Encouraged by a stronger U.S. economy and increased corporate spending, business leaders are optimistic about industry growth in 2004, a new study shows. 63 percent of US manufacturers have a positive outlook for the future and believe their industry will improve in the coming year, according to a national survey of manufacturers released today.
The study also found investing in new automation technologies to be a top priority for corporations. More than half (61 percent) of respondents say their company is either in the process of investing in new automation technologies, or will be sometime this year.
"Technology spending is back because companies have a reason to invest in technology now more than ever," said Bill Zadrozny, CEO, Siemens Financial Services, Inc. "Companies see a pickup in the demand for business equipment, they see consumer spending continue at a very high level, they see the economy improving, so they're investing in new technologies to improve productivity, increase efficiency, and increase capacity."
Siemens, a leading technology company, sponsored the survey to shed light on attitudes shaping today's manufacturing industry. The company recently began touring the U.S. with the Siemens technology train, a 1,000-ft. exhibition on rails that shows how automation technologies can help U.S. manufacturers stay competitive. The 14-car train, called the "Exider," is outfitted with an impressive array of high technology and is visiting 10 cities coast to coast.
"Investment in automation goes right to the bottom line and with that increased bottom line, companies have the ability to expand their businesses," Zadrozny said. "It's a virtuous cycle and as they expand their businesses, it will create those jobs we've been looking for these last two years."
In addition to increased profit margins, respondents of the survey also linked automation technologies to the potential for increased sales. Automation technologies, such as those on the Exider, can help manufacturers hold down costs, which in turn could help them lower their bids and win new contracts. In addition, respondents noted that raising productivity and increasing capacity through automation also could attract new customers.
The Exider train demonstrates how automation technology is transforming today's industrial workplace, with simulated applications in the pharmaceutical, chemical, and automotive industries, among others. Individual cars showcase such themes as process and discrete manufacturing, machine tool components, commercial and residential power distribution, and engineering services.
The Siemens technology train pulls into New York City's Grand Central Station on March 24, the latest stop on a world tour that has attracted nearly 100,000 visitors in 15 countries. Prior stops include Chicago, Atlanta, and Greer, SC. Next up are Boston, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
A Closer Look at The Survey Results
- Another positive economic trend revealed by the survey: Almost half (49 percent) of the business leaders polled say they are expanding their businesses this year, compared to only 11 percent who say they are downsizing.
- Manufacturers see automation technology as having the greatest positive impact on manufacturing in the year ahead. Nearly three-fourths of respondents believe their competitors are investing in new manufacturing or automation technologies.
- Respondents say the biggest issues facing their industries are pricing pressures (18 percent) and cost cutting (16 percent). Production efficiency is seen as the key to success, with two thirds (65 percent) saying more efficient production systems will help their companies win new business or increase sales.
- Business leaders believe the high-tech equipment industry will see the biggest growth in 2004-05. Healthcare and computer technology are seen as the strongest emerging industries.
- By region, manufacturers say that the Southeast and Southwest have the most positive outlook for 2004-05, while the Pacific Northwest has the weakest.
76 phone interviews between February 20, 2004, and March 3, 2004 were conducted with business leaders in the manufacturing and automation industries. Respondents work in a wide range of industries, including automotive, oil and gas, packaging, publishing, plastics, dairy, cosmetics, consumer products, biotechnology and semiconductor.
Siemens is a global electronics and engineering company.