MILWAUKEE, WI — Manufacturers are increasingly positive as 2014 comes to a close, with 83 percent expecting revenue growth next year, up from 64 percent of manufacturers who anticipated growth in 2014, according to results of the ASQ 2015 Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

About 75 percent of manufacturers reported actually experiencing revenue growth in 2014, up from 65 percent in 2013.

Manufacturers still face challenges however, with 41 percent citing the economy as their greatest hurdle, followed by the shortage of skilled workers, at 26 percent, according to the survey. Other hurdles identified by respondents include “competition,” “falling crude oil prices,” “managing growth” and “raw materials shortages.”

“Driven by gains in 2014, it’s encouraging to see manufacturers’ positive outlook in revenue growth for 2015,” said ASQ CEO William Troy. “Manufacturing is a key industry of economies worldwide and the use of performance excellence and quality systems can help organizations accelerate their growth by improving efficiencies and increasing customer loyalty.”

ASQ conducts the Manufacturing Outlook Survey annually to gauge manufacturing professionals’ view on the year ahead. Nearly 1,500 manufacturing professionals responded to the survey.

Interest in SR among manufacturers mixed

The 2015 Manufacturing Outlook Survey also asked respondents about their organization’s view of social responsibility — defined in the survey as the responsibility of an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior.

According to the results, 40 percent of manufacturers say their organization fully integrates social responsibility, which is essential to its business strategy, and its pursuit is evident throughout the enterprise. On the contrary, 47 percent say social responsibility is considered only to a limited degree or not considered at all.

Only 3 percent of those who claim their organization is ambivalent to social responsibility plan to develop a social responsibility plan in 2015, with 43 percent citing support from organizational leaders as the greatest hurdle in implementing a social responsibility program. Other hurdles included cost, and access to knowledge or resources, at 21 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Of the 40 percent who say social responsibility is fully integrated in their organization, 31 percent say cost is the greatest hurdle in implementing a social responsibility initiative, with 23 percent citing access to knowledge or resources. Twenty percent said support from employees and leaders is the greatest hurdle, according to the survey.

For those organizations that implement social responsibility throughout the enterprise — of which 57 percent say their organization is doing enough to be socially responsible — improving reputation and brand was named most often as a key driver of the social responsibility program, followed by it being a key value of leadership and customer demand.

There are various quality systems and tools that respondents cite as improving social responsibility, including lean and Six Sigma, and international standards, according to the research.

More expect salary increases in 2015

While 49 percent of respondents to the outlook survey conducted in late 2013 expected a raise in 2014, 69 percent of respondents to the most recent outlook survey expect salary increases in 2015. Twenty-nine percent of respondents expect no increase in salary, while 2 percent expect a salary reduction.

In addition to salaries, 41 percent of respondents expect their organizations to hire additional staff in 2015, while 46 percent anticipate their organization maintaining current staffing levels. Only 13 percent expect a decrease of staff.

Many survey respondents expect an increase in health benefits in 2015, saying they expect the additional costs be passed on to customers or offset by volunteer furloughs or minimal lay-offs. Others say they anticipate an increase in benefits as the economy continues to strengthen.

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