The quarterly Manufacturing Institute survey of business challenges among manufacturers in north west England points toward improved confidence despite ongoing conditions remaining difficult.

The quarterly Manufacturing Institute survey of business challenges among manufacturers in

northwest England

signals improved confidence.

According to the survey, 48 per cent of respondents said that they expected their business to grow over the next 12 months, which was more than double the percentage for the previous quarter.

The number of businesses expecting business to remain static over the next 12 months remained at one-third of recipients. Those more pessimistic businesses expecting business contraction had reduced from 50 per cent to 23 per cent.

According to the survey, the major challenge facing manufacturers is the need to reduce production costs, with the cost of raw materials, reduced sales and reduced margins also highlighted as key issues.

Respondents were asked how the current climate is affecting investment decisions – revealing that continuous improvement, marketing activity and new product development were areas of higher investment compared with the previous year, while expenditure had been cut on staff and inventory.

Adam Buckley, head of programmes for the Manufacturing Institute, said: ‘The evidence points to a less gloomy outlook, but there is no denying that conditions remain extremely tough, especially for those in industries supporting the housing, automotive and construction industries, which are exposed to the full brunt of recession.

‘We would urge manufacturers to access free support through the government’s Manufacturing Advisory Service North West that provides practical help that’s proven to cut costs. This highly successful support programme delivers hands-on, practical advice and assistance from experts with years of achievement in industry.’