New reports reflect some good economic news, concerns

Recent reports the lack of skilled workers and the uninspiring slow growth of various indexes combine with a prediction of modest salary increases to paint a picture of mixed concerns for businesses related to automation controls and instrumentation. Links to originating organizations are provided.


Recent reports the lack of skilled workers and the uninspiring slow growth of various indexes combine with a prediction of modest salary increases to paint a less than glittering business picture. Lack of skilled workers hurts the economy’s growth, say some manufacturing executives, explaining that
Lack of employee skills are the leading obstacle to growth for Fabtech International & AWS Welding Show including Metalform. Oil prices (cited by 20%) were second, followed by tax policies (11%), weak U.S. dollar (10%), the financial commitment in Iraq (9%), and the credit crisis (7%).
“In many respects, this finding is not surprising as we have heard for many months from leaders in the metalforming, fabricating, and welding industries that their biggest challenge today is finding skilled workers, especially young people, who can tackle the increasingly sophisticated tasks required in manufacturing today,” said John Catalano, show manager at event sponsor Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) . He added that inventor Dean Kamen’s keynote speech at the upcoming exposition will address the issue, and that several seminars will explore the topic.
Also sponsored by the American Welding Society (AWS) , Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Int’l (FMA), and industry partner the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the event in Las Vegas Oct. 6-8 is the largest event in North America dedicated to showcasing metalforming, fabricating, stamping, tube and pipe, and welding equipment and technology.
Executives were asked to name the two best ways to attract greater numbers of young people to manufacturing careers– 58% said competitive wages. More parental and teacher encouragement ranked second at 27%, followed by more relevant science and math programs in high school and college (23%), and greater use of computer and high tech skills (22%).
“Those last three findings underscore the need for our educational system to step up and emphasize curriculum that can better prepare students for positions available today in manufacturing,” said Catalano.
Product innovation and production efficiencies were priorities as well. Some 22% said developing more innovative products and 21% cited improving production efficiencies as the one action companies must take to better compete in the global marketplace. Solutions ranked at 15% each included offering more cost-competitive products and responding more effectively to overseas competition.
The Web-based poll surveyed manufacturers who receive e-newsletters from SME and FMA; 166 executives responded.
North American Business Confidence Indexes rose modestly in August according the NEMA Electroindustry Business Confidence Index (EBCI) . Current North American conditions rebounded in August, rising to 37 from 33.3 in July. The index had declined in each of the two previous months.
The EBCI for future North American conditions reversed the July decline, gaining more than 9 points to go to 40.7. In spite of being at its highest level since February, the under-50 reading continues to signal expected contraction in the sector over the next six months.
The NEMA Index, which gauges business confidence of the electroindustry in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America, is based on results of a monthly survey of senior managers at NEMA member companies, which represent more than 80% of the electroindustry.
The Conference Board reports salary-increase budgets (the pool of money organizations dedicate to salary increases for the coming year) are below 4% for 2008 and 2009. For manufacturing, salary-increase budgets the 2008 and 2009 range from 3.5% to 3.8%.
For all categories, salary-increase budgets average 3.80% in 2008 across non-exempt, exempt, and executive employee categories, while salary increase budgets for non-exempt hourly employees come in at 3.70%. For 2009, the median budget for salary increases is projected at 3.75% for both non-exempt salaried and hourly employees. The median salary increase budget projections for exempt and executive employees are at 3.80% for exempt and 3.90% for executives.
Information was gathered from more than 350 companies surveyed in April and May. Among 250 companies that responded last year and this year, some 35% report lower 2008 salary-increase budgets than they projected last year for executives and exempt employees.
“Companies are responding to a sluggish economy by remaining disciplined on labor cost increases,” said Charles Peck, compensation specialist with The Conference Board. “They are aided in this resolve by moderate inflation.” The Board projects a 2.7% rise in inflation for 2008 and 3.4% for 2009. This means the typical employer is budgeting for salary increases slightly ahead of inflation in 2009.
Across industry categories, Diversified Financial Services reported the highest increases in 2008 for all employee categories, while Trade reported the lowest. The highest projected increase for 2009 was reported by Consulting Services, while Trade was the lowest. Salary Increase Budgets Holding Steady for 2009– Executive Action No. 282, The Conference Board ."
Also read:

Less, more: NEMA cites less confidence; NAM sees more exports of manufactured goods


–  Control Engineering News Desk
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