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CBS figures show that the turnover of the Dutch manufacturing industry fell again by 5.5% in the first quarter of 2024. This marks the fourth consecutive quarter of decline. Foreign sales declined sharply. Causes include personnel shortages, declining demand, and lower sales prices. However, some sectors, such as electrical engineering and clothing, recorded sales growth. Most entrepreneurs are trying to increase productivity through technological investments and more efficient work processes.

Biggest losses

Certain sectors within the industry suffered particularly badly. Producers of wood and building materials saw sales fall by nearly 14%, while industrial transportation recorded a 10% drop. Food and beverage manufacturers reported a 9.3% drop in sales. Output prices in manufacturing also fell 1.9%, with the most significant declines in the paper and printing, metals and refining, and chemical industries.

Staff shortages and declining demand

Personnel shortages, which are affecting many companies, are a major cause of declining sales. Declining demand and a shortage of production resources have also contributed to deteriorating profitability in the past quarter, as indicated by 7.6% of manufacturers.

However, not all sectors within manufacturing are seeing a decline in sales. The electrical engineering and garment and textile industries recorded sales growth of 4.9% and 1.7%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2024. These sectors seem less susceptible to the problems plaguing other parts of the industry.

Efforts to increase productivity

To reverse the negative trend, many entrepreneurs are taking steps to increase productivity. Another CBS survey found that 81% of business owners in the industry are taking steps to work more efficiently. Common measures include investing in technology and improving work processes.

Although the current situation is problematic, there are also positive signs. According to CBS, more than one-third of entrepreneurs in the industry experience no obstacles in their operations. This indicates that despite the challenges, there is still resilience and potential within the Dutch industry.