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ASQ Survey Results: Unstable Economy Remains Chief Concern for Manufacturers

November 28, 2011
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MILWAUKEE, WI- While 66% of manufacturers expect to experience revenue growth in 2012, many say the recovering economy will remain a major hurdle to operations, according to a recent ASQ survey.

Nearly 1,600 manufacturing professionals from around the world responded to ASQ’s 2012 Manufacturing Outlook Survey, which was conducted online from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4. Respondents represent the aerospace, automotive, food, medical device, pharmaceutical and utility industries, among others.

According to the survey results, more than 70% of respondents say they experienced revenue growth in 2011. In ASQ’s 2011 Manufacturing Outlook Survey conducted in late 2010, 67% had hoped to experience revenue growth in 2011.

Despite the outlook regarding revenue, manufacturers continue to be wary of the global economy, citing the housing market and fears of a double-dip recession. Specifically, some respondents said:

  • “Customers are scared to release purchase orders. They act differently because of the economy.”
  • “Economic conditions are hurting people’s ability to purchase our products.”
  • “The housing market is not recovering in a timely fashion.”

    In addition to fears of the world economy, manufacturers say the lack of a qualified workforce is inhibiting their ability to grow.

    According to the survey results, 44% of respondents say finding qualified applicants is the biggest hurdle to filling vacant positions, while 27% say budget is a biggest hurdle to filling open positions. Twenty-three percent claim time-and the lack thereof-is the biggest hiring hurdle.

    Survey results show few manufacturers think their company will be adversely affected by retirements in 2012.

    On a scale of one to 10, where one is “very unlikely” and 10 is “very likely,” nearly 68% of respondents said retirements were “unlikely” to affect their business, including 26 percent who said retirements were “very unlikely” to affect the organization. Only 9% said retirements were “very likely” to affect the business.

    And when retirees leave, many businesses consider options about refilling the position. According to the survey:

  • 54% of respondents consider the positions on a case-by-case basis.
  • 26% simply hire a new worker to replace the retiree.
  • 18% leave the position unfilled and delegate responsibilities to existing employees.
  • 2% completely dissolve the position and duties.

    When new employees are hired to replace retirees, many companies rely on on-the-job training to help bring the new employee up to the production level of the outgoing retiree. In fact, 87% of respondents say they use on-the-job training, while 5% say their business requires company-provided classroom training, and 2% said they use third-party training, like local colleges or other training providers. The remaining respondents say they use any combination of on-the-job training and classroom training.

    “While many manufacturers are showing improvement and experiencing revenue growth, there remains clear hurdles facing these businesses,” said ASQ CEO Paul Borawski. “Even though companies say retiring baby boomers aren’t adversely affecting their businesses, finding qualified employees is still a concern-one that can affect businesses in this global economy-as retiring employees often leave with a wealth of knowledge not easily replaced.”

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    Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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