After years in shadows, British industry shows signs of revival

Jul 25 2014, 01:32 IST
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SummaryNew business is coming from unexpected places to help power the whirring, high-tech lathes on the factory floor of Future Advanced Manufacture, one of the companies spearheading Britain’s manufacturing revival.

New business is coming from unexpected places to help power the whirring, high-tech lathes on the factory floor of Future Advanced Manufacture, one of the companies spearheading Britain’s manufacturing revival.

“Even the Germans are starting to deal with us, which is unheard of,” said Future AM’s managing director, Craig Peterson.

Manufacturing accounts for only a tenth of Britain’s economy, compared with more than a fifth in Germany, Europe’s leader in the sector. But British factories are in the midst of a resurgence.

A major business survey this month showed the balance of manufacturers reported that domestic sales rose during the second quarter to the highest level since records began in 1989.

Future AM produces and tests parts for companies including plane maker Airbus and Schlumberger in the oil and gas industry. Among its new clients is a German space and aerospace company, which Peterson declined to name. It buys propulsion parts from the firm based in Cheltenham, England.

Nearby, many other manufacturers are thriving, making the region one of the leaders of Britain’s industrial revival along with the East Midlands which is home to train and car-makers.

With less than a year before the next general election, clearer signs of a more balanced economic recovery would be a boon for the ruling Conservative Party’s prospects. Toughened by years of economic malaise at home and by crisis in their biggest export markets in Europe, Britain’s manufacturers are finally clawing back their lost output, although it remains 7% short of pre-crisis levels.

Exports so far have not picked up as hoped, one of the disappointments of the economic recovery. But there are signs that might be changing.

British manufacturing export orders growth has outpaced the world average for 15 months in a row, a run unmatched since global records began in 1998, showed Markit’s purchasing managers’ indexes. EEF, Britain’s industry group for manufacturers, said the experience of the financial meltdown and the debt crisis in the euro zone spurred factory bosses to seek new markets. Whereas China in 2007 was only the 11th largest export market for British manufacturers, last year it was the seventh. Russia and India are expected to enter the top-ten in the next few years, according to EEF-Barlcays research. Surging orders worldwide for the next generation of airliners have also boosted British manufacturing, particularly in the country’s south west which is home to major aerospace and defence plants owned by Airbus and BAE Systems.

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