Thomas Industrial Network

Thomas Industrial Network (10)

Friday, 22 November 2013 10:53

ThomasNet.com Announces New Job Board

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Just as new research reveals that manufacturing is hiring to meet strong growth projections, ThomasNet.com® announces the launch of its new Job Board—an employment and career-building website focused exclusively on four key areas of industry: engineering, procurement, manufacturing/production operations, and sales/marketing.

The website creates a dynamic marketplace for industry employers as well as prospective employees. Entry-level job seekers and seasoned professionals alike can search, qualify and apply for manufacturing positions posted by employers across North America.  Conversely, CEOs/general managers, human resources professionals and recruiters can quickly build a pool of well-qualified candidates who meet detailed, technologically-specific job requirements and who are more likely to succeed in the available positions.

The new ThomasNet.com Job Board is free to job seekers. Candidates can search a targeted database of thousands of industry jobs through a number of filters such as title, sector or discipline, experience level, full-time or part-time, location and salary range. There is something for everyone at any professional life stage from internships and apprenticeships to senior-level management positions.

Candidates can also receive email updates every time a job that meets their keyword criteria is posted. And every job seeker qualifies for a free subscription to the ThomasNet News® Career Journal – an online publication chock full of timely information on industry hiring trends including where the hot jobs are, what employers are looking for, and how to get that first foot in the door or reinvent yourself mid-career.

The new Job Board is a direct response to a recent ThomasNet.com Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey showing a troubling workforce disconnect: Despite an upward growth trajectory, the industry is struggling to attract Generation Y (18 – 32 years old) candidates to replace Baby Boomers aging out of the workforce. The implications are clear: North American manufacturing could be knocked out of its long-held, global leadership position if it fails to attract younger talent ready to apply new technologies and skills to solve the industry’s challenges and capitalize on its opportunities.

For more information, visit: jobs.thomasnet.com

Attention, manufacturing marketers: In today’s digital world, your most important strategic assets may not be your budget, your talent, or your intellectual property. Instead, according to ThomasNet®, the foundation for your future growth is the content on your products and services. Manufacturers with smart content strategies are building brand awareness, generating leads, and increasing sales in up and down markets.

To help marketers at business-to-business (B2B) manufacturing companies learn from these innovators, ThomasNet and the Content Marketing Institute will hold the first annual Content Marketing World (CMW) Manufacturing Summit on September 12, 2013 in Cleveland. The conference will help small and large manufacturers from around the world, as well as their public relations and marketing agencies, to increase leads and sales by using powerful content strategies. Marketers from Caterpillar, Lincoln Electric, and DuPont are among those who will share their best practices.

The event is being organized by the two leading authorities in manufacturing content marketing. ThomasNet has worked with thousands of manufacturers to help them align their content strategies (from websites to blogs to social media programs) to their business goals. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI), founded by Executive Director Joe Pulizzi, produces the annual Content Marketing World, the largest event of its kind. Mr. Pulizzi also publishes the content marketing blog, Content Marketing Institute, and is the co-author of Managing Content Marketing. Last year's Content Marketing World drew attendees from companies such as Caterpillar, Majestic Steel, Parker Hannifin, Timken, PPG Industries, General Motors, Konecranes, New Pig and more.

“We are thrilled to partner with ThomasNet on this new event,” said Mr. Pulizzi. “No-one understands the behaviors and needs of buyers and engineers in the manufacturing community better than Thomas. They are constantly researching the kind of content that influences their buying decisions, and developing innovative programs in response.”

“We’re excited to hold this first-of-its-kind event with the Content Marketing Institute,” said Paul Gerbino, Publisher, ThomasNet News®. “This organization has set a standard for conferences that provide information that B2B marketers can’t get elsewhere. Participants who attend will gain a head start on new content strategies for a competitive advantage.”

Mr. Gerbino will deliver the opening address at the conference, followed by Robert Rose, Chief Strategist, CMI, who will share cases from 3M and Henkel. Other speakers will include Alan Porter, Content Marketing Manager, Caterpillar; Craig Coffey, US Marketing Communications Manager, Lincoln Electric; and Gary Spangler, Corporate eMarketing Manager, DuPont. They will be joined by additional presenters from the agency world, as well as ThomasNet and CMI.

