The UK’s largest survey of small to medium-sized (SME) manufacturing companies has been launched this week to record trends in performance and confidence levels across the sector, whilst also exploring how firms are supporting their staff as a result of COVID-19.
The Manufacturing Barometer, which is organised by SWMAS (the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), is looking to understand how the pandemic has accelerated new working practices that may have unearthed potential operational benefits.
Exclusively for businesses with fewer than 250 employees, this quarter’s report aims to examine how working conditions have changed for manufacturers, the challenges their employees have faced and how these are being addressed.
The survey will also look at remote working within the manufacturing industry to see if this has increased productivity, lowered overheads and/or created a better work/life balance for employees.
“Although COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges, we are interested in finding out if manufacturers have adopted any positive changes as a result,” explained Nick Golding, Managing Director of SWMAS.
“This quarter’s Manufacturing Barometer will provide valuable insight into the new processes businesses have implemented over the past year and if they could lead to permanent changes to traditional working practices.”
He continued: “We know that manufacturing will always require some level of on-site production, but could virtual meetings replace face-to-face discussions to save time and travel?
“Are businesses planning more investment in digital manufacturing? Responses to this quarter’s Barometer will help us understand the future plans of SME businesses across the sector and enable us to identify the support they require.”
Although a number of manufacturers are still feeling the negative impact of COVID-19, last quarter’s Barometer report showed that 31% of respondents had seen sales increase over the previous six months, with 44% predicting further growth, and nearly a third planning to take on staff.
These findings indicate that, despite ongoing challenges, some SME businesses across the sector are beginning to feel more optimistic about the future.
Martin Coats, Managing Director of MGP, went on to add: “It’s vital that we are aware of how current conditions are continuing to affect SME manufacturers so we can inform Government of the support the sector will continue to require as it looks to recover.
“The Manufacturing Barometer will highlight the recent experiences of businesses across the sector and also reveal their intentions around future investment and job creation.”
He concluded: “We invite companies to share their vision for the future, how recent external factors have influenced operational plans and what assistance businesses need to address challenges and make the most of new opportunities.”
The Manufacturing Barometer can be filled out here and will be live until Friday 23rd April.