SME manufacturers call for urgent financial support as pandemic woes mount

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Met with declining sales, production volumes and the prospect of job cuts during the pandemic, SME manufacturers in Yorkshire and the Humber are call on government for greater and faster financial support.

The latest Manufacturing Barometer, which surveyed 82 firms in the region, reveals a stark picture of how the virus is affecting industrial confidence, with 85% of respondents experiencing a drastic decline in production volumes, while a similar number (83%) are expecting sales to drop over the next six months.

Conducted by the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) and South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS), the report also shows that 52% of firms believe they will need to cut jobs between now and October, despite the business grants on offer and the furloughing scheme designed to boost employee retention.

The overwhelming majority of manufacturing SMEs surveyed (93%) say they require urgent financial support to get through the current climate, the largest number of any English region questioned. Furthermore, only 13% are confident that the Government is doing enough to help the sector cope with the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is having a huge impact across Yorkshire and Humber, but it is especially problematic for our sector as manufacturing cannot be carried out remotely, relying as it does on physical interaction with machinery and parts,” Martin Coats, Managing Director of the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP).

“Current restrictions and the ongoing lockdown measures mean that capacity is dramatically reduced, therefore the majority of businesses are reporting an unprecedented fall in production volumes.

“Top of the wish list for SME manufacturers is stronger financial assistance and for Government to go ‘faster and further’. While the existing package of measures has been welcomed, there remains a pressing need for a deeper level of sector-specific advice and support.

“This crisis has brought home how reliant we have become on overseas supply of strategically critical items. We must learn from this and re-establish UK production of these parts and protect SME manufacturing now, in order to ensure it is ready to spring back into action once the COVID-19 crisis is finally over.”

The latest Manufacturing Barometer, which is the largest survey of its type in England, reflects a positive response from Yorkshire & Humber manufacturing to support the urgent request for vital medical equipment and PPE.

Nearly a fifth (19%) surveyed say they have already responded to the Government’s call, with 16% willing to access advice on how to switch their production lines.

“It is no great surprise to see that every indicator for confidence among SME manufacturers appears to have worsened over the last six months due to the impact of COVID-19,” said Mr Coats.

“That said, it is heartening to see that many SME manufacturers are adapting to the situation by diversifying their processes and product ranges in all manner of innovative ways.”