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Mar 09 2012

Survey: Distributors, manufacturers more optimistic regarding economy

More middle-market manufacturers and distributors report encouraging growth within their own companies and the industry as a whole, which has increased the level of optimism many industry executives hold with regards to the overall economy.

McGladrey released the results of its Manufacturing and Distribution Monitor survey for winter 2012, which polled executives for mid-size companies in those industries on a range of economic concerns. The report revealed that 45 percent of respondents say their companies thrived throughout 2011, a percentage that was comparable to figures from 2007.

Similarly, 59 percent of survey respondents reported general optimism regarding the U.S. economy, an impressive 146 percent improvement from the fall survey, when only 24 percent expressed optimism. As a result, 60 percent of participants say they plan to hire more workers to meet increasing demand, though many acknowledge difficulty in finding qualified applicants.

"The need for a skilled workforce could be one of the greatest impediments to growth for U.S. manufacturers and distributors, and makes it difficult to compete in the global market," said Karen Kurek of McGladrey.

The survey may demonstrate how growing demand for manufacturing and distribution services puts pressure on these organizations to either find and train more workers, or to invest in technology to increase the productivity of the workers already in place.

One technology consideration, for example, may be to upgrade or replace existing inventory and distribution software. Some systems can automatically forecast sales trends, evaluate vendor lead times, and suggest and create purchase orders to more accurately match product mix with sales demand. As a result, the need for additional purchasing hires may eliminated, and, by improving the match between product supply and demand, businesses can support increased sales with the same amount of inventory, thus increasing cash flow.