The results of the latest British Plastic Federation (BPF) ‘Business Conditions Survey’, have suggested rising confidence within the UK plastics industry, with 73 percent of the 108 respondents predicting an increase in sales turnover for 2014, up from 55 percent at the same time in 2013.
The survey showed a sharp rise in the number of apprentices, with 66 percent of companies employing apprentices compared to only 37 percent a year ago, albeit respondents said they were not always easy to find.
“It’s encouraging to see 64 companies employing 232 apprentices, it’s an investment in the future,” commented Peter Davis, Director-General of the BPF. “But the survey also shows some companies finding it hard to recruit apprentices,” he added.
According to the results, 51 percent of companies are utilising over 80 percent of their production capacity, but only 36 percent plan to invest in plant and equipment significantly. “A rather low figure when there must be a need to expand and re-equip to meet rising demand after the recession,” added Davis, “perhaps this reflects the survey finding a lot of unused capacity.”
On the risk of power cuts in the next few years, 43 percent of companies said they were “very concerned” and 25 percent had plans or equipment to avoid power cuts. Davis added: “a worrying 51 percent of plastics companies said the risk of power cuts could affect their UK investments. The Government must speed up replacement of de-commissioned power stations; invest in more gas storage and Energy from Waste.”
Key points from the Survey:
(further sector detail is in the report which is available download for free here)
- UK Sales Turnover: 73% forecasted an increase in 2014 up on our June 2013 survey (67%) and January 2013 survey (55%). 21% were expecting no change and 6% a decrease.
- Export Sales Turnover: 50% expected no change in 2014 export sales. 42% expected export sales to increase and 8% expected a decrease.
- Profitability: 49% expected profitability to increase in 2014, up on the June 2013 survey (41%). 39% expected no change and 12% a decline.
- Capacity Utilisation: 10% are operating at full capacity and a further 41% at 80% plus capacity. 35% are operating at below 70% capacity.
- Staffing: 52% planned no change in staffing levels. 40% plan to increase staff substantially, up on our June 2013 survey (28%). 7% expected to reduce staff. Most companies had a 2-3% average pay settlement for 2014 but 12% were awarding no increase, an improvement on our survey a year ago where 23% gave no increase.
- Apprentices: 66% are employing apprentices in 2014 up on our survey a year ago (37%). 64 companies will employ 232 apprentices 33 companies are employing none.
- Skills Needs: 44% had no difficulty recruiting staff, 36% were having difficulties, and 20% were not recruiting. This is a marked change on a year ago where our survey found 64% had no difficulty recruiting and 23% were having difficulties. It indicates a growing skills shortage. Firms were finding it hard to recruit Technical Managers, Sales Force and other Management and Supervisory staff.
- New Bank Lending: A large majority of companies were not having difficulties obtaining loans or being refused credit. 28% complained of high bank charges.
- Investment intentions for Plant and Equipment: In 2014 49% of companies will invest a little, 36% significantly.
- Threats to Energy Supply: 43% were very concerned, 42% a little. Only 25% had plans or equipment to avoid power cuts. 51% said the risk of power cuts could affect their UK investments. 32% said it would not.