UK subcontract sector has a healthy future, survey reveals

1 min read

More than half (58%) of UK manufacturing businesses currently export, with 32% reporting an increase in export volumes in the past 12 months, according to a new survey.

The research, conducted by Subcon, the UK’s leading subcontract manufacturing supply chain show, also revealed 83% expect to increase export levels over the next 12 months and exports are expected to grow by up to 10% for half of respondents, and between 11 and 20% for the other 50%.

Two thirds (69%) of manufacturing and engineering businesses used subcontractors in the past year, with 48% expect to increase the proportion of work given to UK subcontractors over next 12 months. This is mainly driven by a lack of in-house capacity (45%), a desire amongst manufacturers and engineering businesses to focus on core competencies (38%) and to get access to skills that are lacking inhouse (35%).

Of those engineering and manufacturing businesses that do use UK subcontractors:

  • 70% outsource up to 30% of their requirements
  • More than half (60%) outsource £10,000-£100,000
  • A further quarter outsource £100,000 to £500,000 annually
  • One quarter have spent more on UK subcontracting over the last 12 months
  • 45% are more likely to nearshore based on the developments of the last 18 months

“Given the impact of the pandemic on manufacturing, this research is a very healthy indicator for the future of UK subcontracting,” said Gordon Kirk, event director, Subcon.

“Almost half of respondents are more likely to nearshore as a result of the pandemic and 41%expect to appoint new UK subcontractors in the next 12 months. A similar number confirm that they use tradeshows to source them, too, which is why Subcon remains such a critical event for this sector and why we are so thankful we are able to bring it back in-person in two weeks’ time.

“We look forward to lots of debate on the exhibition floor and conference stage to identify the trends that will define this increased activity among the subcontractor community and beyond.”

Subcon takes place 14-16 September at Birmingham’s NEC and registration is free at