News commentators have been lamenting the decline in UK manufacturing for the last fifty years, but is the picture really as bad as some would have us believe? Manufacturing in the UK has certainly changed over that time period, but it hasn’t died, it has evolved into something fresh and original. One recent success story from south Wales illustrates the point well.
For the last three years the Sony UK Technology centre in Pencoed has been manufacturing the Raspberry Pi. So far they have managed to ship more than five million Raspberry Pis, with production increasing from an initial production run of 10,000 units per week up to 80,000 units. The three year relationship has been them produce five different models of the Pi and has led to them recruiting 100 new staff to cope with the level of production needed to satisfy their distributors RS Components and element14.
“Raspberry Pi is a British product, created by British engineers, that has found a huge global market. South Wales has a long tradition of manufacturing, and we are very pleased that the success of Raspberry Pi has secured new, skilled jobs in the area. Global success can be transformative within local communities, and we’re proud to be part of that here in Pencoed.”
“We’re delighted to have been able to make such a success of the Raspberry Pi’s UK manufacture. Working with Sony’s UK Technology Centre team in Pencoed has been an easy decision from the start. By making Raspberry Pi in Wales we’re able to ensure great quality and exceptionally competitive pricing, and have been able to benefit from a really great business relationship.”
It’s not just Sony that has benefited from the success of the Raspberry Pi. The official cases for the unit are injection moulded by T-Zero in the West Midlands.
Working with the Foundation was described by T-Zero as “A challenge we could not resist.”
Perhaps one of the reasons for the success of the Raspberry Pi lies in the way the product is aimed at a growing market of enthusiasts, and makers, eager to engage with technology.
Designed as a tiny, low-cost computer with an injection moulded case that can be plugged into a conventional television or monitor. The Raspberry Pi can do almost anything a normal computer can do including browsing the Internet, and standard work tasks such as, word processing, and creating spreadsheets.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is set-up as a non-profit charity with the aim of stimulating interest in electronics and computer programming. So successful has it been that interest has been generated among developers and hobbyists of all ages.
“The Raspberry Pi, is a fantastic example of UK innovation, design and engineering, at its best,” says Steve Dalton OBE, the managing director of Sony UK Technology Centre.
The Raspberry Pi has been used as the basis for a wide array of digital maker projects, everything from music machines and weather stations to tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras has been created using this credit card sized computer.
The impact of the Raspberry Pi has been felt far beyond the UK with involvement in learning projects as far away as Afghanistan, South Africa, and India. Young people across the world are learning basic programming skills that will provide a solid foundation for future careers in the the tech industry, and provide many of them with greater opportunities.