The supply chain is in complete disarray, with shortages and delays across the board, according to the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA).

The trade association, and campaign group #WeMakeEvents, have published the results of a survey that found that 94% of manufacturers are experiencing delays in components, resulting in many being forced to source new suppliers and redesign products.

The survey ran from 1 November 2021 to 21 December 2021 and was completed by 1,948 respondents in more than 40 countries. Among its findings are that there was a considerable shortage of skilled workers.

Some 69% of companies surveyed reported a skills shortage, with site crew, riggers, engineers and technicians the most cited.

PLASA said the pandemic caused an “exodus” of freelancers seeking work in other sectors, 17% of which migrated into Film & TV. It claimed only 50% have returned to the live events industry full time, leaving a skills gap that could take many years of training and experience to fill. PLASA said freelancers who remained or returned are facing shorter lead times and increased pressure.

The survey found that as a result of the shortage, approximately a third of companies will need to delay work, and a further third will have to cancel work altogether. Other findings include 74% of employers stating they are doubtful about the availability of skilled workers as planning begins for the traditionally busy summer season.

Key findings

 Financial strain on SME companies and organisations:

  • 45% of businesses took on additional debt.
  • The number of businesses that turned over less than £50,000 grew by 56%
  • Over half predict their turnover will stay the same or decrease this tax year.
  • 70% lack confidence about importing and exporting in the short term future.

Challenges facing manufacturers:

  • 94% are experiencing delays in components such as microchips, metals and cables.
  • The causes involve congestion at ports and a lack of materials, and many in the comments cite a fire incident in a factory and high demand for production.
  • Over half expect less turnover, 64% will source new suppliers, 48% will redesign products.

Delays in finished manufactured goods:

  • 70% are experiencing delays in goods such as lighting fixtures, mixing desks and speakers.
  • Delays are said to be caused by a lack of materials, staff shortages, congestion and Brexit.
  • As a result, 73% anticipate a decline in work and loss of sales.
  • All products have seen an increase in cost.
  • 62% lack confidence in availability of goods in the short term future.

The availability of skilled workers:

  • 69% are experiencing a skills shortage.
  • A third of companies will have to delay work and a further third will have to cancel work.
  • The majority of shortages are occurring with on-site workers.
  • Over a third are having to retrain engineers and technicians.
  • 74% lack confidence in availability of skilled workers over the coming months.

Challenges facing our industry’s freelancers:

  • Earnings of less than £10,000 has jumped to 56% and top earners have dropped by 78%.
  • 30% predict a decrease in earnings in 2022.
  • 64% had to find work in other sectors, and 17% found work in Film & TV.
  • Half have returned full time. Full-time freelancers have dropped by 52%
  • Lead times have reduced, with an increase in those with no work at all and a reduction in those with work planned for a year ahead.
  • Touring abroad has dropped by 60%, with 63% lacking confidence in working abroad.

PLASA chair Adam Blaxill said, “Companies and freelancers are acutely aware that there is a long road to recovery in front of the live events industry. The last couple of years have been fraught with financial difficulty and unexpected challenges, and most people anticipate more hurdles to come. As a director of a company in the creative sector and as chair of PLASA, I call on the UK Government to recognise the complex challenges we face and assist in the recovery. We are renowned all over the world for what we do; our capability and the quality and creativity of our sector is world class, yet this survey clearly shows that it is being diminished – our capacity is declining, and our talent is leaving.”

The report can be accessed for free here.