Manufacturing “has accelerated into 2017”

Manufacturers call for Brexit strategy re-think
Credit: Andrey Armyagov

Manufacturing has accelerated into 2017, delegates at a major regional conference have been told.

Quoting the results of the Quarterly Economic Survey for the first three months of the year, Chris Hobson, director of policy at East Midlands Chamber, said that performance so far this year has improved even when compared to the very positive end to 2016.

The survey, conducted every three months by the Chamber to build an accurate picture of the region’s economy, showed that in the first quarter of 2017 half of manufactuers saw growth in domestic sales, while 4 in 10 reported growth in overseas sales.

Moreover, advance orders for both domestic and overseas markets were up. Nearly half of manufacturers had increased their workforce to meet growing demand, although over half of those were still struggling to recruit suitably skilled staff.

A third of manufacturers said they planned to increase training budgets, while a quarter said they planned to invest in plant and machinery. Three quarters said they expected turnover to rise in the coming year, and nearly six-out-of-ten anticipated profitability growth for the coming year.

Hobson said: “It’s great to see our manufacturers accelerate into 2017, taking advantage of growth in both domestic and international markets, aided by a favourable pound for those exporting. In past surveys, many reported plans to grow into new markets and it may be that we’re starting to see some of those plans being realised.

“There are still uncertainties about how Brexit negotiations may unfold, but what these results show is that manufacturers in the East Midlands will be on the front foot in facing these uncertainties, investing in training and new equipment to make sure they’re as well placed as they can be to rise to the challenges and opportunities that the coming months and years will bring.

“A plan for a long-term successful UK economy must have manufacturers and engineers at its heart. They’re certainly doing their bit to deliver. As we begin negotiations to exit the EU it’s vital that UK policy now does its bit too”.

Hobson was one of the keynote speakers at the East Midlands Manufacturing and Engineering Conference and Expo at Loughborough University’s West Park Teaching Hub, which was attended by about 200 delegates.

The event was opened by Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles, followed by a welcome from Professor Steve Rothberg, Pro-Vice Chancellor for research at Loughborough University.