Manufacturing Advisory Service

Home>Manufacturing Barometer

Manufacturing Barometer

Smaller manufacturers put their faith in ‘people power’ to solve productivity puzzle

To download the full report please click here.

Investing in the skills of their workforce appears to be a main priority for England’s small and medium sized manufacturers (SMEs) it was revealed today.

The latest Manufacturing Barometer – produced exclusively for the Business Growth Service – reports that 71% of respondents are planning to increase spending on developing their people in a bid to unlock the ‘productivity puzzle’.

This outstrips the desire from companies to achieve productivity gains through increased investment in new capital equipment and machinery (62%) or implementing computer software and systems (56%).

The issue of skills was a strong theme throughout this report, with 74% and 63% of manufacturers stating that the skills of their management teams and non-managers respectively supported their growth.

“The race to improve productivity has been widely discussed over the past twelve months and the findings of the Manufacturing Barometer clearly show that the majority of smaller manufacturers are prepared to increase spending to gain better performance,” explained Stephen Peacock, Head of the Business Growth Service.

“What is perhaps a little surprising is that increasing investment in skills is seen as a greater priority than capital and machinery. This shows the importance firms appear to be placing on ensuring they have the right people to grow their business and this spans from retaining key staff and employing apprentices, to continuously improving existing employees.”

He continued: “Our Business Growth Managers on the ground are also reporting a rise in the number of manufacturers requesting support for leadership and management training to help with strategy, succession planning and entering new markets.

“This is something we can provide funding for through the Business Growth Service.”

The Manufacturing Barometer is the largest survey of its kind, reflecting the views of 529 senior leaders running SME manufacturers across England, employing approximately 16,000 people.

The findings reinforce recent economic data highlighting a general softening in the marketplace, with indicators – including predicted sales turnover increases in the next six months – falling back to the same level seen two years ago.

Half of firms still reported an increase in sales over the last six months, with 47% planning to take more staff on between now and the end of the year.

The appetite for new machinery and premises fell by 4%, whilst spend on new technology remained cautiously steady with 46% of firms expected to increase spending in the next 6 months.

Stephen continued: “There is a lot of global uncertainty at the moment, with exchange rate fluctuations, the falling price of oil and China’s economic performance posing significant questions over economic growth.

“This naturally cascades its way down the manufacturing supply chain and the smaller firms need to plan ahead to make sure they can cope with all scenarios, whether there is a general slowdown, delays on orders or sudden increases in volume as market confidence returns.”

The Business Growth Service brings together GrowthAccelerator and the Manufacturing Advisory Service, with additional elements from the Intellectual Property Office (Intellectual Property Audits) and the Design Council (Design Mentoring).

It also refers SME manufacturers to the right support provided by other agencies, including UK Trade & Investment, Innovate UK (including High Value Manufacturing Catapults), the British Business Bank, local Growth Hubs and UK Export Finance.

For further information, please email or follow @BGS_tweets/@mas_works on Twitter.

To take part in the next Barometer which is opening soon for responses please email:

* The Manufacturing Barometer is the largest independent survey of SME manufacturing companies operating in England and has been running since 2009. The survey takes input from a number of stakeholders but remains independent. The Manufacturing Barometer is owned and operated by SWMAS Ltd (


Usage Conditions:

The information and findings in this report may be freely re-used in any context provided that it is acknowledged that they originate from the Manufacturing Barometer report provided by SWMAS Ltd and the Business Growth Service, backed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied here and in the report, SWMAS Ltd, the Business Growth Service and any of the contributors to this report cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions that are revealed by future data revisions, new publications or policy changes, or for the consequences of actions taken by any party on the basis of the content of this page or report.

To download the:

  • National Manufacturing Barometer Report click here.
  • South West Manufacturing Barometer Report click here.
Are you eligible?

Is my business eligible?

To be eligible for the Business Growth Service, your business needs to:

  • Be a manufacturer
  • Be determined to grow
  • Be registered in the UK & based in England
  • Have fewer than 250 employees
  • Have a turnover of less than £40 million
What we offer
Is the Business Growth Service right for me?

Is the Business Growth Service
right for me?

Business Growth Service exclusively targets high growth businesses at any stage in their lifecycle.

Find out if Business Growth Service is right for your business

More support from the
Business Growth Service

Sign up to our e-newsletter to keep up to date with the Business Growth Service