14 May Optimistic Results from UK Casting Industry Survey?
The results of the production survey for the UK Foundry and Castings Industry for 2018 have now been published by the CMF. Covering the full range of alloys and processes, the results show that there was an increase in turnover during 2018 for the vast majority of companies – indeed no companies reported a reduction, whilst around 30% reported no change.
This was in spite of the uncertainties around UK businesses and manufacturing throughout the year due to concerns around a possible no-deal brexit, combined with the fact that 76% of respondents directly exporting castings (and all of those who export citing the EU as an export destination for their company). In addition, almost 7 in 10 companies were operating at a capacity utilisation of over 70% with 27% at a utilisation of over 90% and investment in plant and equipment continued.
In terms of employment, 70% of companies reported either an increase or no change in the number of employees, although the Federation is aware of on-going concerns around recruitment and the availability of skills. Indeed, skills shortages and availability of labour was cited as the biggest challenge facing businesses by almost all the respondents, whilst at the same time, although the number of apprentices in the sector was encouraging, it was notable that the majority of apprentices were employed by a very small number of larger companies, suggesting that small to medium companies in the sector are either unwilling or unable to take on apprentices.
The positive production figures and trends were however, somewhat at odds with business sentiment indicators, with 70% of company bosses reporting concerns about the future outlook.
Commenting on this year’s survey, Dr Pam Murrell FICME, CEO of the Cast Metals Federation said, “Whilst these results are encouraging on the face of it, there are some issues of concern here, specifically the issues around recruitment and skills. Clearly the new National Foundry Training Centre should begin to help address this – with lots of interest from companies in the new apprenticeship programme and new cohorts of apprentices starting later this year, I hope that we will see a significant uplift in learner numbers by the end of this year. Confidence is also being affected by the current political uncertainty, even though businesses generally are reporting good order books and new plenty of new projects. So I think we can remain optimistic about the prospects for our sector throughout