Industry Voices: William Gaskin
Bill Gaskin is president of the 900-member Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), the full-service trade association representing the $113-billion metalforming industry of North America.
With some of the federal issues resolved for the moment, how would you evaluate the growth potential for the manufacturing sector?
There is great potential for growth in the manufacturing sector. PMA conducts a monthly Business Conditions Report where we survey member companies. The latest Report, released this month, showed that metalforming manufacturers expect a spike in incoming orders and an improvement in business conditions over the next three months. Still, our members continue to worry about the significant uncertainty in the manufacturing sector caused by ongoing debates in the federal government about fiscal issues. To be successful manufacturers need stability and certainty in order to grow and prosper.
Another issue that is concerning for manufacturers in the coming years is the new healthcare law. In fact, in a recent survey, Precision Metalforming Association and National Tooling and Machining Association members ranked healthcare as the highest priority public policy issue. Many of our members are small- and medium-sized businesses who are eager to expand as the economy recovers. But they are held back by worries about the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on their businesses. Many have already seen their health care premiums go up in the past year—some by as much as 20%.
How much of that growth is determined in the U.S., and how much is a matter of global issues?
The interconnectedness of the manufacturing sector across the world means that our members are impacted by fluctuations in the U.S. economy as well as in the economies of other countries. This creates challenges but also incredible opportunities to sell products to new markets.
Europe continues to suffer from an ongoing fiscal crisis. Complications in this region negatively affect our members who export to Europe.
Another problem stems from foreign governments engaging in unfair practices. When this happens, it hurts the ability of our members to compete in the global market. Nearly 60% of our member companies report that their companies have lost work in the past 24 months because of unfairly low priced foreign competition.
What factors outside of government will continue to affect manufacturing in 2013?
The manufacturing sector continues to lead our country out of the recession today, but that growth is threatened by a severe skilled worker shortage. Studies show that tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs remain open in this country because employers cannot find qualified applicants. Nearly three-quarters of our member companies have job openings, and they indicate that the problem will get worse as the majority of their skilled workforce heads toward retirement and younger workers are not prepared to replace them.
One way that the Precision Metalforming Association is working to combat this worker shortage is by supporting the Center for America’s American Jobs for America’s Heroes campaign. This campaign helps military veterans and members of the National Guard find work in American manufacturing jobs.
Finally, industries of all kinds are impacted by a wide array of technological developments, and manufacturing is no exception. These new technologies were the focus of the recent FABTECH exhibition, North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing trade show. PMA is a sponsor of the show, which took place in Las Vegas in November 2012. More than 1,250 exhibitors displayed incredible new technologies which continue to revolutionize our industry.
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.