Wednesday, 24 August 2011

UK Manufacturing - reports of its death are greatly exaggerated!

Britain's manufacturers have been left untouched by the recent turmoil in the world's financial markets, and expect healthy order books to be translated into higher factory output over the coming months, according to the CBI. The latest monthly snapshot of industry found companies in upbeat mood, with increased demand and the steep upward price pressures from earlier in 2011 on the wane.

Hang on, hang on, hang on – let’s just rewind a minute here!

Am I going mad or are the CBI findings a direct contradiction of the recent surveys by BDO and the CIPD? My recollection is that both organisations said a drop in business confidence was largely due to a ‘fragile’ manufacturing sector. In fact I distinctly recall that BDO partner Peter Hemington was all over my TV telling me that said the UK's economic recovery continued to falter and that “the rapid decline of the manufacturing sector, championed as the key to a rebalancing of the UK economy, is alarming."

Now, I’m going to say it again and I’m genuinely not making this up. I have one multi-national manufacturing client who has just had the best half year sales figures in nearly four years. I have another that is a global manufacturer of engineering components that has had to tell the sales force to stop selling, so worried are they about being able to meet demand. I have another well-known manufacturing client who is looking for new premises because the company has outgrown its current site and it is physically impossible to put on any more than three eight hour shifts in a single day!

The fact of the matter is (and I’m going to keep on banging on about this until somebody listens) manufacturing in the UK is buoyant and it is not just due to advantageous exchange rates because the first two companies I mentioned are predominantly selling into the UK from their UK sites.

And just in case anybody thinks that it’s just my clients, I saw Juergen Maier, managing director of the Siemens UK Industry Sector on Channel 4 News a few nights ago and he said the same thing!

So, I would like to issue a standing invitation to anyone in the media or anyone consultant, trade body or purveyor of statistics, who thinks that a: we don’t manufacture anything in this country or b: thinks that manufacturing in the UK is just about assembly (that would be you Mr Hemington) or c: thinks that manufacturing output is going into freefall, to visit any one of the three companies mentioned above and find out exactly what is going on at the coalface.

We look forward to meeting you!


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