Around 68 per cent of the UK’s manufacturing businesses expect it to be two years or more before a full economic recovery, according to a new survey.

The survey, the seventh national survey of UK businesses from QBE, found that 43 per cent of manufacturers are not expecting a turnaround for three years or more and 56 per cent said they will find it difficult for their business to survive if current conditions continue for the next 12 months.

Less than a third (29 per cent) expect their staffing levels to increase in the next 12 months and 56 per cent of the industry’s businesses are worried that trading will be difficult if the conditions persist for another 12 months.

According to a statement, many of the sector’s businesses believe their operations have been strengthened by the lessons learnt in recent years, with 62 per cent saying that the economic difficulties have made them a more efficient business.

Looking ahead, 67 per cent of the sector’s businesses are relying on being leaner, facing fewer competitors (48 per cent) and better deals from suppliers as their way out of the economic difficulties.

On a more positive note, many manufacturing businesses have looked to new markets, with 57 per cent saying they are developing a new product or service, and 44 per cent claiming to have better management skills as a result of the economic difficulties.

Finally, 54 per cent of manufacturing businesses now claim to have greater awareness of their individual customer needs as a result of the economic difficulties.

Elliot Miller, general manager national, QBE European Operations, said: ‘It’s clear that it remains a very challenging market. However, there are some positive signs that companies are adapting in response to the economic climate, with particular emphasis on innovation and customer service.’