Small to medium-sized (SME) manufacturers achieved “a robust increase” in business activity in the third quarter, despite the “credit crunch”, according to business adviser PKF.

The survy of 1,000 SME manufacturers revealed that the sector scored an index mark of 57.4, with new orders at 56.1. Scores of above 50 indicate expansion.

While new orders scored the same as the second quarter, output had declined from 58.2 in the previous three months, although PKF’s figures reveal both had risen about the index marks for the first quarter of the year and the last quarter of 2006.

“SME manufacturers have had an excellent quarter,” said PKF partner Stuart Barnsdall. “The chaos in the financial markets appears to have had little knock-on effect in the sector.”

Mr Barnsdall added that it was “good to see that both input costs and out prices…have calmed a little”, with both declining from the second quarter, falling to 61.3 and 54.6 respectively.