2011 Mid-Year Report: Question 6

Manufacturing leaders share their outlook for 2013.


Question: What’s your outlook for 2013?

Mohamed AbuAli, University of Cincinnati
A short-term outlook for 2013 is: (a) continued slow but steady manufacturing sector growth, (b) slight increase in overall IT expenditures, and (c) increased expenditure in green technologies and processes as well as intelligent and digital manufacturing platforms. A good investment in the right technology mix can lead to increased productivity gains and a competitive advantage.

William Gaskin, PMA
Each month, PMA surveys its members about their expectations for new orders and shipments for the next three months. As of the first week of June 2011, 30% of PMA members were predicting an increase in orders (up from 26% in May), 44% anticipated no change (compared to 47% in May), and 26% predicted a decrease in orders (down from 27% in May). Beyond 90 days, members typically are unwilling to make projections.

Andy Gravitt, Schneider Electric
The industry will make the necessary move away from PC technology to thin client. Objects will improve ease of programming. There will be greater pressure to catch up to European Safety standards on machines, and the role of an energy-efficient architect will become more visible.

There will be greater investment in universities around energy efficiency programs and education, and the Cloud/Web resources will be used for developing collaborative environments, leading to greater productivity.

I think 2012 will be a growth year. The recovery will be slow and gradual, with peaks and valleys—a long, slow walk with a drift. In the last year or so, the “recovery” started and business and stock prices jumped. But things have slowed and people are questioning if we jumped the gun—are we moving back into a recession? We must not lose the message that recovery will be gradual.

Joe Martin, Martin Control Systems
Sometime during 2013, we finally expect to see the infamous second dip of the double-dip recession. While not anywhere as severe as 2009, we think it will be short lived and over during early 2014. Our company is making adjustments now for this slowdown and we hope to avoid its effects.

Jay Mellen, Savigent Software
I’ll think about 2013 next time this year.

Tsutomu Nakamura, Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance
I believe that lean management and risk management factors will start to hold more importance in engineering and maintenance work itself. I think this will mean that specialists engaged in engineering and maintenance will also become increasingly more important.

Mike Pulick, Grainger
While the economic recovery may continue to be uneven, I am optimistic about the future. As I think about the next two years and beyond, I foresee increased interest in building and maintaining sustainable plants, especially as more businesses understand the long-term benefits of the investment. I also anticipate the shortage of skilled workers becoming an even larger challenge for manufacturers as more baby boomers retire from the plant floor.

We have been involved in this issue for several years through the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges. The Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program is designed to support students pursuing education and careers in the industrial trades, including manufacturing. There's no doubt it's going to take the public and private sector working together to attract more young people to the exciting, long-term career opportunities that manufacturing offers.

Jason Speer, Quality Float Works
Overall, I feel the global economy will get back on track and U.S. manufactures will have tremendous opportunities if we can adapt to business trends and international competition. If this happens successfully, I also anticipate we will start seeing more re-shoring of companies. We’ve seen a few companies return to the U.S. already this year and I expect the trend will continue if the government can enact effective tax repatriation policies. There are signs of this out there right now, but just as we’ve seen with the recent delays surrounding advancements of FTAs from an administration that has vigilantly advocated for free trade, things are constantly changing. Opportunities are great if we can get out of our own way and embrace the global marketplace.

Dave Tilstone, NTMA
Looking that far into the future is difficult given the uncertainty of the market today. We see an upward trend, especially in the medical device, nuclear, and aerospace markets. According to our latest NTMA Business Conditions Report, 85% of our members indicate that business is good to excellent and over 90% indicate that it will either remain the same or improve over the next 6 months. In today’s climate, trying to forecast any further than that would just be a guess. We must be honest with ourselves that there are still too many variables and challenges in the near future (i.e., presidential elections, regulations, trade issues, etc.) that we need to confront before we can provide a more certain forecast for 2013.

Return to 2011 Mid-Year Report: Grading on the curve.

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