Prices have room to fall

Buyers of factory operating materials and supplies have a near universal opportunity these days to argue for price cuts. Among 19 industries that we studied, 16 can stand to cut average industry product prices while still maintaining reasonable margins. The lubricating oils and greases (SIC 2992) industry provides the most dramatic example.


Buyers of factory operating materials and supplies have a near universal opportunity these days to argue for price cuts. Among 19 industries that we studied, 16 can stand to cut average industry product prices while still maintaining reasonable margins. The lubricating oils and greases (SIC 2992) industry provides the most dramatic example. Here, thanks to the fact that costs of manufacturing are falling fast, the industry can afford a whopping 10.2% price cut without pushing margins below July 2000 levels. To restore margins to average levels held over the past five years, prices in SIC 2992 still can fall 2%.

The fact of the matter is, many industries that make factory operating supplies enjoyed pumped up margins thanks to a combination of falling costs and steady or slightly inflated prices for the products sold. So looking at the margin grade in the accompanying table will tell only part of the story. Certainly, any industry with an A or A+ grade enjoys higher than average margins, so prices have room to fall. Some industries with a C grade (like lubricating oils and greases) also have leeway to drop prices. But buyers will have to proceed cautiously.

For example, to bring margins back to year-ago levels, producers of adhesives and sealants can afford a 5.9% price decline. But to set margins back to their five-year average level, adhesives and sealants prices must rise 0.4%.

Meanwhile, not all industries enjoy the opportunity to lower prices. The industries that make surfactants (SIC 2843), abrasive products (SIC 3291) and steel wire and related products (SIC 3315) are under pressure. To restore margins to the average levels held over the past five years, these three industries would have to hike average industry prices by 2.7%, 4.2% and 2.3%, respectively.

Price/cost/demand roundup

Industry SIC Average Product Prices Average Product Prices Direct Mfg. Costs Direct Mfg. Costs Growth in U.S. end Markets Growth in U.S. end Markets

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.

Wood pallets and skids24480.310.54FallingA-0.01-1.94
Polishes and sanitation goods28420.850.94FallingD2.382.05
Surface active agents28432.572.78FallingD-1.45-3.19
Adhesives and sealants28912.573.06FallingC11.047.11
Lubricating oils and greases29928.537.63Falling FastC7.745.04
Rubber and plastics hose and belting30521.402.31StableC3.421.20
Abrasive products3291-0.19-0.07StableF12.497.87
Steel wire and related products3315-0.41-1.13FallingF3.143.17
Copper rolling and drawing33513.401.44FallingB32.9422.75
Nonferrous wire drawing and insulating33574.221.84FallingC32.6423.66
Heating equipment, except electric34331.271.24StableA1.381.43
Fabricated plate work, boiler shops34431.201.07StableA4.592.94
Bolts, nuts, rivets and washers3452-0.070.02StableC3.353.44
Industrial valves34911.541.73StableA2.021.43
Fluid power valves and hose fittings34921.501.49StableB2.021.43
Other valves and pipe fittings34941.182.77FallingA2.021.43
Miscellaneous fabricated wire products34960.010.12StableC8.315.37
Fabricated pipe and fittings34982.541.89FallingA+2.021.43
Ball and roller bearings35621.581.58StableA5.742.95

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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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