If your 2011 was good, 2012 will be better
Outlook for automation growth in the U.S. is strong for 2012, and if you’re in a technology business that did well in 2011, you’re likely to do well in 2012 also, suggested Alan Beaulieu, president, Institute for Trend Research (ITR), in a Jan. 19 keynote presentation at the Robotics Industry Forum, AIA Business Conference, and MCA Business Conference, in Orlando, Fla. Beaulieu (and others at the meeting) emphasized that automation helps companies become more efficient. “It will be a good decade for automation,” which helps companies be more productive and efficient even during tough economic times, Beaulieu explained.
Among U.S. concerns, Beaulieu said, debt payments continue to grow within federal budgets, as overspending continues. Now debt is 120% of GDP, the highest since WWII, with no remedy (and none of the large post-war growth potential) in sight, he said. Businesses need to invest now, adding talent and efficiencies to prepare for a possible mild recession in 2014, a larger one in 2019, and a possible depression by 2030.
He supported his views with many graphics and poked fun at many targets including himself and his twin brother and business partner Brian (authors of a book of economic advice, called “Make Your Move”). Beaulieu told robotics, machine vision, and motion control professionals that they need to develop positive leadership modeling, add sales staff, hire top people, and make plans to increase prices. They also should invest in customer market research to find what they value, judiciously expand credit, check distribution systems, and review and uncover competitive advantages, while improving efficiencies.
Beaulieu said automation companies should invest in markets (growing industries, like water and wastewater and regions, such as in the Southwest and Southeast) now that will be strong during the next recession. Also, it helps to understand what stage we’re at in the economic cycle (watch the key indicators and don’t worry). Plan accordingly now for the next stage, and don’t wait until we’re in the next stage before adjusting course, he said. Further:
– Banks and private equity markets have money for investments and businesses should use it strategically.
– Skilled labor challenges will continue as the economy improves, so work with community colleges and expand training initiatives now.
-Exports will continue to help the U.S. economy, though Europe may slow slightly as leaders there institute reforms, avoiding banking and financial firm collapses that we endured.
– China will continue to do well, with much cash on hand, but with 125 million more young men than women, will have increasing demographic challenges and may become less able to lend the U.S. money as we may need it even more in the future.
– Brazil is limiting outside capital investments there, but joint ventures can do well. Advantages are many.
– India, with many starts and stops, will resolve issues and be stronger, long-term.
– Russia continues to have challenges, made worse by short lifespan among men (62) and a birth rate too low to support the population.
– Natural gas will be a strong resource to power industry for many U.S. industries and with additional discoveries; the U.S. could be energy independent within a decade, with leadership.
– Businesses should watch inflation, understated by the U.S. government by 1.5 percentage points. As inflation increases, companies will need to give raises to continue to keep employees happy to deliver good customer service.
– The price of borrowing has been falling for 20 years; if you’re going to buy real estate, do it now while cost of borrowing is low.
– The presidential election won’t have any immediate economic impact on the economy or debt, though fiscal conservatives in the U.S. Senate might.
– Consumer confidence measurements, while perhaps interesting, have little statistical correlation to retail sales.