Model tells vastly different stories

A new cost model from Thinking Cap Solutions shows a distinct dichotomy has emerged in the industries that make plant construction and maintenance supplies. In the table on the right, we see nine industries with a bad grade (F- to D) and five with an A grade for industry margins. That means plant engineers will be facing two very different environments when time for negotiating a new deal arr...


A new cost model from Thinking Cap Solutions shows a distinct dichotomy has emerged in the industries that make plant construction and maintenance supplies. In the table on the right, we see nine industries with a bad grade (F- to D) and five with an A grade for industry margins. That means plant engineers will be facing two very different environments when time for negotiating a new deal arrives.

Buyers of flat glass may find treading carefully to be the best bet when dealing with suppliers. This industry saw its manufacturing costs rise 4.3% over the last six months. Meanwhile, average product prices charged by the flat glass industry declined 2.5%. This cost/price trend has hit manufacturing margins hard. Indeed, to restore margins to average levels requires a solid 5.4% price hike. Suppliers will also be anxious for margin-stabilizing price hikes in the gypsumboard industry, which requires a 9.2% price increase, and the general sawmills industry, which could use a 2.6% upward price correction.

On the flip side, plant managers may find some negotiation leverage when buying hardwood plywood and millwork. The industries that make these products can withstand a 3.4% to 3.8% cut in average prices before margins retreat to average levels. And despite the cost pressures created by steel tariffs, some bargaining opportunities may be found in sheet metal work, steel pipe and tubes, and metal doors. The three industries that make these products could weather average price cuts of 2.3% (for steel pipe) to 1.4% (for sheet metal).

Finally, are we seeing a signal of recovery at last? The end markets that buy refrigeration and heating equipment grew 1.5% in the 12 months ending August 2002. That number sticks out like a night beacon among the long list of declining end markets.

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
Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending... Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending... and Margins Grade and Margins Grade Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending... Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending...
Industry SIC May 02 August 02 Costs are... Grade May 02 August 02

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.

General Sawmills and Planing Mills2421-0.17-1.84stableD-2.33-1.92
Hardwood Veneer and Plywood24350.210.41stableA-3.12-2.79
Softwood Veneer and Plywood24363.04-2.38stableD-3.12-2.79
Metal Partitions and Fixtures25420.08-0.50risingF-0.32-1.27
Paints and Allied Products28511.991.61stableB-1.45-0.42
Flat Glass3211-1.76-2.46stableF-4.010.04
Other Structural Clay Products32594.023.96stableA-3.05-3.12
Gypsum Products3275-8.283.63stableD-3.29-3.12
Mineral Wool32960.510.61stableC-4.56-3.49
Steel Pipe and Tubes3317-2.54-0.39risingA-5.63-4.07
Plumbing Fittings and Brass Goods3432-1.35-0.81stableC-3.09-3.01
Metal Doors, Sash and Trim34420.920.68stableB-2.63-2.87
Sheet Metal Work3444-0.510.01risingB-4.58-2.15
Refrigeration and Heating Equipment35850.410.51stableD0.081.48
Current-Carrying Wiring Devices3643-1.45-1.03stableD-5.52-3.57
Noncurrent-Carrying Wiring Devices36441.481.68risingA-5.52-3.57
Commercial Lighting Fixtures3646-0.66-0.28stableF-1.33-1.24
Environmental Controls38220.070.08stableF--1.20-0.68

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
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Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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