Chris Coopey, Partner at Carpenter Box, reviews the findings of an in-depth manufacturing survey and announces the return of BITE 2017 (Business Innovation Technology Efficiency), the flagship event hosted by the firm aimed at helping any and every business.

Cautiously Optimistic

South East manufacturers and engineers are optimistic of their future growth prospects, but are cautious of the impact leaving the European Union could have on their plans, according to a new survey from MHA and Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The fifth annual survey from the Manufacturing Group at MHA, the UK-wide group of accountancy and business advisory firms which I lead, was sponsored by Lloyds Bank’s manufacturing team for the second year. It asked over 550 small to medium sized manufacturing and engineering businesses from across the UK for their views on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

Barriers to growth

Over two thirds (70%) of businesses in the South East questioned are optimistic about their growth prospects in the coming 12 months. However, a note of realism was struck in relation to concerns over the way negotiations over the country’s exit from the EU will go, with 32% of businesses perceiving this uncertainty to be a barrier to growth.

Another cause for concern was the skills gap. Whilst more than half of firms (55%) will be looking to recruit over the next 12 months, 40% of the businesses expect to struggle to find skilled machinists.

97% of companies believe that their production costs will rise in 2016/17 due to the increasing cost of raw materials together with higher wages. As a result, productivity gains are being seen as important in bringing down costs, as almost two thirds (63%) won’t consider passing the additional costs onto their customers.

New opportunities

Securing opportunities to trade globally remains a priority for South East manufacturers, with 70% of businesses exporting. The Eurozone remains the most popular trading partner for firms, followed by North America and Asia.

The MHA Manufacturing Survey also finds around eight in every 10 companies committing to R&D investment this year, although surprisingly 10% remain unaware of the benefits associated with R&D Tax Credits.

Our latest survey demonstrates that the manufacturing and engineering sector remains innovative and resilient despite the uncertainty around the upcoming European Union exit negotiations. It also shows that much can still be done to help UK industry increase its global market share and offset the trade deficit.

Urgently needed is a well thought through skills strategy to produce a pipeline of educated and motivated candidates into the apprenticeship and further and higher education systems to meet the growing demand. Whilst businesses can and should be more proactive in helping themselves, a coherent industrial strategy with cabinet support is a must if the sector is to reach its full potential.

Jez Hockley, Area Director for Manufacturing at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking in the South East, said: “While the result of the EU Referendum has left manufacturers with some questions over how they will fulfil their future plans, many in the South East are actively identifying new opportunities with global trade partners to help deliver sustainable growth.

“Manufacturing has never been more important to the success and growth of the British economy, and closing the skills gap remains crucial to sustain the long-term success of the industry. We are continuing to work closely with firms through this evolving economic landscape to help ensure they maintain their competitive position in domestic and global marketplaces.”

The report’s findings will be presented by Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at the next METALL (Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology Alliance) meeting on November 15th. For more information and to sign up visit

BITE is back

The BITE event is full of ideas to help businesses run smoother and leaner using innovative technology combined with good commercial sense. It follows on from the very successful BITE pilot event in 2015, which saw over 300 people converge on the Amex stadium in Brighton to hear about everything from cloud accounting, to getting truly motivated around sales and marketing. Feedback from the first event was phenomenal and we’re determined to make BITE17 even better!

As far as testimonials go, this one from an attendee just about sums up the buzz that was BITE 2015: “We wanted to congratulate you all on the success of BITE15! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and met some fascinating people and businesses that we would definitely like to keep in touch with. All of the sessions were educational, interesting and well delivered.”

BITE 2017 is scheduled for Thursday 27th April 2017 and aims to deliver the same inspirational format helping businesses to keep ahead of the curve. Delegates will again have the opportunity to meet with some of the best business software vendors, as well as other great companies across the breadth of the service sector including bankers, alternative finance providers, lawyers and other business advisers.

As before, BITE will be held at the Amex Stadium in Falmer. With its free parking and great facilities this modern and already iconic venue provides the ideal backdrop to the event.

The format for the day will revolve around a number of key note sessions, opportunities to visit the BITE exhibitors and various break-out meetings with experts focusing on a range of business opportunities and techniques for dealing with today’s business challenges.

Although the agenda is yet to be finalised BITE attendees will have the opportunity to hear a whole lot more about alternative business funding. We will have a panel based Q&A featuring experts talking about many of the available options, including the traditional banking offer.

Although alternative funding accounts for a very small percentage of the funding market, it does have particular value at certain points of the business cycle. Commentators believe that the sector will continue to grow to the point where rather than being alternative, it becomes part of the mainstream although we may still be many years away from that Rubicon being crossed.

The effect of ‘The Cloud’ will also feature high on the agenda. In the year since BITE 2015 the cloudscape has moved even further with opportunities covering almost everything imaginable from single solution software to add-ons to cloud accounting systems optimised for the retail, property and manufacturing sectors to name but a very few.

If you want to pre-register for BITE, you can sign up at

You can also see a video covering the BITE 2015 event on the sign up page.

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