Brexit Concerns Holding UK SME Manufacturers Back

Although the general feeling in the UK construction manufacturing sector is one of optimism, with some expecting significant growth on the international playing field by 2020, there are still concerns for the short term as the industry focus remains on attempting to inject stability into the current uncertain position.

The results of the latest National Manufacturing Barometer survey show that there is still concern within the sector about UK manufacturer growth, as the consensus is that there is not enough focus on export growth. There is a general anticipation of an overall slowdown in sales and an anticipated difficulty in staff recruitment in the short-term, and although they expect it to recover and grow five years from now, there is an indication that SMEs will not survive until then if greater support and cooperation is not realised.

For example, the manufacturers that already have healthy exports agree that a small increase of just over 2% is anticipated over the next 12 months, however, the same group expect an increase in export of 12% by 2020.

The survey asked 300 construction manufacturing decision-makers what their thoughts, predictions, concerns and expectations might look like in both the short- and the long-term. They were also asked about the previous six months figures.

The results reveal a surprising strength of feeling for the growth of the sector despite the current situation surrounding the Brexit negotiations (or lack of them). A survey spokesperson said, ‘Whilst manufacturers’ cautiousness about export growth amidst the current chaos is no shock, it is encouraging to see their ambitions for 2020. Not only does this reflect the sector’s vision, it also shows that for a large and influential part of our economy there are many optimistic signs of life after Brexit.

Some of the concerns raised by the survey included the challenges being faced in recruitment, and while 41% of manufacturers had increased its staffing, 20% said that staffing had reduced and had begun to drop to the alarming levels of a couple of years ago. Investment is also high on the agenda for those manufacturers who are continuing to do well, and the consensus in the sector is leaning towards consolidation of current resources while taking a chance in investing in infrastructure to begin to address some of the changes most likely post-Brexit.

The atmosphere is one of optimism, but a difficult road in the short-term is generally expected.