Manufacturing SMEs in England are bucking sluggish growth forecasts with encouraging reports of increased sales and new jobs.
Over half of respondents (54%) to the first ever Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) National Barometer had seen turnover rise in the last six months, with 60% expecting further growth between now and the end of the year.
The quarterly survey also revealed that 41% of companies are planning to take on staff in the coming year with another 50% expecting employee numbers to remain the same as the level of new business enquiries holds strong despite difficult economic conditions.
Over 610 businesses – representing more than 26,000 employees - responded to the Barometer, which is the latest in a series of economic reports that underline manufacturing in England is one of the few sectors actually showing positive growth.
Simon Griffiths, MAS Area Director for North and West, commented on the findings:
“This is the clearest indication yet that our manufacturers are enjoying increases in sales and, reassuringly, they expect this trend to continue.
“Investment by the major Original Equipment Manufacturers and interest from overseas companies to source from England has helped facilitate demand.”
He continued: “The Barometer includes the views of manufacturers from all sectors and, against the backdrop of improvements in turnover, is showing a renewed commitment to create new jobs.
“It will be interesting to see if employers can find the skilled staff they require to fill the positions, bringing into focus the need for companies to create and support Apprenticeships so we can start to fill the talent pipeline again.”
The MAS National Barometer has been based on the successful model conducted in the South West for the last three years. It predominantly provides a snapshot of trends inEnglish manufacturing SMEs, as well as an overview of economic conditions and issues faced by the sector.
The report revealed that 44% of companies are planning to increase spend on premises and machinery, whilst 35% plan to invest in developing new technology which will help them remain ahead of global competition.
It appears that the MAS message of continuous improvement is also being understood, with more than 80% of firms admitting they would secure business growth through making improvements in operational efficiency.
Further findings show that 77% of companies recognise the need for supply chain improvements, yet when respondents were asked what they planned to measure and review it was clear the emphasis was on products rather than processes. The most popular choices were prices of product (85%) and product ranges (77%).
Barkley Plastics, which employs 94 people in the West Midlands, was one of the companies questioned.
The design, tooling and moulding specialists has seen steady growth in the automotive, medical and household products markets and anticipate an increase in sales over the next six months.
Maurice Cassidy, Director, commented:
“The Barometer reinforces what we are seeing in our own business and across other suppliers and partners.
“We have continued to pick up new work and are now looking to build on this with a £460,000 investment drive in a new machining centre, conventional injection and micro moulding machines, additional robotics and state-of-the-art measuring capabilities.
“From talking to a number of existing and potential clients we are expecting growth in key industries and this will certainly involve taking on new members of staff to cope with demand.”
Business Minister Mark Prisk said: “A key element of the Government's support for manufacturers is our investment in MAS, which is offering real support to businesses to strengthen their operations and grow.
“I am delighted to hear of the success of Barkley Plastics and other SMEs helped by MAS in increasing sales, creating new jobs and investing in new technology to keep ahead of global competition."
MAS, which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), works for manufacturers and through experienced advisors can help shape strategy, create new products, reduce waste and review supply chains.
Companies can take advantage of a free review that identifies key priority areas and funding is available for improvement projects focused on increasing efficiency, developing new products, strengthening supply chains and boosting sales.
Simon Griffiths concluded: “MAS is a dedicated support offer that will help manufacturing SMEs realise this desire for growth, investment and new job creation.”
MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service), which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, provides support for manufacturing businesses based in England to help them improve and grow.
MAS is designed to help manufacturers streamline their processes, reduce waste, become more energy efficient and improve and grow their business.
Regardless of company size, its team of highly skilled advisors can help. They all have 'hands-on' experience of both shop floor working and management skills and will work with manufacturers to ensure that their business is run in the best way possible.
For SMEs in England, many of their services are free and supplemented by appropriate grant funding.
MAS has been a huge success since its launch in 2002. Working with thousands of companies it now plays a vital role in helping manufacturers in England to share knowledge, improve productivity and achieve success in an increasingly competitive global economy.