The Manufacturing Summit will take place the day after the 2013 Content Marketing World conference, scheduled for September 9-11 at the Cleveland Convention Center.

For more information, visit: www.contentmarketingworld.com/manufacturing/manufacturing-summit-home

ThomasNet® reminds graduating high school seniors that the deadline for its North American Manufacturing Scholarship Program is right around the corner, and all applications must be postmarked by July 1, 2013. The company has been accepting applications since April 1 from students who dream of a manufacturing career.

“We’re gratified to see the outpouring of interest from students and their families in these scholarships,” said Eileen Markowitz, President of ThomasNet. “Manufacturing is the bedrock of America’s economy, and its future depends on attracting new young talent. Fortunately, this industry offers limitless career opportunities for those who want to innovate, make products that are used all over the world, and leverage their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training.”

ThomasNet is providing up to thirty (30) $1,000 scholarships for students who plan to major in engineering or supply chain management/business operations, or to study a skilled trade. Applicants must be graduating U.S. high school seniors or Canadian secondary school students with plans to attend a two-year or four-year college, or a vocational-technical school.

The scholarship program is the latest ThomasNet initiative to call attention to the rewards of a career in manufacturing. Last year, ThomasNet.com® released results of its Industry Market Barometer® survey, which showed that manufacturers were having difficulty attracting engineers, line workers, and skilled trade workers. The company saw this challenge as a symptom of a larger issue—the need to “re-brand” American manufacturing—and has embarked on a campaign to make it happen. For instance, ThomasNet recently launched the IMT Career Journal, a newsletter that educates aspiring manufacturers on the many exciting career paths available to them.

ThomasNet is inviting other manufacturers to show support for the new Scholarship Program by signing up for any one of ThomasNet.com’s free newsletters, including IMT Career Journal.  For each new subscription, ThomasNet will make a contribution (up to $30,000) to the Scholarship Program.

For more information, visit: www.thomasnet.com/scholarship

In a move to attract the brainpower and creativity of the next generation, and draw them into manufacturing, ThomasNet® announces the launch of its North American Manufacturing Scholarship Program.  Up to thirty graduating high school seniors with an interest in manufacturing careers will each receive a $1,000 scholarship to pursue studies at a two-year or four-year college, or a vocational-technical school.

As far as ThomasNet is concerned, nothing less than the future is at stake. “For more than a century, we’ve supported American manufacturing by connecting buyers and suppliers,” said Eileen Markowitz, president of ThomasNet. “We hope to have parents, educators and the manufacturing community join us in encouraging young students to transform their ingenuity and passion into a career in this exciting industry. With the launch of ThomasNet’s first North American Manufacturing Scholarship Program, we will recognize those star performers who have already demonstrated achievement in their schools and communities, and who plan to bring their skills and talents to this important industry.”

The timing of the program is no accident.  According to ThomasNet.com’s 2012 Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey, almost 50 percent of manufacturers are seeking to bring on new staff, including engineers, line workers, and skilled trade workers. Yet, despite high unemployment rates in the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers often have more jobs than talented people to fill them. That spells new professional opportunities for high school graduates who want to innovate, make products that are used all over the world, and leverage their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training.

ThomasNet is inviting the manufacturing community to show support for the new Scholarship Program by signing up for any one of ThomasNet.com’s free newsletters such as the new IMT Career Journal.  For each new subscription, ThomasNet will make a contribution (up to $30,000) to the Scholarship Program.

To be eligible for the ThomasNet North American Manufacturing Scholarships, applicants must be graduating U.S. high school seniors or Canadian secondary students who plan to major in engineering, supply chain management/business operations, or learn a skilled trade. Interested students and educators can find out more about the scholarship by visiting ThomasNet.com and applying directly at www.thomasnetscholarship.com. The application deadline is July 1, 2013.

