Positive sales results look to have motivated a recruitment drive and an appetite for investment among small to medium sized (SME) manufacturers in the South West, according to the latest Barometer from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS).
Over half (59 per cent) of businesses report sales growth in the last six months, which is a rise of five per cent from the same time last year. This seems to have had a positive influence on recruitment plans, as almost half (49 per cent) of respondents indicate they plan to engage more staff. Manufacturers' confidence is also growing, with 44 per cent of the companies questioned stating they intend to invest in developing new technologies, which is the highest number recorded when measured against the same period in previous years.
Simon Howes, MAS Area Director for South West England, said: "Our survey suggests that the region's SME manufacturers are more than playing their part in helping to create a strong base for the country's economic recovery. While there are still challenges ahead as businesses strive to provide value and quality while managing an increasing cost base, it is important that we give recognition to the strength of the sector here in the South West."
The Special Focus of this quarter's survey was energy efficiency. The Barometer revealed that recent growth and positive forecasts for the months ahead are taking place against a backdrop of increasing energy prices, with more than 40 per cent of businesses experiencing a rise in their energy costs of six per cent or more in the past year.
Simon Howes added: "Although costs are rising, our survey suggests that some manufacturers are not taking steps to control their energy consumption, with only 23 per cent stating that they monitor and measure the energy costs of running their machinery. Despite this, over half (51 per cent) said that they plan on investing in new machinery in the next six months. Whether this is to address inefficiencies or to increase production, it seems that SME manufactures in the South West are investing to drive future performance and sales.
"However, it is vital that plans for growth are sustainable in the long term. MAS can support companies with this by working alongside them to help improve capacity, efficiency and address areas where waste is evident, as well as helping implement systems that can reduce or eliminate inefficiencies to save costs and improve workflow."