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7th Sep 2023 - Metals sector optimistic despite international trade, energy and labour challenges warns new report

Rising energy prices, the impact of life after the EU and labour shortages continue to be the main challenges facing the UK metals sector according to a new report due to be launched next week.

Nearly a quarter of firms in the UK Metals Council’s State of the Metals Industry in the UK 2023/24 survey admitted to adjusting supply chain strategies or sourcing alternatives, whilst just under a third want enhanced Government support to navigate trade barriers and custom procedures in the wake of Brexit.

22% of manufacturers are also looking for improved energy supply contracts to bring prices down to more affordable levels, with just 31% of businesses saying that they have an effective recruitment strategy in place for filling the well-documented labour gaps.

There were positive sentiments in the report, which will be officially published during the opening address at the UK Metal Expo in Birmingham on September 13th.

Despite the widespread challenges, 70% of respondents are optimistic or very optimistic about future business prospects, underlining the resilience of the sector and its ability to innovate.

“We touch metals every day, whether that is in our homes, in the cars, planes and trains we travel in, the medical devices we rely on, as well as tools and machinery used for their production,” explained Rachel Eade MBE, Chair of the UK Metals Council.

“Importantly, it is now recognised that metals can be infinitely and readily recycled into new parts, something that cannot be said for many other materials in modern life – we need to value metals more as we move to a Net Zero economy.

“Foundation industries will continue to play a critical role in the way we all live, and this vital sector needs a voice to ensure that the Government understands the journey we are on.”

She went on to add: “This is why we came up with the State of the Metals Industry in the UK Report, in conjunction with the team from the UK Metals Expo.  It’s a unique opportunity for us to canvas the views of primes, metal producers and those in the downward supply chain.

“The issues the industry is facing span from supply chain disruption because of Brexit to availability of raw materials and how they can mitigate the cost of energy – a key issue when you consider levels of consumption in our industry.

“Skills and the ability to get new people into our sector is also a challenge that is holding many of them back as they look to support the UK’s desire to move towards Net Zero. We’ll also be highlighting this to Government at the UK Metals Expo.”

The UK Metals Council is made up of 12 trade associations from across the full spectrum of the metals supply chain, from primary manufacturing to recycling.

In total, it represents the interests and views of over 11,000 companies, employing directly and indirectly nearly one million people.

This first ever State of the Metals Industry in the UK Report was produced to provide a sector snapshot of the opportunities and challenges faced by the domestic metals industry and the prospects for future growth and sustainability.

It will be officially available from Wednesday September 13th, following its launch at the UK Metals Expo, and all the findings will be sent to Government to help it shape future policy and support, whilst the data will also be available for sector specialists, companies and academia to use for intelligence gathering, bids and lobbying.

Lord Rupert Redesdale, Chair of the UK Metals Expo noted, “The UK Metals Expo is the perfect platform for launching the report, with more than 200 exhibitors and 4000 industry professionals attending from 52 different countries.

“The themes at the UK Metals Expo align seamlessly with the UK’s Net Zero ambitions, depending as this does on advanced materials, manufacturing excellence and engineering innovation. A robust domestic metals supply chain is pivotal in realising our objectives, whilst driving energy-efficient production, nurturing circular economy practices, and propelling sustainable advancement.

“We anticipate lively discussions on the report’s findings over the two-day event and eagerly await feedback from attendees.”

For further information, please visit www.ukmetalscouncil.org/reports