The latest Manufacturing Barometer report reveals a stark picture of how COVID-19 is affecting industrial confidence

Conducted by South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), this quarterly survey is the largest of its kind in England. It aims to uncover the views of the SME businesses who make up 98% of the UK manufacturing sector, but whose voices are not always heard.

This quarter’s report, which surveyed over 600 SME manufacturers across England, reveals that they are calling for greater and faster financial support from the Government as they confront plummeting sales and the prospect of job cuts amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 85% of those questioned expect sales to drop over the next six months, with 55% of firms believing that they will need to cut jobs between now and October, despite the business grants on offer and the furloughing scheme designed to boost employee retention.

Simon Howes, of SWMAS, said: “COVID-19 is having a huge impact across the UK economy but is especially problematic for our sector as manufacturing cannot be carried out remotely, relying as it does on physical interaction with machinery and parts. Current restrictions and the ongoing lockdown measures mean that capacity is dramatically reduced, therefore the majority of businesses are reporting an unprecedented fall in production volumes.

“Top of the wish list for SME manufacturers is stronger financial assistance and for Government to go ‘faster and further’. While the existing package of measures has been welcomed, there remains a pressing need for a deeper level of sector-specific advice and support. We must protect SME manufacturing now to ensure it is ready to spring back into action when possible.

“This crisis has also brought home how reliant we have become on overseas supply of strategically critical important items. We must learn from this and re-establish UK production where possible.”

On a positive note, just over a fifth of those surveyed say they have already responded to the Government’s call for PPE equipment, with a further 13% willing to look at diversification if they can access advice on how to switch their products and processes. This underlines that manufacturers are already playing a vital role with more willing to step up and do their part in supporting the response to this crisis.

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If you are an SME manufacturer and would like the chance to share your views in the next Barometer (July 2020), please CLICK HERE to receive an invite