Picking on paints

Deflation has a fairly strong grip on suppliers of construction materials. But plant engineers may not want to "settle" for just any price cut. Data from Thinking Cap Solutions' ICE model suggests that several industries share the following economic characteristics: (1) inflation-adjusted margins are above normal, (2) the cost of making a typical unit of output is falling, and (3) industr...


Deflation has a fairly strong grip on suppliers of construction materials. But plant engineers may not want to "settle" for just any price cut. Data from Thinking Cap Solutions' ICE model suggests that several industries share the following economic characteristics: (1) inflation-adjusted margins are above normal, (2) the cost of making a typical unit of output is falling, and (3) industry prices either are falling more slowly than costs or actually rising despite lower costs. That means some industries improved their bottom line at the expense of the customer. So plant engineers may want to push harder for lower prices.

The paint industry (SIC 2851) is a case in point. Thanks to a sharp reduction in U.S.-made raw materials costs, per-unit manufacturing spending fell 3.9% between August 2000 and August 2001. Instead of passing savings along to buyers, producers increased tags for the average paint product by 2.3% in the 12 months ending August 2001.

The result: an inflation-related margin gain of $3.64 for each $100 of product sold. To put margins back to the same level held in August 2000, the industry would have to cut prices by 6.8%. To put margins back to the level held on average over the past five years requires a 3.7% price cut.

Looking at the Plant Engineering price/cost table we see several other opportunities for buyers who want to haggle. Industries where costs are falling and margins are above average include: millwork (SIC 2431), hardwood plywood (SIC 2435), and plumbing fittings (SIC 3432).

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.

All data prepared and presented by Thinking Cap Solutions, Inc., Port Angeles, WA (telephone: 360-452-6159; e-mail: ebaatz@ice-alert.com).
General sawmills and planing mills2421-9.60-6.66FallingC-1.18-1.30
Hardwood veneer and plywood24351.190.86FallingB0.620.20
Softwood veneer and plywood2436-17.48-6.41StableC0.620.20
Metal partitions and fixtures25420.710.89StableA2.131.82
Paints and allied products28512.242.33FallingB-0.77-1.65
Flat glass32111.151.04StableF22.3212.74
Other structural clay products32596.486.90StableA3.373.25
Gypsum products3275-20.18-25.87StableF-0.060.04
Mineral wood3296-3.71-3.39StableC1.421.22
Steel pipe and tubes33172.16-0.02FallingC1.28-1.34
Plumbing fittings and brass goods34321.390.15FallingB2.542.50
Metal doors, sash, and trim34421.591.44StableB2.232.25
Sheet metal work34441.040.70StableB19.3912.04
Refrigeration and heating equipment3585-0.25-0.24StableD-3.90-3.95
Current-carrying wiring devices3643-0.69-0.67StableF16.9911.35
Noncurrent-carrying wiring devices36440.981.55StableB16.9911.35
Commercial lighting fixtures36460.700.17StableF2.892.03
Environmental controls38220.320.29FallingC0.910.88

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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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