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London and South East manufacturers answer BoE’s ‘bat signal’

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The latest Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) barometer revealed that manufacturers are raising their productivity, which is bound to please the Bank of England following recent recommendations.

“This is welcome news at a time when there are mixed messages around economic activity, with the UK holding up relatively well against a less than positive outlook from our Eurozone trading partners,” said Steven Barr, head of MAS.

“Small and medium firms have recognised the importance of continually improving productivity. This could include anything from introducing new processes and eliminating waste, to upskilling staff and investing in technology and state-of-the-art machinery. Management teams are continually looking to get more out of the business, a feature that will become increasingly important with the market showing some signs of softening.”

Indeed, 53 per cent of companies in the South East felt that they had raised their productivity in the last six months, with 75 per cent admitting further efficiency gains were necessary in order to remain competitive.

Cautious optimism is the overarching sentiment among respondents within London and the South East. And many manufacturers are prepared to spend to make this happen. 62 per cent even said that they were already planning to invest in new technology, machinery or premises.

Oxfordshire-based injection moulders Data Plastics has enjoyed a record breaking year. Managing director Carl Reeve explained: “The growth this year has been remarkable, especially in the medical sector, consumer products and our work with start-up businesses. It has enabled us to invest heavily in new plant and machinery to enhance our service levels. We place a huge emphasis on training and staff development which has helped us negate the skills shortage in the area”.

Likewise, Hampshire-based Ahmarra Group’s managing director Tim Doran said: “During our 20 years of business, we have continuously invested in new technologies and product development and when combined with the finest craftsmanship, we have been able to guarantee the very best standards in door manufacturing. We are proud to fly the flag for UK manufacturing and expect our business to continue to grow by ten per cent a year through new product ranges and innovations.”

More than half of the South East manufacturers recorded an increase in sales, with 79 per cent expecting to grow between now and March 2015. Furthermore, 57 per cent of firms are currently planning to increase their workforce, highlighting the determination to build capacity across the supply chain.

Buckinghamshire-based Case Design, who manufacture custom-designed flight cases to protect high value goods, claim that exports representing 30 per cent of the business. Director Rob Macdermott said: “We continue to broaden the range of markets we supply to grow in a controlled and profitable way. We have seen our business picking up again and our production has increased 30 per cent this year helped by the Winter Olympics in Russia, the World Cup in Brazil and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.”

The Fuzion4Group, however, has recently invested heavily in their infrastructure.  This includes new premises, new service and product development, marketing, additional staff, training and equipment. Andre Keen, managing director said: “This investment is the first step in our five year growth strategy which will hopefully see the group turnover double, providing opportunities for existing staff and further employment in our area.”

Barr further explains that manufacturers need to continually understand market forces and plan steps to make themselves more competitive, especially against international rivals. “This is playing a role in building capacity within supply chains, so there is little surprise that automotive and aerospace – both buoyed by significant investment and work returning to the UK – feature strongly,” he concluded.

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