Conveyor prices hang tough

Price declines among manufacturers of factory equipment and tools are relatively rare. The prevailing maxim appears to be: he who keeps prices stable during a downturn will reap the upturn's margin windfall needed to stay profitable over the long haul. The industries in our quarterly report clearly reflect this rule.


Price declines among manufacturers of factory equipment and tools are relatively rare. The prevailing maxim appears to be: he who keeps prices stable during a downturn will reap the upturn's margin windfall needed to stay profitable over the long haul. The industries in our quarterly report clearly reflect this rule.

Among 19 industries that we cover in our factory and equipment report, only three (handsaws, metal-cutting machine tools, and transformers) cut their average product prices in 2001. Eight industries enjoy record or near record high margins and certainly have the margin strength to absorb price cuts.

Material handling equipment illustrates the point. Indeed, producers of conveyors and conveying equipment (SIC 3535) have taken an especially strong stance to defend their prices. In the 12 months ending December 2001, average prices increased 1.7%. At the same time, lower prices for steel inputs have reduced per-unit spending on manufacturing by 1.6%. With prices up and costs down, calculations from Thinking Cap Solutions reveal inflation-adjusted margins improved by $2.11 for each $100 worth of product sold. That's not bad for an industry whose end markets declined 2.9% in 2001. Producers of industrial trucks (SIC 3537) and hoists, cranes and monorails (SIC 3536) also faced similar end market conditions while at the same time enjoying near-record high inflation adjusted margins.

Several other industries saw their end markets slump dramatically between September and December of 2001, especially the industries that make transformers (SIC 3612), motors and generators (SIC 3621), and instruments to measure electricity (SIC 3825).

Price/cost/demand roundup

Average Product Prices Direct Mfg. Costs Growth in U.S. End markets
Industry SIC Sept 01 Dec 01 Costs are... Grade Sept 01 Dec 01
Other Hand and Edge Tools34232.172.91stableA0.26-0.96
Hand Saws and Saw Blades3425-0.25-0.56stableC-0.70-1.77
Other Hardware34291.671.81stableA-2.07-2.22
Other Power Transmission Equip.35681.701.87stableA-4.76-6.86
Conveyors and Conveying Equip.35351.551.70stableA+-0.54-2.85
Hoists, Cranes and Monorails35361.871.65stableA0.83-0.55
Industrial Trucks and Tractors35371.661.37stableA-0.56-3.17
Metal-Cutting Machine Tools3541-0.55-1.98stableF--1.23-6.97
Machine Tool Accessories35451.751.88stableB-2.94-6.52
Power Driven Hand Tools35461.892.04stableC0.19-0.64
Welding Apparatus35482.091.73stableA-4.00-4.69
Pumps and Pumping Equipment35612.132.40stableA+-1.57-2.56
Air and Gas Compressors35631.771.86stableA-1.57-2.56
Speed Changers, Drives and Gears35662.242.11stableA-4.76-6.86
Motors and Generators36210.530.46stableF3.92-2.22
Process Control Instruments38231.291.49stableB-4.51-4.38
Fluid Meters and Counting Devices38242.011.20stableC-4.51-4.38
Instruments to Measure Electricity38250.640.58stableF-6.75-5.51

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.

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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.

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