And manufacturers are predicting a modest rise in output over the next three months.
The CBI survey was better than expected, given the weakness of recent survey evidence and official data about the performance of manufacturing at a time when the UK is back in recession and the eurozone debt crisis shows no sign of abating.
Of 459 manufacturers surveyed by the CBI between May 23 and June 13, 17% reported order books were above normal and 28% said they were worse than usual. Although this meant a net 11% felt order books were below normal, this was an improvement on the balance of 17% reporting such a position in last month's survey.
The long-run survey average for this question is a net 17% reporting below-normal order books.
A net 4% of manufacturers reported below-normal export order books. This was an improvement on the balance of 12% reporting such a position in last month's survey.
Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: "Despite facing continued instability within the eurozone, UK manufacturers have seen a modest rebound in orders from both their domestic and export markets. As a result, firms are expecting output to pick up over the next quarter, although the pace of growth is still expected to be somewhat lower than earlier in the year."
Samuel Tombs, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said the CBI survey "paints a stronger picture than the other recent indicators of conditions in the manufacturing sector".
Declaring the CBI survey had been "too upbeat" recently compared with official data, he added: "Until we have further evidence, we are reluctant to conclude that the downturn in the manufacturing sector has ceased."
Scottish Enterprise said yesterday that it had helped manufacturers north of the Border create £20 million of productivity savings in the last year, making firms more competitive and helping them secure new customers, launch products and target new markets.
The economic development agency declared it had supported 165 Scottish manufacturers in undertaking 207 business efficiency projects over the past 12 months.