UK?s smallest manufacturing businesses are suffering most from a lack of inspiration

There are green shoots however, with the average SME Inspiration Rating rising 0.9 per cent in the past 18 months, despite 53 per cent of respondents claiming they do not feel more inspired than they did back in 2011.

A struggling survivor is how 38 per cent termed the future of UK manufacturing, with another 37 per cent saying it would become a niche player. In comparison, only 21 per cent see market leadership or global leadership on the cards in the future, while approximately one in three respondents think it has already lost this mantle.

The sector?s ability to change is viewed as critical to manufacturing?s future success by 98 per cent of respondents, with 64 per cent saying the industry must be ready to adapt significantly or even completely. 

After all, innovation is part of future success too; with 55 per cent saying that manufacturers must be highly innovative to succeed. And aside from improving pay and conditions of employment, technology innovation is thought most likely to improve levels of inspiration. 

Some 72 per cent of respondents say that price competition is holding UK manufacturing back globally ? this being the most common obstacle to success, followed by the Government?s policy and strategy and then the attitude of people in the sector. 

UK product quality and customer experience is seen as most important in helping the UK maintain a strong position, according to 71 per cent. This chimes with a recent IDC Manufacturing Insights white paper which stated that manufacturers must work on customer experience rather than price competition to succeed and thrive.

Encouragingly, the sector is keen to lead the charge for change required to improve its fortunes; respondents most frequently cite manufacturing companies themselves, rather than customer demand, the government, the EU or industry bodies and lobbyists as the driving force behind improvement.

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