Shropshire Star

Call for Minister for Manufacturing to be created

A renewed call for a 'Minister for Manufacturing' has come from a metals organisation.

Steve Morley

It follows a new report that found that a complex cocktail of supply chain pressures, availability of raw materials and recruitment issues is holding back UK industry.

Crowe’s Summer Manufacturing Outlook, conducted in partnership with the West Bromwich-based Confederation of British Metalforming, revealed a mixed picture of optimism and the potential for reshoring, yet management teams continuing to be plagued by long-running supply and labour issues.

Research for the report found that 88 per cent of manufacturing businesses admitted suffering from the price and availability of raw materials, whilst more than three-quarters had experienced supply chain issues caused by the war in Ukraine, high inflation and ongoing issues with Brexit.

Adding to the difficulties is the shrinking labour pool, with 76 per cent of manufacturers coming to terms with recruitment issues – a difficult balancing act when many firms are exploring new opportunities or scaling up following the pandemic.

Stephen Morley, the president of CBM, said the results in the report reinforced the growing call for a ‘Minister for Manufacturing’, someone who can work with industry to overcome these challenges and ensure the sector is represented when key decisions are being made.

“A strong and well supported manufacturing sector has a major part to play in the UK economy’s GDP and should be a cornerstone to build on for any government, whether it be this one or the next.

“We represent over 200 members involved in the manufacture of fasteners, forgings and pressings, cold-rolled and sheet-metal products – the real building blocks of industry.

“There is a unanimous feeling that our voices are not being heard, with EU funding disappearing, the lack of an Industrial Strategy and a business support landscape that is ‘piece meal’ for conglomerates with little or no help for what our companies require, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The call for a ‘Minister for Manufacturing’ is growing and we need the powers that be at Whitehall to act sooner rather than later.”

The report has now become a fixture in the industrial calendar and is completed by audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe, supported by the Confederation of British Metalforming.

Mr Morley added: “Manufacturers are paying more for their energy than they should be, especially those who fixed contracts last autumn, with some under duress due to ‘questionable sales practices’. They are now locked into unfair deals that are hurting their businesses and, in some cases, their long-term liquidity’.

“This situation could get worse, as those who have been protected by long-term deals taken out before the energy crisis will soon have to renew. They will be faced with a significant increase in costs, which, when added to spiralling wage bills and supply chain pressures, is an unpalatable cocktail for business owners.”

Johnathan Dudley, partner and head of manufacturing at Crowe, who is based in Oldbury, commented: “Pent-up demand post-Covid has fed through to resilient financial results for UK manufacturers. Supply challenges remain, however, and the costs and administrative burdens of importing may drive a reshoring trend which brings environmental benefits too.

“Businesses face no shortage of challenges, including recruiting and retaining skilled workers, but a looming election provides hope that there is, on the horizon, potentially greater support and recognition of regulatory barriers for manufacturers and the vital role they play in the UK economy.

“Indeed, we are joining with the Confederation of British Metalforming by calling for a dedicated ‘Minister for Manufacturing’ to help unlock the sector’s potential and allow UK plc to benefit.

“For true ‘thrival’, manufacturing organisations must look beyond the immediate hurdles and seek out opportunities, whether that be through a strategic change of approach, or more actively pursuing supply chain opportunities attached to large infrastructure projects such as Hinckley Point or HS2.”

He concluded: “In fact, our report asked about the ‘HS2’ opportunity. 43% of companies said they believed there was potential to be involved, yet only 27 per cent of respondents visited the HS2 Supply Chain website.”

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