Manufacturers are feeling pretty good about the current state of their businesses, but growing concern for the future is prompting many of them to look for greater efficiency in an attempt to lower operating costs.
Those were among the findings in the latest McGladrey Manufacturing and Distribution Monitor, a survey of industry leaders of manufacturing and distribution organizations throughout the country.
Wendy Sancewich, national manufacturing team director at McGladrey, will elaborate on the survey findings next week at AWB's 2012 Manufacturing Summit in Seattle.
In addition to Sancewich, the summit features Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as officials from AWB and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Manufacturing has been a relative bright spot in the U.S. economy and there are many positive findings in the McGladrey survey. It found, for example, that 83 percent of middle-market manufacturers and distributors are optimistic about conditions for their own businesses.
But there are reasons for concern, too. The number of companies reporting that they are "thriving" was just 39 percent, a 6 percent decrease from the previous year. And many employers expressed concern about possible harm from the expiration of Bush-era tax rates, and deteriorating confidence in the domestic and global economic outlook.
"While it is clear that manufacturers and distributors continue to feel 'steadied' in the wake of the turmoil of the past several years, it is obvious that their confidence in their surroundings is beginning to erode once again," said Karen Kurek, national manufacturing leader for McGladrey.
As a result, manufacturers said they were:
- Lowering costs through operational efficiencies (93 percent).
- Making process improvements to boost productivity (70 percent).
- Planning to increase spending on information technology during the next 12 months (63 percent).
Companies that planned on hiring said they would would add workers in areas that help them become more advanced, leaner and adaptive, including engineering, research and development and IT.
However, businesses also reported significant challenges in finding workers to fill those positions, echoing concerns that AWB staff heard last year during a statewide tour of manufacturers.
The survey is full of useful data about the current state of manufacturing and predictions about where things are headed.