For more information, visit: www.thomasnet.com/scholarship

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 12:05

US Manufacturing Needs a Brand Makeover

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Eileen Markowitz, Thomas Industrial Network

When I was growing up, it seemed like everyone believed that United States manufacturers made the greatest products in the world. From our home appliances to our cars, we all chose Made in America products for their quality and their value. No other country put as much pride, innovation, and workmanship into their design, and looking elsewhere wasn’t even an option.

U.S. manufacturing was a flagship of our economy, and nothing could knock it from its pedestal -- or so we thought.

Of course, the sentiment has changed since then as the economy has grown more global, and countries like China compete on price. But the pendulum is swinging back -- or should I say forward -- as Made in America quality once again becomes a status symbol for consumers and a competitive advantage for manufacturers here at home.

My company recently conducted its annual Industry Market Barometer® survey of U.S. manufacturers on the growth and outlook of the industrial sector as well as strategies companies are employing to get there. The findings confirm this transformation.

In the end, we heard from more than 1,600 manufacturers, and nearly eight out of 10 of them indicated that they expect growth this year.

By standing behind their Made in America quality, these manufacturers are even taking back business from the Chinese. They’re borrowing a page from the playbook of The Rodon Group of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, an injection molder of small plastic parts. A few years ago, when they sensed Chinese competitors gaining ground, Rodon launched an online “Cheaper than China” campaign to focus on their American manufacturing values. Within two years, their sales jumped more than 30%.

These companies never lost sight of the glory of American manufacturing, and now the world is coming to share their point of view.

Our research shows that U.S. manufacturers are entering new markets, expanding into new regions, and increasing their exports. With their gears fully in motion, American companies are looking to hire more workers to meet new market demand.

And that’s where this engine of economic growth suddenly starts to sputter.

Our research supports what we are all seeing every day: Despite an unemployment rate of close to 8%, manufacturing jobs are going unfilled. Nearly half of our respondents want to bring in line workers, skilled trade workers, and engineers. But the people who are qualified for these jobs are either untrained, or uninterested.

This is a symptom of a larger problem. Despite the resurging interest in U.S. products, American manufacturing is in need of a brand makeover.

The Changing Face of U.S. Manufacturing

While Americans are proud of the quality of our products, many have a far different perception of manufacturing jobs. They see manufacturing as “dead,” lacking opportunities or challenges, and even as dirty or “undesirable” work. They’re blind to the reality that today’s manufacturing jobs blend design with technology and robotics, and many pay extremely well.

With shop classes disappearing and families and educators pushing students of all abilities toward a bachelor’s degree, however, younger generations have no opportunity to be exposed to the rewards of a manufacturing career.

Respondents to our survey are vocal about this issue. They stress the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula, along with support for technical and vocational schools. One of them notes that we must “get the message out that manufacturing isn’t dead in the U.S.; it has just gone high-tech.”

It’s gratifying to hear from individuals like Tracy Tenpenny, vice president of sales and marketing with Tailored Label Products (TLP) in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

Tracy advocated for TLP’s sponsorship of a program called Second Chance Partners, which helps high school students to gain manufacturing skills. Many of these students come from challenging backgrounds, and they are at risk of not finishing high school. Through Second Chance, they continue working toward their diplomas while beginning to learn a trade. TLP actually installed a classroom at their plant so that these students can continue their academics there for two hours a day. The rest of the time, they are working at TLP and other area manufacturers. TLP is not only introducing them to a new profession; the company has hired two of these students.

Rodon, too, has innovated to develop a solution. The company formed a consortium of about 50 local manufacturers. Together, these firms have approached two-year colleges and trade schools in their area, asking them to send graduates their way. Not only does this help Rodon and neighboring companies to grow; it’s a competitive advantage for the schools, who are able to demonstrate a return on their training. In addition, consortium members are presenting at middle schools and high schools to ignite students’ interest in manufacturing.

These are just two of many examples of manufacturers who are taking the initiative to help their industry make a comeback. Families, educators, associations, government, and businesses are all stepping up. We were gratified to endorse National Manufacturing Day, another wonderful example, with manufacturers opening their doors to students and their families, and associations offering insights and resources to aspiring and current manufacturers alike.

