South West manufacturers answer call for greater productivity

A drive in productivity is helping to sustain growth among small to medium sized (SME) manufacturers in the South West.

As manufacturers in the region continue to adapt to a general softening in the marketplace, over half (52%) of respondents to the latest Barometer from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) stated that they had increased their productivity in the last six months.

Meanwhile, nearly three quarters (74%) of companies highlighted that further efficiency gains are needed in order to remain competitive. It appears that SME manufacturers are committed to spend to make these improvements, with 61% expecting to increase investment in new technology, machinery or premises by the spring of 2015.

Simon Howes, MAS Area Director for South West England, commented: “Our Barometer shows that South West manufacturers are already raising productivity, which is good for the region and country as a whole. It should also please the Bank of England, who recently called for the UK to improve its performance in this area.

“This could include anything from introducing new processes and eliminating waste, to upskilling staff and investing in technology and state-of-the-art machinery. Management teams are continually looking to get more out of their business, a feature that will become increasingly important with the market showing some signs of softening.”

Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Britain’s small manufacturers are driving our economic recovery, boosting our national productivity and helping create a record number of jobs. This is part of our long term economic plan to build a better Britain.”

Cautious optimism is the other main sentiment from respondents to the Barometer. More than half (51%) of manufacturers recorded an increase in sales, with 56% expecting to increase their sales turnover between now and the end of March 2015.

Furthermore, 94% of companies questioned plan to either maintain or increase their workforce over the six months, highlighting a determination to retain skills and build capacity across the supply chain.

Simon Howes added: “This is welcome news at a time when there are mixed messages around economic activity, with the UK holding up relatively well against a less than positive outlook from our Eurozone trading partners. Our advisors are continually working with manufacturers to help them understand market forces and plan steps to make them more competitive, especially against international rivals.”

The Barometer was launched by SWMAS Ltd in the South West in 2009 and now covers the whole of England. It provides insight and analysis into small and medium sized manufacturers.