Supply chain issues see UK manufacturers with goods worth almost £24bn sitting in warehouses awaiting completion

13 December 2022
  • Goods with a total value of £23.6bn are currently awaiting completion in UK manufacturers’ warehouses as key parts, ingredients and materials are delayed due to supply chain issues
  • £9bn of steel and metals products, £3bn of food and drink, £2.6bn of plastic goods and £2bn of electronics are unfinished because of supply logjams
  • With six in ten businesses facing supply chain difficulties, manufacturers are investing in more storage space and moving suppliers closer to home to ease challenges

A new report1 released today by Barclays Corporate Banking reveals that goods with a total value of £23.6bn are awaiting completion in UK manufacturers’ warehouses because of supply chain delays.

The study – ‘Chain reaction’ – focuses on manufacturing businesses with over ten employees and looks at the impact of supply chain issues. Barclays’ research shows that over seven in ten (72%) businesses are currently holding items in their warehouses awaiting completion because raw materials, ingredients or component parts have not yet been delivered from suppliers. On average, this ‘unfinished business’ is worth over £1m to each company impacted.

Products in the steel and metals sector are most severely affected, with £9bn worth of goods incomplete – equivalent to almost a fifth (19%) of the sub-sector’s annual turnover. The most affected consumer goods sector is food and drink, with delays in sourcing ingredients causing a £3bn backlog. A high value of plastic products (£2.6bn) and electronics (£2bn) are also awaiting completion.

The trends are reflective of supply chain disruption that has challenged the manufacturing sector since the pandemic and three in five (59%) firms say they are still facing supply issues. This has been exacerbated by the invasion of Ukraine and the aftermath of the UK’s exit from the EU. Customer relationships are now being impacted: two thirds (65%) of manufacturers say their customers are having to wait longer for products, with 15% describing the hold-ups as ‘significant’. To offset rising costs such as energy and transportation, over half (55%) of manufacturers are planning price increases for their own products, of 37% on average.

The industry is innovating to solve these challenges. Most commonly, businesses are increasing their storage capacity (39%) to prepare for the fact raw materials are taking longer to source. Meanwhile, a third (33%) are “near shoring” to move their supply chains closer to home and 32% have “friend shored” to work with suppliers in countries that have a strong trading relationship with the UK. To spread their bets, 37% of manufacturers have increased the number of different suppliers they work with.

To maintain cashflow and liquidity, over two fifths (42%) of manufacturing firms are optimising their working capital cycles and the same amount are accessing additional bank funding. 38% are seeking a cash injection from private equity and a third (32%) are selling off assets to raise funds.

Such measures are leaving the industry confident in the medium-term. Two thirds (66%) of companies think supply chain challenges will improve over the next six months and 86% are confident about growth next year.

Businesses have also doubled down on their commitment to sustainability despite supply chain pressures. Almost two thirds (64%) of manufacturers say carbon reduction has become an even bigger priority in the past six months, despite nearly three quarters (73%) saying their environmental goals have become less attainable.

Amidst the business optimism, however, Barclays’ report also lays bare the threat that rising costs and supply chain disruption could pose long-term if circumstances do not improve. On average, UK manufacturers only expect to be able to sustain their operations for 15 further months if current conditions continue.

Lee Collinson, Head of Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics for Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The British manufacturing sector has faced a perfect storm of challenges this year, with rising costs, the war in Ukraine, labour shortages and ongoing Covid lockdowns in China hitting supply chains hard. As a result, billions of pounds worth of goods are trapped in warehouses unfinished, and this may hit industry turnover in the early part of next year.

“However, manufacturing firms have done what they do best and engineered new solutions to limit the impact of the issues they face. As a result, many businesses will enter the new year with a degree of cautious optimism and confidence.”

Other findings from the ‘Chain Reaction’ report include:

  • 64% of manufacturers have faced rising costs because of the recent weakness of the pound
  • Trade barriers are a concern for almost one in three manufacturers. They are a particular issue for the electronics industry (43%) and the automobile industry (41%)
  • The top interventions that manufacturing firms would like to see from government are industrial energy transformation (37%) and a more aggressive energy price cap for the industry (32%)


Notes to editors:

¹ This report is based on bespoke market research conducted by Censuswide among senior executives of 631 UK-based manufacturing businesses. The sample covered businesses with 10 or more employees operating in a range of sub-sectors, and was structured to enable statistically representative results for each UK region. The research was conducted between 21-31 October 2022. For economic modelling purposes, Development Economics has combined the findings with industry data sourced from the Office for National Statistics.