South East manufacturing put in spotlight by Lloyds regional director Wicks
Manufacturing is an often overlooked part of the economic picture in the South East yet plays a role, with many businesses investing for future growth.
Ahead of this year's National Manufacturing Day on September 28, Becci Wicks, the region's regional director for Lloyds bank, has taken a look at the dynamics of the sector in the south east.
Despite it only accounting for 4.3% of the region’s total output, according to the Make UK and BDO Regional Manufacturing Outlook report, the South East is one of the few areas in the UK that has retained "pandemic-style" level of demand that far outstrips supply," noted Wicks.
"This is the best problem for our manufacturers to have and means growth is up for grabs.
"Indeed, food & drink producers are the most prominent manufacturers in the South East, and the latest Lloyds Bank UK Sector Tracker finds that it’s one of only three sectors that saw output expand in August.
"The South East can, therefore, tap into growth opportunities that other regions can’t," she added.
Wicks highlighted Berkshire model-making business Atom Ltd, which recently acquired and refurbished a new 6,000 sq ft design and production space to meet growing demand for its models.
The firm now expects turnover to grown by 10% over the next 12 months.
Wicks also cited Surrey’s Cavan Bakery, which produces 40 different types of bread each day and 30 different pastries, used a move into a purpose-built baking facility to invest in new machinery.
It can now house larger, more efficient ovens, helping to reduce its energy usage and is also exploring electrifying its fleet of delivery vehicles, after recently investing in its first electric delivery van.
However, a shortage of skilled workers is an issue for many manufacturers, holding them back from achieving their full potential, and we have a history of underinvestment, particularly among SMEs, said Wickes.
Manufacturers in the region added 3,000 staff to their workforces last year, which, while positive, still is lagged behind the rest of the UK.
She noted that Lloyds has backed the Manufacturing Technology Centre since 2015 and sponsors the centre to the tune of a million pounds a year and is committed to continuing that until at least the end of 2029.
There are currently 146 different training courses on offer at the facility from automation and robotics to additive manufacturing.
"I’m also pleased to report that it is helping build a more diverse manufacturing sector, which is a big opportunity for an industry where the proportion of women in the workforce has languished at around one in four of its workforce for the last 20 years," she added.
"We need to encourage more women and girls into the sector as well as recruiting from as wide a talent pool as possible, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities."