Manufacturing Matters North West 2013 Conference

On 12th September 2013, the Manufacturing Matters North West Conference was held at the Salford City Stadium. Here are a few thoughts and the highlights of what I took away from what was a brilliantly positive day, and one filled with surprises.

I was surprised by the scale of manufacturing in the North West. I always knew it was a major part of our economy, but I never realised just how big and important to us it was. Employing around 323,000 people (according to 2011 figures), the North West has the largest manufacturing base in the UK, significantly higher than the Midlands where I assumed it would be by far the largest. Manufacturing is responsible for about 13% of the UK economy, and most surprisingly for about a third of the recovery since the recession (not bad for a country which apparently doesn’t make anything and has no manufacturing left!).

On the back of this, perhaps I should not have been so surprised at how much positivity there was in the room. A soon to be launched report by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) will show 50% of manufacturers are considering investing in new machinery, whilst 51% are considering recruiting in the next 12 months. As MAS’s Richard Jeffrey pointed out, the key to success is to tap into the organisations that are here to support manufacturing – and there seems to be plenty of them. Business strategy has moved from fire fighting and surviving, to being more outward looking and developing new products for new sectors. 2014 is expected to see further growth and stronger recovery, especially in emerging markets like Asia and South America (non EU territories are expected to be able to deliver 8-10% growth, against 2-3% in the EU). On a side note, it will be interesting to see the role Credit Insurance companies will play to try and support this growth. Availability of credit may be a deciding factor in this.

Stephen Radley of EEF expanded on this during his speech. He talked about capitalising on the regions strong manufacturing history (it’s sometimes easy to forget the North West has been at the heart of manufacturing since the Industrial Revolution), whilst also underlining the North Wests focus on innovation. He talked about measurable signs of progress being made by Central Government – although he did also stress the need for further investment to support this, whilst warning against complacency. We may be turning a corner, but we are not safe yet. Manufacturing output is still 10% behind pre-recession figures. Continued development of key infrastructure projects like the Atlantic Gateway is key to building on the success the sector has seen recently.

Back on a more positive note though, Radley again highlighted manufacturing’s new outlook –  focusing on design; innovation and quality, whilst shifting away from price. This strategy is reflected in the amount of ‘Re-Shoring’ we have seen recently as well. Companies who moved away from the UK due to price and cost savings, are being drawn back by quality and innovation. Importantly, we have to make sure the UK  supply chain can keep pace with the growth to really capitalise on this.

The overall tone was one of positivity. Metal products, Mechanical, Electronics, Motor Vehicles and Metals are all picking up. Defense, Food and Drink, Automotive and Nuclear industries are all strong in the North West and the thousands of businesses in the region all have potential to do well. The GVA of manufacturing in the UK is currently above average. In short, the industry is doing better than perhaps we perceive it to be.

So where do Creative Capital fit in? Well as always, without strong cash flow, a business cannot, and will not, survive. Just as important as a manufacturers innovation, is the availability of the right type of finance to enable these ideas. Selective Invoice Finance is just one of the many funding options available to UK industry. The message from us is that we are here to support UK manufacturing, and play our part in helping such an important sector. By providing finance against invoices as and when required, we allow access to funding when it’s needed. This enables our clients to pay suppliers in good time, and take on larger contracts they would otherwise avoided.

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