Plenty of directions in market studies

Sometimes, it’s easy to find polls, surveys and reports that support what you think and hope will happen. Other times, those studies tell you it’s time to start making other plans.
But on the U.S. economy, things are so bumpy that it’s tough to tell whether the glass is half full or half empty. Still, it’s never a bad thing to check statistics to see how they quantify whichever view you happen to have on a given day.

One interesting report comes in a survey of 334 manufacturers done by MFG.com, which bills itself as a global sourcing marketplace for the manufacturing industry. By itself, the survey underscores the difficulty of predicting this market.

A solid 34 percent of respondents said they maintained capacity in their plants during the fourth quarter. Though that’s good, it’s far less than the 62 percent who said they’d hold steady during the October survey. On employment, 38 percent had to scale back during the fourth quarter, far more than the 13 percent who said they’d cut back in that timeframe.

Another interesting stat: 35 percent of purchasing professionals experienced a significant supply chain disruption and had to seek alternative sources. Their suppliers don’t seem in any mood to increase production. A whopping 81 percent of supply-side manufacturers identified customer stability as their most important concern.

There is a bright side. In November, U.S. manufacturing technology consumption was up 16% from October, according to the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association and the Association for Manufacturing Technology.

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said that its business barometer jumped up to 60.0 in December, exceeding November’s 56. That was the third straight month above 50, which signals expansion. This indicator hit bottom, at 31, in March.

To see what’s happening in our industry, take a look at our industry data page. It’s updated monthly and provides an excellent supply chain snapshot.

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