The best picture we can get of how the British rubber manufacturing sector is faring is the Annual Business Survey by the Office of National Statistics. The precise figures must be taken with a pinch of salt because of the nature of such surveys. However, we can get a good idea of trends.
In November, the provisional figures for 2017 were published. Overall they present a mixed picture. The value of gross production was down sharply year-on-year: from £2.3bn to £1.95bn. On the other hand, gross value added – which is the indicator of the real value of the industry – went up a little and employment costs fell sharply reflecting a welcome rise in productivity. Capital expenditure also rose from £52m to £66m. The total number of firms remained broadly the same at 15,000.
The figures are of course a far cry from the early 1990s before the great shake-out of British rubber manufacturing took place in the face of globalisation, as with many traditional manufacturing industries in the UK at the time. But what the figures do show is that the fortunes of the sector over the last decade have stabilised. True, within the sector there have been mixed fortunes, but it is clear that we have in the key sectors such as automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, transport and medical applications we have some world beating firms and there is every reason to think we shall continue to compete successfully in the future.