Has 2017 turned out how manufacturers expected?

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Here at EEF one of our roles is to understand what’s happening in the manufacturing sector by asking manufacturers what is going on in their businesses and then getting that message out – discussing the sector with decision makers across government, in institutions such as the Bank of England, and to all businesses involved in and with the manufacturing sector.

We take a temperature check of the UK manufacturing industry every quarter as part of our Manufacturing Outlook survey and report, and we also take a broader look at business expectations, plans and strategies through our research and surveys, including our annual look at the year ahead in our Executive Survey.

And whilst I don’t want to wish 2017 over just yet, the EEF economics team here in London is already thinking about 2018 and the possible forces that may affect UK manufacturing – whether for the positive or not so positive. All of this thinking is because we are gearing up for the Executive Survey 2018 – and this year we are partnering with business insurer AIG.

We will be asking manufacturers what they think about 2018 very soon, and before we do, let’s revisit their expectations for 2017.

So first, a look back

What were manufacturers expecting at the beginning of 2017? Whilst almost half of companies saw more risks than opportunities in the year ahead, the sector was far from apprehensive. Instead, UK manufacturing was striding into 2017 with companies focused on delivering ambitious growth plans.


Were they right? What has actually happened?


And to 2018…

We will continue to track and compare the changes in conditions planned for by companies in 2018 in the manufacturing industry, UK economy, and the global economy. We’ll look at what’s expected for employment, sales, profits, and productivity during the course of next year too.

But what else will we find out?

  • What are the risks for business? Are they all Brexit related?
  • Are companies changing supply chain strategies in the face of exchange rate fluctuations and Brexit?
  • How will changes in bank rate affect manufacturers?
  • Will manufacturers continue to think that the UK is a good place to manufacture?
  • How will changes in the global economy impact on industry?
  • Are there still more risks than opportunities ahead in 2018?
  • And are manufacturers fully armed to face these risks?

Romaney O’Malley - Head of Industrials Segment, AIG

AIG are delighted to sponsor the 2018 Executive Survey as part of our overall corporate partnership with EEF.  We strongly support the survey as a means of understanding the key opportunities and risks faced by manufacturers at this important time for the UK. From a risk and insurance perspective, manufacturing is a key sector of interest and expertise for us – we help reduce risk and provide insurance across a large number of businesses in the UK and internationally. 

Manufacturers are facing new business challenges around many issues, though I’d pick out technology (leading to potential disruption in processes and changes in exposure and liability), cyber risk, supply chain risk and protection against bad debt as particularly noteworthy right now. I look forward to seeing the survey results around these topics so that we can better understand current perceptions and tailor our solutions accordingly for manufacturers.

When will we know the outlook for 2018?

As usual we will pore over the survey results with our usual fervour as soon as they come in and get working ready to present a comprehensive look at manufacturers’ strategies, predictions and views for the year ahead in the New Year.


Senior Policy Researcher

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