U.S. manufacturers, after all, have a passion for their industry. Eight out of 10 of those we surveyed would choose their industries all over again, and they want to share their enthusiasm with the next generation. Great things are possible when bright, ambitious young people have the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge to real-world applications, and contribute meaningfully to the growth of a company, a sector – and ultimately the economic vitality of our nation. To engage this new generation, we must restore -- and elevate -- the U.S. manufacturing brand.

Eileen Markowitz is president of Thomas Industrial Network, an information and technology company that connects manufacturing and industrial buyers and sellers.

For more information, visit: www.thomasnet.com/pressroom/Industry_Market_Barometer.html

ThomasNet, a free platform for supplier discovery and sourcing of components, equipment, MRO products, raw materials and custom manufacturing services, was formally re-launched during IMTS 2012.

The new ThomasNet offers users an even wider range of content, tools and resources. Engineers, purchasing professionals, and facilities managers can quickly find suppliers, source products, and access CAD models and product news.

New to the ThomasNet platform is Product Search which enables users to find the specific components and products they are looking for.  

Thomas’ team of content engineers has aggregated detailed information and line item detail for over 100 million parts from over 30,000 suppliers. Product Search allows users to specify the product they are looking for using groundbreaking taxonomy-powered search and navigation features.  Specifiers can find the product that meets their requirements by defining precise product attributes such as applications, materials, dimensions and tolerances.  

The new site also makes it easier for buyers to find local suppliers, quality certified suppliers, and companies that meet their supplier diversity requirements. Whether they’re searching for women-owned businesses, an ISO certified custom manufacturer, or nearby distributors the new ThomasNet makes it easier to hone in on exactly what they need and create a supplier short list.

“We make it our business to understand the challenges our users face when sourcing, and the new ThomasNet.com is designed to address them.  Product Search combines semantic search technology with curated content to create an unparalleled sourcing tool,” said Tom Greco, Vice President of ThomasNet.  “Product Search is a perfect companion to our improved supplier directory and 2D/3D CAD model library,” added Mr. Greco.

The new ThomasNet platform includes a suite of applications including:

  • Supplier Directory –Over 610,000 suppliers including multi-media company profiles
  • CAD Library – Millions of downloadable 2D/3D models and drawings from leading industrial product component OEMs
  • ThomasNet News - the latest product, company and industry news
  • Job Board – to help find your first or next job
  • Deal of the Day – Big savings on electronics, office supplies and business services
  • Purchasing Tools – Free RFQ Event management and Contract management tools

“When engineers and procurement professionals experience a demo of ThomasNet.com, they immediately ask how much it costs. Their expectation is that access to ThomasNet, which is a free service, requires a large investment, which further highlights the value they see in the platform”, said Mr. Greco.

ThomasNet, part of Thomas Industrial Network, Inc. is the Internet’s pre-eminent sourcing and supplier discovery and selection platform for OEM, MRO and other products and services. The platform serves procurement professionals, engineers, plant and facility management and other buyers from corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, the military and small businesses. It also serves manufacturers, distributors, and service companies throughout North America who want to connect and do business with these buyers.

Additionally, Thomas Industrial Network includes: the Navigator Platform, a proprietary technology that helps industrial companies leverage their product information and data to increase sales; and Enterprise Solutions that enable companies to create and manage digital product data which can be syndicated to a variety of platforms.

For more information, visit: www.thomasnet.com

Thursday, 07 June 2012 10:50

ThomasNet.com’s Industry Market Barometer

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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 ThomasNet.com’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 ThomasNet.com’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 ThomasNet.com’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: www.thomasnet.com/imb

Faced with stiff competition in niche markets, industrial marketers are “working and spending smarter” to win new business in 2012, according to new research from Thomas Industrial Network. Rather than wasting limited resources trolling for leads, they are increasing their investments in online strategies that will reach the most qualified prospects, especially improvements to their own websites.

In its January 2012 The Industrial Marketer® quarterly survey Thomas asked product and custom manufacturers, distributors and service companies about their marketing challenges, goals and spending plans for 2012. Nearly half (41 percent) of the 2,500 respondents cited “marketing to qualified prospects in a niche market” as their top challenge, and generating high quality leads and new customers as their top goals. To reach these prospects, eight out of 10 (80 percent) will update or completely overhaul their websites this year, and more than half (55 percent) will increase their budgets for this purpose.

