20 March 2017

SME growth the highlight of latest Manufacturing Barometer

The UK’s SME manufacturers have shown continued resilience in the face of Brexit uncertainty, according to the National Manufacturing Barometer.

Well over half (57%) of firms recorded an increase in sales during the past six months, and two thirds expect sales to grow again during the first half of 2017.

The National Manufacturing Barometer, conducted by SWMAS Group in partnership with Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), asked senior decision makers from 270 companies nationwide about life on the shopfloor. Half of those questioned said they plan to invest in new capital equipment and technology, while 46% are looking to increase their workforce to cope with demand.

Surprisingly, 42% of respondents are unsure whether the UK Industrial Strategy, announced by the government in February, is built to deliver their business needs. Just 17% of respondents agreed that the direction of the strategy would work, highlighting the need for better engagement with SMEs about the plan and what it involves.

Productivity and R&D were high on the list when respondents were asked what the main focus of the Industrial Strategy should be, along with growth opportunities in the UK, exports and operational skills.

“There has been a lot of talk about uncertainty around the impact of Brexit and the possible impact it could have on manufacturing, which makes the positive results from the latest Barometer very welcome,” said Simon Howes, managing director of SWMAS Group. “A 9% surge in the number of SMEs reporting an increase in sales from the previous Barometer shows that orders are still being placed and, anecdotally, there is evidence of a spike in exports due to the fall in Sterling.”

Commenting on the Industrial Strategy, Lorraine Holmes, CEO of EGS and the recently launched Manufacturing Growth Programme, said: “Our SMEs are giving a strong message to government. They need to feel that the new strategy reflects their aspirations and will support them in making the most of new opportunities and overcoming some of the challenges that they are and will continue to face.”

Chris Beck

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