What impact is Covid-19 having on small UK manufacturers?

Posted on 27 Mar 2020 by Jonny Williamson

Large companies often claim the spotlight during challenging times, with many in the media either championing their success or rueing their downfall. But in these unprecedented times, it’s vital that businesses on the other end of the scale also have a platform.

Small to medium-sized manufacturers in England are being urged to take part in a major survey detailing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on industry.

The Manufacturing Barometer, which is conducted by South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), is now live and is inviting companies to highlight the issues they are facing and the support they need to overcome them.

The survey can be filled in online here and will close on Friday 17 April. 

Companies are being asked to highlight changes in production volumes, difficulties in retaining employees, supply chain disruption and any major ‘pivots’ they are doing to supply new markets, including answering the call for more medical equipment.

They will also be given the opportunity to give their thoughts on existing business support packages, while identifying other areas of assistance they may require, such as cashflow, HR advice and skills retention.

This information will be communicated directly to government, where it will hopefully inform future policy and support as the country continues to tackle Covid-19 and its wide-reaching ramifications.

[In a slight change to the normal release of information, the Manufacturing Barometer will be showcasing initial findings on Thursday April 2 and then again at the end of the month to highlight how SME manufacturers are adapting and the ongoing challenges/opportunities they are facing]

SME Case Study

Zero Point 8, a specialist in the design, manufacture and installation of bespoke furniture, is one company that is keen for the government’s business support announcements to be put into action.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic intervened, the Black Country company was on course for a record £3.7m year after launching its new interior fitout business and securing contracts in retail, education, hospitality and the commercial sectors. Many of its clients have since chosen to postpone projects until later in the year.

Bar at Bramshott Place Care Home. Image: Zero Point 8

Bar at Bramshott Place Care Home. Image: Zero Point 8

“I’m confident we can emerge from this global crisis stronger, but we need the Chancellor’s measures to combat the economic impact of Covid-19 to be implemented quickly, so that vital money gets to the people and companies who need it most,” explained Mark Baker, CEO of Zero Point 8.

“The Business Interruption Loan Scheme for SMEs looks like a good idea on the surface, but we need high street banks to be on board with the spirit in which it was announced, making the process a lot simpler and more flexible than it has been in the past.”

Welcoming the retention scheme put in place by the Government, Mark has concerns over the timescale it will be delivered in, noting; “The end of April is too long for companies and their staff to wait and we would urge the Chancellor to look at ways in which this can be brought forward.

“Together, we have to do everything we can to retain these valuable skills in the region and make sure that, when we come out of this, we have the expertise we need to make the most of the stalled projects.”

He concluded: “We want to do our bit to help the national response to Coronavirus and can mobilise very quickly to help our country by repurposing production with solutions to combat Covid-19, including interiors and furniture for hospitals and temporary/permanent facilities.”