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UK SME manufacturers missing out on "billions"

Small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses in the UK have the worst record for responding to new business opportunities compared to the USA and EU countries including France and Germany according to new research.

It means UK manufacturing firms could be missing out on as much as £24.7bn in extra revenue, according to the findings of the Exact 2015 SME Cloud Barometer, an independent research survey of almost 3,000 SME leaders across the UK, the USA, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The report reveals that 14% of UK manufacturers failed to respond to all "requests for proposals" on time, compared to a global average of 11%. The authors of the report suggest that staffing issues and skills shortages are a significant contributing factor, with the survey showing that "finding skilled technical staff" is a big challenge for 43% of UK manufacturers (compared to a global average of 32%).

The biggest challenges for UK SME manufacturers are: trying to keep costs down (57%) and getting the price right (48%). Other key issues include ensuring that material and processing costs are accurate (37%), making sure invoices are paid on time and maximising product innovation (both at 34%).

The report also reveals that there has been a shift in the industry away from bulk orders to smaller orders placed more regularly. Over half (51%) of UK SME manufacturers said customers are increasingly requesting orders in "smaller series".

Most UK manufacturers (64%) also said technology is playing a key role. Many of those that have adopted technology solutions are already feeling the benefits; the research shows SMEs who are "heavy users" of cloud software (defined as having three or more cloud products in place) achieved far higher revenue growth and more than double the profit of those using fewer cloud products.

Erik van der Meijden, CEO of Exact, said: 

"There is little doubt the UK manufacturing sector is facing some tough challenges, but with those come opportunities. To take advantage SMEs need to ensure they are competitive, efficient and provide the very best in customer service. This research highlights that one of the most effective ways of doing that is through technology adoption - whether that's to improve production processes, keep tighter controls over stock or reduce time spent on non-productive administrative tasks."

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