Is a wave of price cuts coming?

Producers of factory equipment and tools are doing a mixed job of navigating troubled economic waters. Three industries (lift trucks, transformers, and motors) received a failing F margin grade in March 2003. Seven industries earned troubling D grades. Increasing costs as prices stall have been the cause of these margin troubles.


Producers of factory equipment and tools are doing a mixed job of navigating troubled economic waters. Three industries (lift trucks, transformers, and motors) received a failing F margin grade in March 2003. Seven industries earned troubling D grades. Increasing costs as prices stall have been the cause of these margin troubles.

The only way out for many suppliers will be to hike prices. The fact that end markets are starting to show some pep may make higher tags easier to enforce in the latter half of 2003.

For plant engineers hoping to avoid wholesale price increases, we have some suggestions. Eight of 19 industries in PLANT ENGINEERING magazine's marketbasket of factory equipment industries seem to enjoy margin positions that would encourage future price cuts. Most of the industries in this position are essentially living off margin surpluses created prior to March 2002. For buyers, that means constructing a cost-based argument for lower prices may be more challenging.

The best negotiation opportunities lie in the instruments market (SIC 38). Here, 11 of 17 industries can afford to lower prices by amounts ranging between 0.8% and 5.6%. For example, makers of process control instruments (SIC 3823) have kept price increases in line with cost changes. Pre-2002 inflation victories, however, mean margins remain above normal. As a result, SIC 3823 can safely cut average prices by 1.65%.

Looking at other sectors, we see that the first quarter was very good to makers of speed changers, drives, and gears (SIC 3566). Here, industry prices advanced 1.8% while costs rose at about half that pace. These expanded margins have created a discounting ability of 1.6%.

Price/cost/demand roundup

Average Product Prices Average Product Prices Direct Mfg. Costs Direct Mfg. Costs Growth in U.S. End Markets Growth in U.S. End Markets
Industry SIC Dec 02 Mar 03 Costs are... Grade Dec 02 Mar 03

the average producer in an industry. Grades of A to A+ mean plant engineers may be able to strike a better bargain with suppliers and better control plant costs.

Other Hand and Edge Tools34230.96-0.06stableD0.300.66
Hand Saws and Saw Blades34251.031.70risingD-0.45-0.12
Other Hardware34290.860.48stableD-0.420.16
Other Power Transmission Equipment35681.791.43stableD-2.84-0.23
Conveyors and Conveying Equipment35350.350.07stableB-3.56-2.26
Hoists, Cranes and Monorails35360.590.79stableA-4.89-4.97
Industrial Trucks and Tractors3537-0.060.01stableF-0.68-0.30
Metal-Cutting Machine Tools3541-4.29-3.37stableD-4.51-1.67
Machine Tool Accessories35450.410.19stableC0.613.39
Power Driven Hand Tools35460.24-0.21stableD-0.82-0.63
Welding Apparatus35481.170.79stableD-2.54-1.92
Pumps and Pumping Equipment35612.131.55stableA-2.41-1.68
Air and Gas Compressors35631.891.50stableB-2.41-1.68
Speed Changers, Drives and Gears35661.081.27stableB-2.84-0.23
Motors and Generators36210.050.28stableF-2.61-0.21
Process Control Instruments38231.231.39stableA-1.050.10
Fluid Meters and Counting Devices38240.831.49stableA-1.050.10
Instruments to Measure Electricity38250.860.46stableB3.536.78

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