The latest Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Barometer reveals that 43 per cent of companies questioned have seen an increase in their order books over the past six months (+4% on the previous survey), with a massive 62 per cent expecting sales turnover to grow between now and June 2013.

The predicted expansion is backed up by the number of firms expecting to take on staff and those investing in new premises and machinery.

In line with the economic dip seen in the last quarter, slightly fewer companies have reported an increase in sales turnover from the previous six months.

Tellingly, 45 per cent of manufacturers cited the availability of specific skills as a barrier to growth, whilst time appears to be the ‘new gold’ for management teams, with 27% admitting they do not have enough capacity to ‘work on’ their businesses as they are too busy firefighting or dealing with everyday management issues.

Lorraine Holmes, Area Director for MAS in the North and West, explained: “Our Barometer is the only one dedicated to collecting the results, views and opinions of English manufacturing SMEs. It provides an overview of economic conditions and issues faced by the sector from October 2012 to January 2013. With over 700 respondents, the results speak for themselves.

“The overwhelming feeling is one of positivity, with order books, sales expectations, future investment in premises/machinery and the desire to create employment all up on the previous report.”
She continued: “Our companies are sending out a powerful message and highlighting their determination to explore new opportunities in 2013 following a year of global consolidation in 2012.”

The specialist focus for the latest MAS Barometer was on market knowledge and skills, with respondents asked to reveal their biggest barriers to training and recruitment.

When asked about fulfilling future staff requirements between now and 2016, manufacturing SMEs tell us that apprentices and graduates will fill less than forty per cent of the new jobs.

Nigel Jump, Chief Economist at Strategic Economics, added his view: “Many manufacturers expressed a desire to invest and hire, but deferred expansion in the face of low productivity and uncertain markets in 2012.

“In testing macro conditions, managing cash flow, seeking orders, matching competitors and handling disproportionate regulation are all cited as constraints.

“But, the Barometer also indicates a potential for recovery. SME manufacturers are hoping to increase turnover, staff numbers and investment in the first half of 2013 and hope these aims will be supported by the banks, the government and other agencies.”

MAS, which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), works for manufacturers to help shape strategy, create new products, reduce waste and review supply chains.