SME manufacturers call for supply chain support

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Supply chain support and longer-term assistance are top priorities for Britain’s manufacturing SMEs if they are to make the most of the post-pandemic recovery and UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Supply chain support
(Image: Somers Forge)

These are two findings from the latest report from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), which found 75 per cent of its 335 respondents indicating that supply chain improvement would make them more profitable, while grants to help them buy new equipment and invest in digitalisation would make the biggest difference to their ongoing performance.

The survey showed that management teams wanted access to specialist external advice and funding to drive profitability (68 per cent), increase sales (62 per cent) and to boost productivity (58 per cent).

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Three quarters felt that leadership and management training is beneficial, whilst 83 per cent said they wanted business support to be delivered by experts with substantial industry experience, such as MGP Growth Managers. Just over a quarter said they want to use assistance to help them move towards Net Zero and make the most of the green economy.

“We are operating in unique times, with companies looking to recover from the aftereffects of the pandemic but against a volatile backdrop of supply chain disruption and rising inflationary pressures. It is critical that manufacturing bosses continue to receive specialist support to rebuild their growth strategies,” said Dean Barnes, regional director of the Manufacturing Growth Programme.

“Manufacturing is responsible for 10 per cent of national GDP and still accounts for half of the UK’s goods exported and nearly two thirds of all R&D activity in this country. These reasons alone mean we need to understand what industry wants and needs to grow.”

He continued: “The report clearly underlines some common themes and the need for assistance to be longer-term to deliver the most benefit and, importantly, for in-depth supply chain support alongside more grants to be available to spend on capital purchases.

“These are important messages to be sending out to government as they look to reshape the business support landscape.”

The recent Levelling Up White Paper laid out plans to ensure that manufacturers are automating, decarbonising and building resilience by 2030.

According to MGP, this will be achieved by maximising existing spending and non-spending policy levers and strategic investments to attract, secure and grow supply chains, working closely with local leaders, industry and academia.

“Levelling up is one of the government’s key commitments and MGP has been doing exactly that since 2016, with more support and activity undertaken in transitional regions across the country to help them ‘level up’ against the more developed areas outside of London,” said Jane Galsworthy, managing director of Oxford Innovation Advice, which is delivering the ERDF-funded MGP.

“We have given the powers that be a blueprint for how they deliver industry-specific support that tackles low levels of productivity, failure of SMEs to seek assistance and lack of innovation in our smaller manufacturers.”