“For industrial companies, one good lead is more valuable than a fistful of ‘non-starters.’ Quality wins over quantity every time,” said Susan Orr, Senior Director, Strategic Marketing, at Thomas.  “Companies with a robust online marketing strategy, including content-rich websites, are in the best position to attract the most qualified leads, and to anticipate and answer the questions that everyone involved in the purchasing decision is likely to have.”

In response, industrial companies are making a definitive shift in their marketing strategies. Indeed, five out of six of their top strategies now involve online marketing.  In addition to website updates, these strategies include search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM/PPC), e-mail marketing, and vertical search, including a presence on ThomasNet.com, the website for supplier discovery and sourcing of industrial and MRO products and services.

“A content rich website acts as a lynchpin to a comprehensive online marketing strategy. Suppliers should be sure that these sites offer the kind of content that will engage prospects and guide them toward a buying decision, from online catalogs and CAD drawings, to information on their firms’ capabilities,” said Ms. Orr.

One company that can attest to the importance of an effective website is Astro Manufacturing & Design, Inc., a custom machining and fabricating company based near Cleveland, OH.  Astro saw a 20 percent increase in qualified RFQs, achieved double-digit revenue growth, and secured one of the largest accounts in its history after launching its site and retooling its Internet strategy. “Our new website is our primary driver of new business leads, bringing us highly qualified prospects from all over the country,” said Rich Peterson, Vice President of Business Development, Astro.

To download a copy of the research brief, visit: results.thomasnet.com/IndustrialMarketingTrends.html

Thomas Industrial Network® will host two, free, 30-minute webinars for custom manufacturers and service providers, sharing best practices for using the Internet to attract more qualified prospects and grow their businesses.

The online events will be held at 10:30am EST September 8, 2011 and 2:00pm EST September 13, 2011.

During the webinars, Industrial Engineer Shana Stein from Thomas Industrial Network will demonstrate how custom manufacturers can take advantage of the Internet to address their unique needs, so that more qualified buyers and engineers can find their products and services. Among the examples is Industrial Grinding, Inc., a Dayton-based custom machine shop specializing in precision grinding and metalizing. The business survived the contraction of the automotive market, but struggled to build a customer base outside of its traditional 100-mile radius.

Industrial Grinding is an early adopter of Thomas Industrial Network’s new offering, Custom SPEC, specifically created for custom manufacturers. With it, they rebuilt Industrial Grinding’s website from the buyer’s point of view. It anticipates every detail an engineer would need in order to pre-qualify Industrial Grinding as a vendor, and ultimately place a Request For Quote (RFQ). The centerpiece of the new website is a portfolio of prior experience, clearly conveying the shop’s range of capabilities with the same vocabulary and keywords any prospect in search of custom grinding services would. This helps Industrial Grinding’s website to move up to the top of search engine results for specific terms like “vertical grinding turbines.”

A second important piece of the Internet strategy is to bring new prospects to Industrial Grinding, by replicating the new website on ThomasNet.com, the Internet’s leading sourcing and supplier discovery and selection platform. Reaching millions of visitors per month, Industrial Grinding’s presence there is amplified through quick links in all the categories where management wants to conduct business, helping to increase its exposure and enter new markets.

This new Internet strategy has brought so many qualified visitors to Industrial Grinding’s website that the company now fields about a dozen qualified RFQ’s and more than 20 phone calls each week from across North America - a record number of inquiries for the company. As a result, Industrial Grinding is increasing production capacity and staff.

Ms. Stein will also share the experiences of other custom shops, including Perfection Spring and Stamping and Keats Manufacturing, both of Greater-Chicago. These companies also grew their businesses and project future growth since implementing a new Internet strategy.

To learn more from your peers on how to grow your custom business, click here to register for the webinar.

From upgrading facilities to buying technology, industrial companies are confidently investing in their businesses to build upon a period of sustained growth, according to the results of ThomasNet's newest Industry Market Barometer™ (IMB).

