Over two thirds of England’s small and medium manufacturers expect to increase investment in new technology, machinery or premises in a bid to improve their productivity.

This is the outlook from the latest Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Barometer, which today revealed 57 per cent of companies reporting an increase in productivity within the last six months. A further 80 per cent identified the need for further efficiency gains in order to remain competitive.

According to MAS, cautious optimism remains the other overarching sentiment among its 859 respondents.

For the sixth successive quarterly report, more than half of manufacturers recorded an increase in sales, with 67 per cent expecting to grow between now and the end of March 2015.

Furthermore, 95 per cent of firms are planning to either maintain or increase their workforce, highlighting the determination to retain skills and build capacity across the supply chain.

In a statement, Steven Barr, head of the Manufacturing Advisory Service, commented: ‘Our Barometer shows that manufacturers are already responding to recent observations by the Bank of England (BoE) that productivity needs to be raised.

‘It is also reassuring that it’s not just the large manufacturers who understand what makes them competitive. Our small and medium firms have also recognised the importance of continually improving productivity.’

‘This could include anything from introducing new processes and eliminating waste, to upskilling staff and investing in technology and…machinery.

‘Management teams are continually looking to get more out of the business, a feature that will become increasingly important with the market showing some signs of softening.’

The MAS Barometer is the largest survey of its kind, sharing the views of 859 small and medium manufacturers across England, employing over 20,000 people.

Approach to productivity was the special focus and drilled down into how each sector is tackling the issue, with chemical, food, automotive and pharmaceutical showing the biggest gains.

Going forward, 85 per cent of food manufacturers indicated that they are looking to further improve productivity, followed closely by pharmaceutical and aerospace (83 per cent each).