Investment and recruitment top the agenda for South West manufacturers

By Anita Jaynes on February 24, 2015

Impressive sales results appear to have inspired an investment drive and appetite to recruit among small to medium sized (SME) manufacturers in the South West.

More than half (55%) of respondents to the latest Manufacturing Barometer* recorded a rise in sales, with six in ten manufacturers expecting further increases between now and May 2015.

This growth looks to have had a positive influence on investment intentions, with 52% of manufacturers in the region stating that they expect to increase investment in new technology over the next six months. This is the highest figure recorded in the last three years and a possible indication of a move towards more advanced manufacturing.

Further reflection of growing confidence is illustrated by manufacturers’ recruitment plans, with 56% of respondents aiming to recruit more staff, the highest level since the same period last year.

Simon Howes, MAS Area Director at the Business Growth Service for South West England, commented: “Recent figures have suggested that UK manufacturing output lost momentum towards the end of 2014, leading to predictions of a general economic slowdown.

“However, in the South West, the Manufacturing Barometer indicates that SME manufactures have adapted well to a general softening in the marketplace and are now looking forward with a renewed sense of optimism.

“There are still challenges ahead as the weakness of demand in the Eurozone continues, but the record investment plans highlight that manufacturers are recognising they need to spend in order to compete globally.”

Business Minister, Matthew Hancock commented: “Small businesses have been at the forefront of our economic recovery and today’s findings show no sign this is slowing down. We are committed to making Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business, which means backing manufacturers every step of the way.

“Cutting swathes of unnecessary red tape has saved business £10billion over the last four years, our British Business Bank is unlocking funds for thousands of small businesses and our laser focus on skills has seen more than 2 million people start an apprenticeship during this Parliament. Our long-term economic plan is delivering and it’s clear that manufacturers are leading the way.”

With the Manufacturing Advisory Service’s recent move into the new Business Growth Service, it has been useful to review the special focus of this quarter’s Barometer, which was on the factors affecting growth.

When asked which factors they felt supported their growth journey, the majority of companies (89%) pointed to their business plan, with the current vision of the business (88%) and the sales strategy (79%) also felt to be vital.

Simon Howes added: “It is important that companies recognise the need to continually adapt their strategy based on changing market needs. The most successful businesses regularly review the business landscape, constantly looking for new or changing opportunities and for ways to differentiate from competitors, enabling them to create more value for their customers.”

The Business Growth Service, launched in December 2014 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, brings together GrowthAccelerator and the Manufacturing Advisory Service, with additional elements from the Intellectual Property Office (Intellectual Property Audits) and the Design Council (Design Mentoring).

For more information on the Business Growth Service and the services it provides, call 0300 303 0034, email advice@mymas.org or visit www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/mas

Pictured above: Simon Howes, MAS Area Director at the Business Growth Service for South West England