Manufacturing Outlook

Manufacturing and Distribution Outlook: New survey says “economic uncertainty” is one of the top challenges to growth in the manufacturing and distribution industries. Download the report to view statistics and trends.

Industry trends

Annual Survey Reveals Lingering Uncertainty in Manufacturing and Distribution

  • 8/2/2012

While “overall economic uncertainty” remains one of the top challenges to growth in the manufacturing and distribution industries, companies are remaining profitable and many are growing, according to an annual survey conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen. It’s just one of the insights contained in the second annual Manufacturing and Distribution Outlook report.

A follow-up to the benchmark survey conducted in 2011, the 2012 Manufacturing and Distribution Outlook report offers a snapshot of the manufacturing and distribution industries as companies continue to improve performance and profitability in a lackluster economic climate.

“Manufacturers and distributors have been facing these challenges for several years and have shown great resiliency,” said Erik Skie, CliftonLarsonAllen’s managing partner for manufacturing and distribution. “The current uncertainty is creating risks but also opportunities for forward-thinking leaders. Even smaller manufacturers are seeing opportunities beyond the U.S. market and are targeting exports for growth in the coming years.”

Survey covers many issues

Early in 2012, more than 350 manufacturing and distribution executives from 25 states offered their thoughts on a wide range of topics related to the business climate and their strategies for success. Although their answers reveal ongoing concerns with the slow growth of the U.S. economy, executives said their companies are remaining profitable through a combination of cutting costs and increasing revenue. The past year has also seen a significant increase in the number of manufacturing and distribution companies looking for, and benefitting from, growth outside of the United States.

Health care reform also remains a concern as executives begin to better understand what it means for their businesses.

Survey questions covered a broad range of topics, including strategies for growth and profitability, international issues, taxes, and health care. Participants were also asked what they are doing to increase viability and remain profitable.

2012 findings

More than half of the manufacturing and distribution leaders responding to the survey said “overall economic uncertainty” is tempering investment and is one of their top challenges for growth.

  • Health care costs remain one of the top concerns (as it was in 2011).
  • Leaders of large companies (100+ employees) said they are most concerned with “finding and retaining good employees” (81 percent) and a “shortage of skilled workers” (68 percent).
  • Nearly half of the manufacturing and distribution leaders surveyed (46 percent) said their growth strategy is focused on increasing domestic sales.
  • While 41 percent of companies said they are not currently exporting, 55 percent said they are (an increase from 45 percent in 2011). Another 4 percent said they will start exporting in the next two years.
  • The most frequently mentioned tax strategies that companies have investigated are energy-related tax incentives (17 percent). However, most of these companies are not implementing the incentives they have investigated.

“We are encouraged by the overall trends revealed in this year’s study,” says Skie. “The manufacturing and distribution industries continue to do what it takes to survive and thrive despite the uncertainty in the marketplace.”


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