U.S. manufacturers are experiencing growth and are confident about their futures, with plans to restore their industry to its earlier glory, according to the latest Industry Market Barometer (IMB), ThomasNet.com's annual survey of North America's industrial market.
With responses from almost 4,000 North American professionals, the IMB found that more than half of the companies grew in 2011, and 75% expect to grow further this year. For product and custom manufacturers, the top growth markets for 2012 are fabricated metals, aerospace and defense, and automotive.
The growth is igniting a new wave of investments among manufacturers — spending on capital equipment, hardware, software and facilities. More than eight in 10 plan to increase production capacity.
Along with the growth, manufacturers are pushing to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector, according to ThomasNet.com, by creating jobs at home, doing business with U.S. suppliers, and expressing pride in American quality.
They are combating pricing pressures from overseas competition, responding to China's ability to pay lower wages and charge less for products by putting emphasis on American quality. "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 for The Rodon Group in Hatfield, Pa., which makes injection molders. "Our customers have seen that offshoring increases the risk of poor quality control. By maintaining the quality inherent to U.S. product, and keeping our prices competitive with China's, we continue to expand."
Almost all respondents (just under 90%) expressed optimism about future growth in their markets. Nearly 80% said they would go into manufacturing again if they were just starting out. "There is a need for excitement to be found in creating something tangible, from engineering and design to the finished product," said one respondent.