Manufacturing innovation

By Lauren Duensing

October 2012 - In mid-September, Modern Metals’ staff attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show, held at McCormick Place in Chicago. According to IMTS, “total registration for the six-day event was 100,200, which was a 21.6 percent increase over 2010, marking the largest show-to-show increase ever.” IMTS also noted these results were the strongest in more than a decade. Everyone I spoke with said their booth had been busy and they were having a great show. 

The crowds at IMTS brought with them a palpable excitement, despite some nagging economic uncertainties. Attendees and exhibitors discussed growing markets, innovative solutions, ways to gain competitive advantage, increase productivity and process new materials. 

An upbeat outlook also was reflected in the latest Mid-Market CFO Survey released by GE Capital. The data showed that U.S. CFOs of middle-market companies “remain generally positive about the state of their own industries,” although “their view on the current health of the world economy continued to deteriorate.”

“Middle-market CFOs still see expansion opportunities over the next three years but remain cautious as concerns about the business environment and uncertainties in areas such as tax and health care policy persist,” said Dan Henson, president and CEO of GE Capital, Americas, in a press release. “From our perspective as a provider of capital, we see positive year-over-year growth in both lending and leasing. Economic sentiment, while still positive, is slightly more guarded than we saw in the last survey. In the meantime, the credit markets are very healthy, providing extremely attractive terms for borrowers as credit facilities come up for renewal and as acquisition or other investment opportunities develop.”

The forecast for a brighter future often translates into confidence, especially when there are continued opportunities for expansion. Of the CFOs GE Capital surveyed, 

85 percent expect the economy to grow or be stable in the next 12 months, and 88 percent expect their industry to grow or be stable during the same time period.

For 2013, many of the individuals we spoke with for this year’s metals economic outlook echo this opinion, predicting most markets will either grow or remain flat. Even construction, the longtime elephant in the room, is expected to turn around. 

Booming markets, like the growing energy industry, are helping to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Bob Aronson, executive director of the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, points out the investment in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and upstate New York (where Seneca County is located) has brought considerable growth to these areas as they become a base for supply-chain companies working in the Marcellus Shale. Seneca County also has attracted advanced manufacturing companies, such as ITT Corp. and BonaDent Dental Laboratories, to invest in the region.

Whether it’s because of oil and gas or other industries, areas like Seneca County are returning to their manufacturing roots. These slices of the United States typically have ample resources such as a ready-to-work labor force and proximity to highways, railroads and ports. 

It’s both an exciting and uncertain time to be part of the manufacturing industry. The individuals that work for these companies are proud of their businesses, they’re proud of their industry and they will continue to push manufacturing forward in 2013. MM


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