Strong quarter for SME manufacturers

The latest figures from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reveal that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the manufacturing sector enjoyed strong growth in the three months to January.

The CBI’s latest quarterly SME Trends Survey found sharp increases in output among SME manufacturers during the period studied.

36 per cent of SME respondents said that output was up in the three months to January, while 43 per cent reported an increase in total new orders.

Meanwhile, 32 per cent said they were feeling ‘more optimistic’ about their organisation’s business situation going into 2018, and 30 per cent said that employee numbers were up during the period.

Furthermore, the proportion of firms working ‘below capacity’ was just 42 per cent – the lowest percentage on record since April 1989.

Commenting on the data, Alpesh Paleja, Principal Economist at the CBI, said: “Growth is going strong for SME manufacturers, who are reaping the benefits of a lower pound and buoyant global growth, as seen in record expectations for export orders growth.”

However, he warned that margins were still “under pressure” and that “cost pressures” remained high for many SMEs.

Following the publication of the report, concerns have also been raised that “skill shortages have rocketed” in the industry of late.

However, despite the challenges faced, most manufacturers are feeling confident and order growth is expected to continue to pick up on a domestic and international basis.