Those Who Know, Know Something

Sept. 11, 2004
Some future indicators are obvious, as long as you recognize them.

As we planned this issue it was pointed out to me that we had an unusually large stock of new products to announce. We typically get about six or seven of these announcements every day, but to be honest only a few are worth keeping on file. At this time, however, there are more than we usually accumulate.

We decided to include as many as possible in this issue, rather than keep them in backlog and dole them out in the typical two-and-a-half page measures.

While forgers scraped and struggled to achieve profitability in the past several years, their suppliers have been through the same cycle. It’s another reason to give them not just your business, when available, but also your attention. Besides technical expertise, they have insights not always available to forging operators and managers.

We’d like to think that by sending out new product announcements now suppliers are signaling their belief that business is picking up. And, there are other indications.

Not long ago I was sent the results of the 2004 GlobalSpec Industrial Indicator Survey of Engineers, which indicates that the U.S. economy is in the starting stages of a robust expansion, one that may not be entirely “jobless,” as many detractors contend. GlobalSpec is an electronic newsletter aimed at engineers that annually surveys its readers on a range of issues, to gauge their outlook on business conditions.

This year, the survey showed that 30% of the engineers’ employers had added staff in the first half of 2004, an increase of 200% over the same period of 2003. Twenty-five percent of the companies have plans to increase investment for research and development, an increase of over 150% that said they’d be increasing R&D spending last year. Roughly 41% of these companies are expanding their sales initiatives into new markets (over twice as many that reported the same in 2003), and more than half the companies in the survey expect to raise their purchases and contract services spending in the second half of this year.

Keep in mind that these results represent the past six months, but more recent reports confirm the outlook.

The Institute for Supply Management’s national factory index in July rose on data showing strong factory orders and production levels to match. It was the 14th consecutive monthly expansion in the ISM report. An increasing number of analysts are convinced that manufacturers’ investments will begin to take the lead from consumer and government spending, which have been buoying the economy in the past year, and drive a broader economic recovery. As employers add more workers consumer spending will be refueled, and so on.

It makes sense that marketers, designers, and engineers would have a sense for this kind of thing, so just in case you remain skeptical of analysts and their data, try something else: Find a forging industry supplier. Ask someone who knows.