Sector Focus

Manufacturing Upturn for manufacturing sector

The region’s manufacturing and service sectors experienced a marginal upturn during February, according to a new survey. The survey is the NatWest West Midlands

‘PMI Business Activity Index’, which measures the month-on-month change in the combined output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors. Results from the survey recorded a minor

upturn, but this was largely put down to the clearing of backlogs, projects in the pipeline and reduced uncertainty. Despite this, West Midlands companies

remained optimistic about the year-ahead outlook for business activity. Almost 66 per cent of survey participants

thought they would see growth, with confidence pinned on hopes that the coronavirus vaccination programme would halt the spread of the virus, leading to the lifting of restrictions and a recovery in demand. For manufacturers, the survey listed some

rather less positive news, namely reports of material shortages as well as higher prices for freight, metals, packaging and plastics. All of this combined to increase costs at

West Midlands companies in February. In addition, the rate of inflation was sharp and the second-fastest in over two-and-a-half years (behind December 2020). Moreover, this rise was the eighth in

John Maude: Recovery is expected this year

consecutive months. There was further bad news with the fact that February data also

highlighted a ninth successive monthly rise in prices charged for goods and services across the West Midlands. John Maude, from NatWest Midlands and

East regional board, said: “Despite the ongoing national lockdown, West Midlands companies managed to lift business activity in February as some diverted resources towards the completion of backlogs of work.

‘The Covid-19 vaccination programme has lifted spirits, with West Midlands firms strongly optimistic towards growth prospects’

“This is welcome news, particularly after January’s marked fall in output and given that contractions had been sustained across many other UK regions. “The Covid-19 vaccination programme has

lifted spirits, with West Midlands firms strongly optimistic towards growth prospects. “The upbeat sentiment failed to translate

into job creation, but employment declined only slightly in February. “With new orders nearing stabilisation and a

roadmap for the lifting of lockdown restrictions now laid out, a recovery in economic conditions is anticipated in the year ahead.”

New recycling plant in Swadlincote

Waste not, want not: The new Willshee site at Swadlincote

Burton-based Willshee’s Waste & Recycling has opened a new £10m recycling plant in Swadlincote. The plant will recycle all kinds of

material after extracting it from general waste – everything from soil to plastic. Managing director Dean Willshee

said: “Opening this new site is a huge step forward for our company in terms of technology, efficiency, and also the environment. “This state-of-the-art equipment produces over a third more

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material that can be reused, versus other plant – extracting wood, soil, plastic, metal and rubble from general waste. “With a process involving three

stages of shredding and a sophisticated system of shredding, screening, air separation, magnets, and near-infrared technology, we are able to extract every last piece of recyclable material. “What is left, is made into Solid

Recovered Fuel (SRF) which is then used by manufacturers. Cement

works will use SRF in their kilns, for example. “The other great thing about SRF

is that it is already carbon offset – creating more environmentally friendly energy from waste.” Willshee’s new depot will give

customers a fully traceable guarantee of zero waste to landfill. In addition, the Swadlincote

facility is powered by solar panels – with the excess power being sold back to the national grid. Local MP Heather Wheeler said:

“I was delighted to support Willshee’s with their bid to open up this state-of-the-art commercial collection and recycling centre. “It was a perfect venue, re-

purposing an old railhead. Everyone is so alive to the need to recycle nowadays and this is as important for businesses as it is for our homes.” Willshee’s is now in its 37th year

and employs more than 100 staff across its Burton and Swadlincote sites.

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