U.S. manufacturing vibrant, claims economist at CSIA conference
At the Control System Integrator Association’s (CSIA) conference, long-time executive director Norm O’Leary officially announced that this would be his last conference as host. Robert Lowe, president of Loman Control Systems, replaces O’Leary as executive director. Lynda Patterson is CSIA president. Also at the meeting, an economist expressed hope.<br/>
This year’s Control System Integrator Association’s (CSIA) conference in Naples, FL, began with an end. Long-time executive director Norm O’Leary officially announced that this would be his last conference as host.
Robert Lowe, president of Loman Control Systems, replaces O’Leary as executive director, in addition to Lynda Patterson, who now serves in the recently created position of CSIA President. [ See photos of CSIA leadership .]
As it has for the last two years, CSIA launched this year’s conference with a report from economist Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research. Beaulieu correctly called the current recession—both in timing and severity—at last year’s conference to a somewhat stunned audience that had some difficulty digesting how tough the economic times into which we were headed would be.
Since his economic predictions have been so accurate, here’s a summary of what he had to say at this year’s conference:
Though industrial production remains at its lowest level in 30 years, we have not hit bottom yet. “The rate of decline is easing,” says Beaulieu, “but inventories are still higher than incoming orders. We remain six to eight months away from recovery. And that recovery will be mild. 2011, however, will be a good year economically.”
Despite the current deep recession, Beaulieu points out that the U.S. remains the world’s manufacturing powerhouse—outpacing China’s production capability by 2:1. The U.S. is also still the world’s leading exporter, ahead of Germany, China, Japan, and U.K. “Manufacturing in the U.S. is not dying,” he says. “We’re just doing more with less. Production is down now, but that is compared to the past few years when we saw the highest levels of production in the U.S. since World War II. We’re vibrant.”
Three of the eight indicators the Institute for Trend Research follows are showing positive signs. When five of those are positive, the Institute will consider a recovery to be underway. The three showing positive signs are: money supply is increasing; bond prices are rising; and the ISM Index, though still in contraction, has been gaining for 3 months straight.
In particular, Beaulieu predicts good growth for the food and beverage and medical device industries. He also predicts a rise in commodity prices over the next year or two, especially copper and oil, as economic pressures build with a revitalized economy. He also recommends investment in cement, steel, and construction machinery manufacturers, as they will be near-term beneficiaries of government infrastructure spending.
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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.