Recent Business Trends For The Manufacturing Industry

The news for the general economy may be mixed, but for manufacturers it’s “all systems growth.”

ThomasNet’s annual Industry Market Barometer® survey of North American manufacturers shows an upward trajectory for this sector, year after year, as they continue to lead the economy forward. These companies are growing, hiring, adding new lines of products or services, and investing for more growth to come.

Sound Indicators of Growth

Existing markets continue to “feed” manufacturers with more business. Nearly eight out of ten (76 percent) are now selling overseas, and 33 percent of them expect this to rise, too. In anticipation of what’s ahead, they’re increasing their production capacity, optimizing their manufacturing operations, and upgrading their facilities. Hiring and retraining staff are top priorities to help them scale.

More than half (52 percent) of these manufacturers expect to add staff over the next several months, up from the 42 percent who planned to hire last year.

Recent Business Trends For The Manufacturing Industry

Negative Trends

A deeper look at this year’s survey results raises concerns about whether manufacturing is sufficiently prepared to handle continued growth. For the industry to continue its steady climb, the fundamentals need to be in place. Unfortunately, one of them appears to be lacking – a steady flow of skilled workers. Having the people to operate the machines, work the lines, and create new products is mission-critical.

Yes – manufacturers are hiring and developing their people – but to keep up with the opportunities at hand, they will need to recruit faster, smarter, and harder. Last year’s IMB called attention to the “ticking biological clock” – the disruption that is coming as Baby Boomers leave the workforce in accelerating numbers, without people primed to replace them. This year, 38 percent of manufacturers report that they’ll leave their jobs in one to ten years, and most lack a plan to fill their shoes.

And with over 200,000 jobs still unfilled, manufacturers can’t afford to wait for new talent to walk in the door. They tell us they need skilled, experienced people – line workers, skilled trade workers, engineers, and manufacturing/production management – and they’re nowhere to be found. If last year was a ticking clock, this year is ringing alarm bells. Yet, one solution is in plain sight – formulating plans to attract the generation of Millennials (ages 18-32) who will comprise about 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

For an industry that values specialized training and experience, this generation represents a goldmine of opportunity as most Millennials are technology-savvy. Manufacturing is increasingly headed towards digitization and highly specialized skillsets. Not only will they need to have in house teams with a high level of skill, but they will also need to form relationships with 3rd party vendors who can help to facilitate and create the specialized machinery that is increasingly in demand. Put another way; they need to find the custom machine builders to help improve the efficiencies of their operations and higher the highly specialized workers who can run it.

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