This paper reports the results of a new survey of small subcontractors in UK engineering. We are able to characterise the main source of competitive advantage as being experience with a particular technology. Labour flexibility, but not cheap labour, is also a necessary condition for success. There is a clear trend towards limited concentration of one third of all output with the single most important customer. More negatively, there is evidence for substantial avoidance of ideal, relationship specific investments, and for lack of communication and trust. This is despite the fact that most subcontractors are located close to their customers and have been serving them for many years.