Manufacturers in the West Midlands are predicting an increase in sales over the next six months, according to new data.

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Barometer found that 46 per cent of the SMEs in the production sector expect to grow between now and March 2013, with 54 per cent of firms set to boost investment in plant and machinery.

There was also a moderate increase in those planning to spend on new technology, at 37 per cent.

This renewed optimism comes after a slight softening in the marketplace that  as seen the number of businesses reporting increased sales match figures seen in the previous survey (43 per cent).

As part of the Special Focus, the Barometer also aimed to find out what sectors West Midlands SMEs are selling into, with the findings showing automotive as the most popular (63 per cent), closely followed by materials/general engineering (51 per cent) and defence (41 per cent).

When asked about future sales growth to 2016, defence, off shore wind and rail appear to be the most attractive propositions for SMEs looking to increase minor sales to a moderate level.

Lorraine Holmes, area director for the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), commented: “It’s reassuring to see more of our SMEs are expecting to increase their sales going forward and this despite a slight fall over the last six months.

“Manufacturers have been reporting fluctuating demand and softening in certain sectors so to see the renewed optimism suggests many believe these markets are coming back on stream.”