Predictable price increases are expected

Three months ago we said that plant engineers wouldn't have to worry too much about higher prices ahead. Despite the fact that wholesale prices across the entire economy are rising, we stand by that prognostication. Indeed, we expect industry prices will increase, but will do so at rather sedate and predictable rates.


Three months ago we said that plant engineers wouldn't have to worry too much about higher prices ahead. Despite the fact that wholesale prices across the entire economy are rising, we stand by that prognostication.

Indeed, we expect industry prices will increase, but will do so at rather sedate and predictable rates. Consider, for example, the industry that makes pumps and pumping equipment. Here, prices are expected to rise 2.15% in 2004. The pumps industry will push through the highest average product price hike of any industry in our factory equipment and tools market basket.

Despite that fact, price hikes will be held at 2.15% or below. Cost pressures on pump manufacturers and others will continue to grow. The pumps industry saw its production labor costs increase 2% in 2003 while energy costs grew 9.86%.

Evidence suggests that labor and especially energy costs will exert significant inflationary pressures on manufacturers over the next six months. That's bad news: the handsaws industry suffered the largest energy cost hike in 2003 (up 18.58%), and the process control instruments industry saw the smallest cost spike (up 5.85%). As crude oil prices extend to $40 per barrel and higher, cost pressures will be rising.

In some cases, higher energy and fuel costs will make a terrible margin situation even worse. Low-tech industries that make handsaws and high-tech transformers manufacturers will both endure the most challenging pricing environments. To restore manufacturing margins to average levels held over the last five years, handsaw makers and transformer producers need to increase average prices by 4.1% and 5.3%, respectively. Alas, we forecast prices in 2004 to rise only 1.7% for handsaws and 1.2% for transformers.

Price/cost/demand roundup

Major Components of Manufacturing Costs Annual % Change in 2003 Average Product Prices Annual % Change
Industry SIC Domestic materials Imported materials Production labor Energy 2004 2005
1 Average product price changes are calculated from the producer price index for each 4-digit SIC (standard industrial classification) industry from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 Analyses of each industry's direct manufacturing cost changes are from Thinking Cap Solutions, Inc.'s proprietary Industry Cost Escalation (ICE) model. The "grade" indicates that recent price/cost changes have produced record high (A+) margins to average margins (C) to record low (F-) margins for 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.
3 Growth in U.S. end markets data are from the ICE model and are estimates of output for the domestic end markets which purchase a given industry's products.
All data prepared and presented by Thinking Cap Solutions, Inc., Port Angeles, WA (telephone: 360-452-6159; e-mail:
Other Hand and Edge Tools34231.674.69-0.4910.251.851.10
Hand Saws and Saw Blades34251.693.83-0.4918.581.700.95
Other Hardware34291.282.651.4810.731.451.40
Other Power Transmission Equipment35681.662.240.2311.691.701.60
Conveyors and Conveying Equipment35350.941.312.3511.731.201.15
Hoists, Cranes and Monorails35361.533.642.349.161.201.00
Industrial Trucks and Tractors35370.701.692.838.820.850.70
Metal-Cutting Machine Tools35410.732.931.386.840.901.25
Machine Tool Accessories35450.851.003.836.631.451.20
Power Driven Hand Tools35461.672.922.3010.890.950.95
Welding Apparatus35480.851.340.168.201.701.80
Pumps and Pumping Equipment35610.841.342.019.862.151.50
Air and Gas Compressors35631.271.681.029.701.351.70
Speed Changers, Drives and Gears35661.281.683.288.631.451.60
Motors and Generators36211.441.823.009.750.250.40
Process Control Instruments38230.440.652.295.850.801.15
Fluid Meters and Counting Devices38240.370.651.807.090.750.90
Instruments to Measure Electricity3825-0.450.56-2.607.140.770.93

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