South West manufacturers report record growth and plan to invest

Small to medium sized (SME) manufacturers in the South West have reported significant signs of growth over the last six months and an increased appetite for investment, according to the latest Barometer from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS).

More than three quarters (78 per cent) of businesses predict sales growth in the next half year, underpinned by the achievements of the last six months in which nearly two thirds (64 per cent) revealed increases in sales, both the highest recorded levels since Q4 2010-11.

To add to these record results, six in ten companies highlight a rise in enquiry levels. Manufacturers’ confidence appears to have had a positive influence on recruitment plans with over half (57 per cent) of respondents indicating they are going to engage more staff.

Simon Howes, MAS Area Director for South West England, said: “The findings from our Barometer mirror the sentiments reported by the CBI’s latest SME Trends Survey and the most recent Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI® , both of which point to an upward turn in growth and increased investment intentions among the UK manufacturing community.

“The significant rise in optimism for sales growth could be viewed as another indication that the economy is beginning to recover, with confidence returning. The 17 per cent increase in plans for recruitment since the last quarter is significant given that results from the Barometer survey conducted this time last year showed an emphasis on training existing staff over recruiting. This new uplift in recruitment is a strong sign of confidence and of a willingness to invest in capacity.”

Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: “These figures point towards signs of a renaissance in manufacturing. SMEs are increasing in confidence, and looking to both recruit and invest. We’re committed to working closely with the manufacturing sector to provide a strong base for the recovery and create growth for the future.”

The special focus of this quarter’s Barometer concentrated on exploring future plans for capital investment among the region’s manufacturers. Almost a third of businesses (28 per cent) reported creating new capability for new products and / or processes as the main driver behind their planned CAPEX (capital expenditure).

Simon Howes added: “Responses to the questions around CAPEX could suggest that manufacturers are beginning to embrace innovation as a driver for future growth. As part of our commitment to helping manufacturers ambitious to expand their operations, MAS has created a bespoke package of support that will help businesses understand how they can embrace innovation in order to make positive changes.

“The MAS Inspire programme provides firms with access to one day of free innovation consultancy where they will receive expert guidance on how they can generate new ideas and stimulate growth for their business.”