Manufacturing Growth Continues but Economy Still a Challenge, Survey Says PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Friday, 20 December 2013 12:55

MILWAUKEE — Sixty-five percent of manufacturers experienced revenue growth in 2013 but nearly half still consider the economy the biggest challenge, according to results of the ASQ 2014 Manufacturing Outlook Survey. And while 64% of of the more than 700 respondents worldwide expect increased revenue in 2014, that percentage is down from years past, albeit slightly.

In last year’s Manufacturing Outlook Survey, 65% anticipated growth in 2013, and 66% of respondents to the 2012 outlook survey anticipated growth in 2013.

In both 2012 and 2013, 70% of manufacturers said they experienced revenue growth compared to just 65% in this year’s Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

Despite the percentage of manufacturers expecting increased revenues in 2014, 46% of the respondents say the economy continues to be the biggest hurdle to operations, while 18% said the shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge they foresee in 2014.

Other hurdles identified include “global competition,” “lack of new products,” “government sequestration” and “lack of leadership.”

ASQ conducts the Manufacturing Outlook Survey annually to gauge manufacturing professionals’ view on the year ahead. ASQ members worldwide and members of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition were among those who responded to this year's survey.

Respondents represent the aerospace, automotive, food, medical device, pharmaceutical and utility industries, among others. The survey was fielded in a digital survey Nov. 21-Dec. 5. More than 700 manufacturing professionals around the world responded to the survey.

"While many indicators point to an improved economy, it’s clear that it’s a topic that continues to be a concern of manufacturers,” said ASQ Chair John Timmerman. “Quality tools that increase customer satisfaction, increase efficiencies and reduce errors can help quell the anxiety of manufacturers and stabilize their businesses by boosting market share and revenues.”

Smart manufacturing. In addition to questions about manufacturers’ financial outlook for 2014, the survey asked about manufacturers’ use of smart manufacturing — which the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition defines as the integration of network-based data and information that provides real-time understanding, reasoning, planning, management and related decision making of all aspects of a manufacturing and supply chain enterprise.

According to the results, only 13% of those surveyed said they use smart manufacturing within their organization. Of those organizations that claim to have implemented smart manufacturing, 82% say they have experienced increased efficiency, 49% experienced fewer product defects and 45% experienced increased customer satisfaction.

Of the organizations that reported using smart manufacturing, cost was the primary challenge, followed by access to necessary infrastructure, and overcoming resistance from employees.

Thirty-three percent have applied smart manufacturing at the plant levels, and 29% have integrated smart manufacturing across all levels of the organization.

Of the manufacturers that have not implemented smart manufacturing, interest, cost and resistance from management continue to stifle deployment, according to the survey.

The results show that 37% of those surveyed have no interest in smart manufacturing, while 29% say cost is the biggest challenge. In addition, 14% said resistance from management is the biggest hurdle when considering a smart manufacturing system.

According to the survey, 15% of respondents expect their organizations to decrease staff, while 36% expect their organization to hire additional staff. Thirty-five percent expect staff to maintain current levels.

Furthermore, 49% expect salary or merit increases in 2014, while only 4% expect salary reductions.



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