The study found that manufacturers are ignoring the uncertainty over Brexit as improved global demand continues to feed growth across most of their supply chain.
This strong performance has led the manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF, to upgrade growth forecasts for manufacturing for this year and next, which means the sector is expected to outperform the economy overall in 2018.
The survey from EEF and the business advisory firm BDO also found that an improvement in the UK market was providing many manufacturers with a reason to be cheerful. The EEF is also calling on the Government to provide clarity on its plans for an Industrial Strategy.
According to the survey, while both output and total orders dipped slightly from the end of last year they remained in “very positive” territory by historic standards at +29 per cent and +32 per cent respectively.
Richard Halstead, director of member engagement for EEF in the North, said: “Manufacturing activity stepped up a gear through 2017 providing industry with some decent momentum coming into this year.
“The importance of a buoyant global economy to export-focused manufacturing sectors is again reinforced, with growing overseas demand encouraging international manufacturers to ramp up their investment which in turn is spurring particularly strong activity in UK capital goods sectors.”
This positive picture was reflected in healthy recruitment and investment intentions at Yorkshire companies, the survey found.
A spokesman added: “As a result of the strong performance by manufacturing through 2017 and the positive outlook for 2018, EEF has upgraded its forecasts for the sector to +2.0 per cent from 1.4 per cent previously.
“This is faster than the UK economy overall where EEF is forecasting growth of 1.5 per cent in 2018. Next year we see growth slower growth across the economy and manufacturing with expansion of 1.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.”
Craig Burton, partner and head of manufacturing at BDO in Yorkshire and The Humber, said: “Throughout 2017, the UK manufacturing sector proved itself to be remarkably resilient and delivered a strong overall performance and it is promising to see this is being continued into the first quarter of 2018. With healthy output and order balances and growing export demand, manufacturers in Yorkshire and The Humber are continuing to recruit and invest – providing a much needed boost to the UK economy.”
Mr Burton said the results indicated continued and growing opportunities in the EU and around the world but the sector also faces the challenges of the uncertainty of Brexit and the increasing use of automation.
Mr Burton added: “It is more important than ever for the Government to provide real clarity on its plans for a working and effective Industrial Strategy and Brexit.
“Manufacturers will need this clarity if they are to continue to commit to the significant capital investments required to support long-term growth.”
EEF is the representative voice of UK manufacturing, with offices in London, Brussels, every English region and Wales.
Collectively it represents 20,000 companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, across engineering and manufacturing.