Midlands manufacturers feeling more optimistic

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Manufacturers in Coventry and Warwickshire and the wider Midlands are starting to feel slightly more optimistic about their post-Covid future but there are calls for significantly more tailored Government-funded support and investment for their positivity to be fulfilled, according to a new report.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s SmartRegion report from July 21 to August 3 has gathered information from the CWLEP Growth Hub’s business engagements and survey data, the CWLEP, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, the Midlands Engine, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Make UK and Economic Growth Solutions.

It shows that across the region many manufacturers are still experiencing some drop in revenue, sales or general business activity but the general feeling is that orders are starting to pick back up, albeit slowly.

A report from the Midlands Engine has highlighted that overall manufacturing companies are benefiting the most from diversifying which the Growth Hub’s recent business insights have shown.

Local manufacturers are seeing successes with new approaches to doing business and offering different products and services.

But Coventry City Council’s latest Business and Economy Briefing has emphasised that although plants have been reopening, many are operating at partial capacity, which is impacting on order levels and production capacity within supply chains.

Intelligence from the Manufacturing Barometer collated by the Manufacturing Growth Programme shows that although businesses are still in negative territory since the Covid-19 crisis began with 48 per cent still expecting sales to reduce in the coming months, this has almost halved from the 85 per cent who predicted this in March.

A total of 78 per cent indicated that no further clarifications were needed around operating safely in a manufacturing environment which is good news and 67 per cent said that Covid-19 has not affected their EU-Exit preparations but companies have indicated that they would like supply chains to look toward the UK to source more supplies and products.

Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said it was encouraging that activity was starting to improve in the manufacturing sector but it was important that business support organisations across the area continue to give firms in all sectors a helping hand.

He said: “There has been a marked improvement for manufacturing. Since our last SmartRegion report about the sector in May, local manufacturers are now seeing staff return to work. Our clients are indicating some signs of recovery and optimism.

“Cash flow issues no longer seem to the main concern for businesses seeking Growth Hub support – this could indicate that manufacturers have been making use of available grant and loan support schemes which have been effective. These Government schemes need to be extended for the optimism some businesses are experiencing to be realised.”

The CWLEP Growth Hub has also started to see an influx of “business as usual” type of enquiries – with businesses now looking for support to invest into their premises, new equipment and innovation – as well as investing in their staff.

“Promisingly, a dominant share of manufacturers have not put apprenticeship training on hold but many firms remain cautious to the probability of local lockdowns that may disrupt future activity,” Craig added.

Craig said that the CWLEP Growth Hub was supporting local opportunities to boost the sector including a call for the government-backed Gigafactory for EV battery production to be based in Coventry and Warwickshire.

He also said businesses would benefit from the WMCA’s proposal to develop an Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC) through a new £50 million Regional AMC Accelerator Fund.

He added: “This fund will support the delivery of the land, skills, factories and technology that are needed to enable our AMC industry to grow and thrive.

“Our ambition is for the West Midlands to be the national and international epicentre of AMC – building from our unique manufacturing heritage and track record of housing and employment delivery.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of our economy and it is vital that the support is there so that the sector can continue to ensure high quality employment and private sector investment flow.”