zealand, Australia and the United States who then supply the end user. Their bends are commonly used in wineries, breweries and dairy factories all around New Zealand, California and Australia as well as the automotive and architectural industries in the form of exhausts, other car parts and handrails.

Why Ultibend Love their Unison benders as opposed to their old hydraulic bending machines:

  • Higher accuracy and consistency, once a size is set up changes to the bend angle and pressure setting do not have to be made like they had to with the hydraulic benders.
  • Electric servos increase flexibility in the running of benders. They can easily vary how far the clamps open for loading, alter the loading positions for 45-degree programs etc
  • Less maintenance time spent fixing hydraulic leaks

Safety feature written into the software make the machines MUCH safer than the old hydraulic benders

Manufacturers are now investigating how they can best apply Industry 4.0 digitalisation processes to existing production plant environments in order to improve productivity levels and reduce costs. A direct consequence of this approach includes implementing a more modular approach to production platforms.  This can involve either the application of new modular machines into a production line or the retrofitting of existing installed equipment to support a more modular and decentralised interconnected control system solution.

This strategy can now be followed for some of the harshest environmental plant conditions, such as those where equipment might be sited in areas with high operating temperatures. In the past, limitations in the operating performance of a connector have often meant that equipment has had to be hard-wired in such situations. However, HARTING’s new Han® High Temp range of connectors now supports the flexibility of applied connectorisation in such conditions. As a result, reduced wiring complexity means that such an installation can be optimised and maintenance costs reduced. 

2018 08 13 062555

Typical end-user applications include support for modular production cells within metal production foundries and rolling mills, including integrated electrical heating control feeds to die-cast tools and electric furnaces which may be applied in various high-temperature material processing areas.  In addition, they can significantly extend the service maintenance intervals of integrated removable mould tools within modularly designed plastics injection moulding machines for the latest high-temperature materials, resulting in reduced line downtime. 

Similarly, opportunities may be found in tyre manufacturing and chemical processing plant environments.

Design features

HARTING has used its considerable technical expertise to develop special connectors for providing reliable solutions for such high-temperature environments.

For example, bulkhead-side connector seals must not melt or adhere to other integrated component parts over the full operating temperature range. Consequently, HARTING has opted for a non-stick coated high-temperature-resistant rubber version, which avoids bonding between the hood and housing even if they are left mated for a number of years.

Many of the hood and housing coatings and lacquers available on the market are not suitable for long-term use at high temperatures as they can cause melting which can, in turn, lead to mated parts sticking together. Thanks to the application of a special surface treatment of the aluminium die-cast hoods and housings, HARTING has been able to dispense with any potentially detrimental additional protective coating finish.

The insulating body and contacts must both withstand the high ambient conditions of the location and the additional heat generated inside the housing when under mated load. HARTING has selected high-temperature-resistant copper alloy contacts that maintain constant electrical properties when heated. In addition, high-temperature LCP plastic insulators ensure long service life.

As a result of the above mentioned features, HARTING’s Han® High Temp connectors are able to permanently withstand operating ambient conditions of +200°C, provide extended operating lifetimes and ensure reduced line downtime compared to competitor solutions.


The HARTING Group develops, manufactures and distributes electrical and electronic connectors, network components, pre-assembled system cables, and backplane assemblies.  These products are capable of withstanding the harshest demands in industrial environments and provide high data rates for electronic applications.

HARTING connectors and network components are used in mechanical engineering and plant manufacturing, in automation systems, energy generation and distribution, and in electronic and telecommunication markets.  Industrial connectors are also vital in construction machinery, rail vehicles and shipbuilding.  HARTING offers Ethernet network components and cable systems for both indoor and outdoor networking applications involving power and data.

HARTING today employs a workforce of nearly 4200 in 43 countries. For further information visit www.HARTING.co.uk

Page 1 of 220