Nearly half (45 percent) of the companies responding report growth over the last six months of 2010, and 88 percent of those are confident in their future expansion. The survey reveals a set of specific strategies that fueled this growth, from customer retention efforts to movement into new markets and product development. Bolstered by the results of these strategies, respondents are investing more in their companies and recruiting talent in anticipation of increased customer demand.

Nearly 3,400 professionals participated in the latest IMB, a survey of buyers and sellers of industrial products and services, most of whom represent small and midsize businesses. The research looks at their performance, outlook, and strategies for success. Respondents include business owners and managers, sales and marketing executives, engineers, and purchasing agents from manufacturers, distributors and service companies in North America.

"Industrial buyers and sellers are busy collaborating in a way that is feeding and sustaining the sector's growth, which bodes well for the overall economy," said Eileen Markowitz, President, Thomas Industrial Network. "Successful companies are executing strategies that cultivate existing customer relationships and develop new business opportunities. Our data also shows that they're relying heavily on the Internet to improve the effectiveness of these strategies."

Core Strategies Drive Growth and Confidence

Despite the healthy growth being reported, survey respondents acknowledge the hurdles ahead of them. Interestingly, their initiatives and investments speak directly to their obstacles.  Their top challenge (cited by 68 percent) is customers cutting back or going out of business, and they are addressing it by focusing on customer retention and service. Domestic competition is another challenge which respondents are tackling by competing more aggressively in core markets, and pursuing business in new industries and US geographies.

One example of a company that has used these strategies to succeed is Perfection Spring & Stamping Corp., a custom manufacturer of springs and wire forms, which recently received several project orders from the innovative automaker, Tesla. This win, in Perfection's core automotive marketplace, comes as the company works to rebuild after the recession, when it experienced many customer losses. Perfection Spring has placed increased emphasis on customer service and bringing in new clients, leading to steady month-on-month growth.  

Confidence Leads to Further Investment

Respondents' priority initiatives through June 2011 demonstrate an expectation of increased demand. Two subsets of respondents emerge in this fourth IMB. The first are "Outperformers," defined as those companies that not only grew in the last half of 2010 but also expect further growth by June 2011. A second group, "Optimists," also expect growth by June 2011, despite business staying the same or declining in the last half of 2010. Companies from both segments are setting priorities and making investments – positioning themselves for more growth ahead.

Their top priorities include increasing production capacity, adding new lines of products and services, upgrading facilities, and managing their costs. Their investments map to these strategies. For example, most are spending on technology, such as software, for areas such as cost management. To ratchet up production capacity or develop more products/services, they are investing in capital equipment.

The companies surveyed are also hiring in anticipation of growth; 37 percent of respondents plan to hire through the first half of 2011. The most common job openings align with their priorities and include skilled trade workers (43 percent), line workers (36 percent), and engineering professionals (35 percent), in addition to customer service and sales/marketing staff.

"With our company's double-digit growth continuing, we're investing in new capital equipment and facilities, and hiring for positions across the enterprise, from engineers to warehouse personnel. We're also adding 45,000 square feet to our facility, more than doubling the size of our 35,000-square-foot building," said Brandon Plock, Sourcing Team Leader, Field Fastener, a global distributor of fasteners.  

Internet Fuels the Fire

Industrial businesses are recognizing that investing in a more strategic use of the Internet, in particular, their websites, is enabling their strategies to succeed. This is especially evident among the "Outperformers." Nine out of 10 say their Web strategies have been important to their expansion, delivering increased revenue, new sources of business, an ability to compete more aggressively, and improved service.

"Our new Internet strategy has enabled us to better compete in our core markets while building a pipeline of new prospects," said Joshua Kahn, Executive Vice President, Perfection Spring & Stamping Corp. The custom manufacturer is bringing in the highest-quality leads it's ever had, even when the organization had 18 sales agencies around the country.

Looking Ahead

"We're excited to see continued growth and investments in the industrial sector," said Ms. Markowitz. "The information we've gathered from thousands of businesses demonstrates that their strategies are paying off. These companies provide affirmation of a winning formula for industry's future success."

To view and download the full results of the latest IMB, visit: www.thomasnet.com/pressroom/Industry_Market_Barometer0711.html

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