’s Industry Market Barometer

Buoyed by growth and confident in their futures, American manufacturers are laying out an agenda for restoring their industry to its earlier glory, according to results of’s newest Industry Market Barometer® (IMB). Overwhelmingly, they are pushing to revitalize the American manufacturing sector by creating jobs at home, doing business with U.S. suppliers, and expressing pride in the quality of products that are “Made in America.”

More than 3,700 buyers and suppliers of industrial products and services, including more than 1,600 professionals from manufacturing companies, participated in the latest IMB. The research looked at their performance during 2011, their outlook for 2012, and their growth strategies. Most of these respondents are from small and midsized businesses, representative of the manufacturing sector. Responses of the 1,600 manufacturers, combined with verbatim comments, provide color on the aspirations and challenges of today’s manufacturing professionals.

“Manufacturers know that they do more than sell products or provide services; they play a vital role in the growth of the American economy,” says Eileen Markowitz, President of Thomas Industrial Network. “Their success is critical to the success of America. And as we can see from this report, the future is looking bright for all of us.”
Manufacturers Report an “Incredible Year”

2011 was a year of growth for American manufacturers: According to the survey, more than half of these companies (53 percent) grew, and three-quarters of respondents (75 percent) expect their companies to grow during 2012. They attribute this growth to a wide variety of strategies, including a focus on customer retention and service, competing more aggressively in core markets, developing new/innovative products, and pursuing new business in the US and overseas.

“Last year (2011) was an incredible year for us,” said Jacques Gauron, Vice President of Marketing Masters of Issaquah, Washington, which manufactures clip nuts, composite inserts, and self-locking fasteners for commercial airlines and aerospace OEMs. “We grew 30 percent, added jobs, and locked in more than $50 million in future sales.” Marketing Masters was not alone in reporting this positive sentiment.

Companies Investing and Hiring; Need More Skilled Labor

This level of growth is igniting a new wave of investments among manufacturers preparing to meet future demand. They are spending on capital equipment, hardware, software and facilities in order to increase production capacity (83 percent), upgrading their plants, and developing new products/services.

In addition, nearly half of these manufacturers (48 percent) are hiring, with openings for line workers, skilled trade workers, and engineers. But for many manufacturers, finding the best people to fill these new positions is far from assured. Respondents to’s IMB lament the skilled labor shortage, and are vocal about what needs to be done to fill the gap:

  • “Not everyone needs a college degree; we really need highly trained and motivated blue-collar workers.”
  • “Improve the attitude within the U.S. regarding the desirability of manufacturing for the next generation.”
  • “Create a feeder - apprentice programs - in industry to equip the youth with the needed tools to pick up manufacturing knowledge. The development of skilled trades to run machines needs focus to keep manufacturing processes going.”

Standing Behind “Made in America”

In addition to the skilled labor shortage, manufacturers point to pricing pressures and overseas competition as challenges to growth. China’s ability to pay lower wages and charge less for products is a thorn in the side of many. In response, U.S. manufacturing companies are capitalizing on the meaning of the “Made in America” brand.

“When our clients began to show interest in outsourcing to China, we began an international marketing and branding campaign to bring them back,” said Kevin McGrath, Vice President of Sales and Marketing,  The Rodon Group, one of the largest family-owned and operated injection molders in the U.S., and a member of American Made Matters®. “Our customers have seen that offshoring increases the risk of poor quality control. By maintaining the quality inherent to U.S. products, and keeping our prices competitive with China’s, we continue to expand.”

Respondents to’s IMB are also capitalizing on America’s reputation for quality by ramping up their exports. Nearly 7 out of 10 (67 percent) are selling overseas, and more than one-third of them (37 percent) plan to increase their international sales.

Online Marketing Helps Reach New Clients

To reach new clients, overseas and at home, nearly nine out of ten respondents (86 percent) are investing in online marketing this year, and more than half (52 percent) are increasing these investments. They report that their websites have helped them find new sources of business, improve customer service, and increase revenues.

“Our website has become our number-one prospecting tool,” said Zach Arnold, President, Arnold Machine, Tiffin, Ohio, which makes custom equipment to automate the manufacturing process. “Not only have we expanded our footprint; we’re landing more profitable jobs.”

Choosing Manufacturing All Over Again

With successes like these, manufacturers are bullish on their own careers. Nearly eight out of 10 (75.5 percent) would “do it all over again” if they were just starting out. They want younger generations to appreciate manufacturing, too. One respondent notes: “There is a need for excitement to be found in creating something tangible, from engineering and design to the finished product.”

To download a complimentary report on the IMB findings, visit:

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