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Small and Midsized Manufacturers Continue Growth and Expansion

Prime Advantage, a consortium for midsized manufacturers, announced the findings of its fourth annual Group CFO Survey

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Prime Advantage, a consortium for midsized manufacturers, announced the findings of its fourth annual Group CFO Survey, revealing financial projections and top concerns of its member companies’ CFOs in 2012. CFOs continue to see solid signs of the economic recovery in U.S. manufacturing. While member companies are planning more hiring, wage increases, and capital expenditures, the availability of skilled workers is a growing challenge.

CFOs are more optimistic about the financial prospects for their own companies now than in the last two years (the level of optimism is 79/100 in 2012, compared to 63/100 in 2011). Only two percent of respondents are less optimistic about 2012. This number is higher for Prime Advantage members than the recent similar surveys, conducted by Duke/CFO Magazine and Bank of America.

The majority of CFOs report increases in their own new order pipelines, with 57 percent citing more new orders now than at this time in 2011. Manufacturing CFOs are also optimistic about the business prospects of their key customers this year, with 55 percent expecting to see their customers’ businesses grow moderately in 2012.

Respondents are slightly less optimistic about the overall U.S. economy, with 67 percent more optimistic and 12 percent less optimistic (compared to 74 percent and three percent respectively in 2011). However, nearly all manufacturing CFOs (98 percent) believe manufacturing will stay the same or continue to expand in 2012. These mixed sentiments are consistent with a recent GE Survey in which which respondents were optimistic about their own companies and industries, and slightly less optimistic about the U.S. economy.

When asked to cite the top potential threats to U.S. economic growth, 90 percent of the CFOs were most concerned with the European fiscal situation (90 percent), followed by the U.S. budget deficit (69 percent) and the cost of healthcare reform (68 percent).

CFOs will focus this year on cutting operational costs, developing new products and long-term strategic planning. The number of respondents citing long-term strategic planning increased strongly, increasing by 13 percent since 2011 and 26 percent since 2010. Last year’s top priority, the ability to quickly respond to market conditions, fell 24 percent. These results indicate that companies are employing proactive growth strategies rather than reactive strategies that reflected the prevailing uncertainty during and post-recession.

Manufacturing companies continue to struggle to fill open positions. Fifty-seven percent of respondents have unfilled positions (more than double last year’s result of 23 percent). The inability to find skilled workers locally is the main reason for this problem (as reported by 65 percent of respondents with open positions). Competition for talent and labor force immobility were cited as other top causes. As a short-term solution, companies have recognized that they cannot rely on the market to provide skilled workers and they are investing in retraining existing employees and providing training for existing employees. As a long-term solution, respondents emphasized promoting manufacturing as a strong career choice in local educational institutions. Respondents are also going to junior college or vocational schools and co-developing welding or electronic programs to help deliver skilled workers to the local marketplace.

The ability to maintain margins, which was a top internal concern back in 2010, tops the list with 71 percent, indicating it as the top internal concern. Attracting skilled workers (40 percent) and forecasting accurate results (38 percent) round out the top internal concerns. The cost of healthcare, which was the top concern last year, tied for third (38 percent) in 2012.

External concerns remained the same as prior years: customer demand (67 percent), price pressure from competitors (64 percent) and the cost of non-fuel commodities (40 percent). However, these concerns are not as concentrated as in past years. The cost of non-fuel commodities is down 33 percentage points and uncertainty about customer demand is down to 67 percent in 2012 from 82 percent in 2011.

“For the third straight year, our member companies are optimistic and expecting strong growth and financial performance for their companies,” said Louise O’Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Prime Advantage. “Our members, and manufacturers in general, have performed well and the majority are back to pre-recession levels, which speaks to the health of their organizations. Our goal remains the same, which is to deliver cost reduction opportunities for these companies, reduce risk within their supply chains and position them with best-in-class supply partners that align with their growth strategies.”


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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From the November 2018
New research from APICS, Supply Chain Management Review and Loyola University Chicago finds that operating a responsible supply chain is an increasing priority. But gaps remain between practice and the goal.
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