The largest survey of SME manufacturers in England suggests there is increased optimism around turnover, profits, jobs and investment.
The previous Manufacturing Barometer report, in April, showed plummeting sales and production volumes, and predictions of deep job cuts throughout the sector.
Three months on, the latest, conducted by SWMAS (South West Manufacturing Advisory Service) and the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) is more positive.
Responses show that more than three quarters of firms (76%) saw sales drop in the last six months, with almost half (48%) still predicting sales to decrease between now and the end of the year.
Yet 40% of those responding saud they expected sales to increase, marking a substantial improvement on the 9% recorded in April.
More than a third of respondents (39%) describe their current status as static or growing, with some businesses reporting very little change since the COVID-19 crisis, and others experiencing an increase in product demand.
However, others have seen their customer base almost vanish overnight, and 59% of respondents describe their business’ current status as “surviving” or “recovering.
Although 80% of manufacturers have utilised the furlough scheme to retain employees, more than a quarter have already been forced to make redundancies, while over a third of businesses (36%) expect to make further cuts to their workforce within the next six months.
Nick Golding, managing director at SWMAS, said: “The latest Manufacturing Barometer shows that over 75% of businesses have had their sales significantly impacted, and only a small number have been able to access government support schemes to help them survive.
“The survey shows a picture of resilience and innovation from a sector that is doing its best to survive the COVID-19 crisis, but more still needs to be done to get it back on its feet.”