What Cable Isn't Telling Us

Survey results show that now is a good time for metalworking businesses to look ahead and begin finding new, aggressive ways to claim marketshare. PMTS is an ideal place to start.


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 When you want something done right, it’s often better to do it yourself. That’s a prime motive behind a buying intentions survey recently conducted by our sister publication Modern Machine Shop.

The lack of specific information available from mass media outlets about the economic condition of precision metalworking manufacturing is appalling. My guess is they don’t know or care, but we do.

So instead of a bunch of metalworking editors and reporters sitting around a table debating with each other about what’s really happening in the market, we asked you, and you told us. What a concept!

Our goal with this survey was not to create a definitive document on manufacturing shop plans for the year, but to take a reading on their pulse at this time. The results are encouraging in that they show there is indeed a pulse within our industry.

A lot of the responses we received are from job shops (42.6 percent). When asked if business was growing, stable or slightly declining, 66 percent said they were in one of those conditions. The balance, 33 percent, said their business was significantly declining. This latter number tended to include more of the smallest reporting shops. If cable news was my only source of information, I’d expect those numbers would be flipped, or worse.

We asked about current purchasing plans of metalworking equipment and/or software. The answers came back that 57.7 percent of responders are either in the process of purchasing, actively researching a later purchase or have made a purchase already this year. Timing wise, 24.4 percent of these shops plan to purchase the equipment and/or software they are reseraching within the next 3 months, 26.0 percent within 3 to 6 months, and 55.3 percent plan to buy in the next 7 to 12 months. Obviously, things can change, but the fact is that industrial commerce is happening, and there seems to be sufficient confidence to plan ahead at least to year’s end. Remember, you heard it here first.

So what are these folks specifically in the market for? A brief look at the shopping list shows new machine tools (56.4 percent), workholding equipment (42.9 percent), CAD/CAM and related software (24.3 percent), metrology/inspection equipment (23.6 percent) and shopfloor automation (15.7 percent).

It’s a happy coincidence that these stats are available now because this issue of Production Machining is, as you see, devoted to the Precision Machining Technology Show (PMTS), April 28-30 in Columbus, Ohio. PMTS also happens to be where these items and many others dedicated to the production of precision machined parts are on exhibit along with showfloor demos and classroom technical presentations.

Of course, the economy is certainly the 600-pound gorilla in the room, but our survey shows a majority of responders (80.5 percent), when asked how the economy has affected purchase plans, checked “continuing as planned” or “delayed.” Only 15.6 percent checked “cancelled.” We also asked why they are delaying or canceling, and interestingly, only 1.6 responded “difficulty finding financing.” I read this as a vote of confidence among our industry peers and, more important, a rebuttal of the consumer news sources.

The statistics I’ve given you are only a sample of the complete survey. To see it in its entirety, please visit www.productionmachining.com/09survey. We were encouraged and a little surprised with the responses received.

I believe fear is a contagion, and fear mongers usually have an agenda of their own or are simply ignorant of large segments of the country, including ours. Let’s continue to listen to the beat of our own drummer.

So here’s what I want you to do: Stand up, turn off the TV, and yell at the top of your lungs, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m going to PMTS (after I read this issue)!” I’ll see you there.