I've been reading a fair number of press releases and articles about the U.S. economy and its effect on jobs, manufacturing, trade, outsourcing, and other important economic factors, trying to get an idea of how the sensor industry at large is doing. So I was very interested to read GlobalSpec's recent survey of industrial indicators.
If you'd like to read it yourself (it's aimed more at marketers, but there's hay to made for everyone), you can find the PDF here. From the survey, it looks like the companies who participated are holding their own, husbanding their resources, and trying to adapt to the rising costs of raw materials and energy. While 41% have expanded into new markets and some 60% expect this year's revenue to exceed that of last year, 17% of the companies have reduced work schedules and 13% of respondents are working fewer hours. More than 40% are concerned about pricing pressures, the same number is worried about transportation costs. Almost 50% were concerned about rising energy costs and a similar number for raw material costs. When asked to rank the issues, raw materials topped the list, with energy costs following close behind. ("Manufacturers cope with higher materials costs" from The Cleveland Plain Dealer offers a brief overview of how materials costs are hitting some manufacturers.)
So, while it doesn't appear to be time for full-on doom and gloom, things aren't exactly stellar. However, the good news (at least for the sensor industry) is that companies now need their products more than ever. You want to improve efficiency and energy utilization? Then improve how you monitor your processes. You want to minimize waste? You'd better extend your quality checking throughout your production line, to spot errors as early as possible. You want to keep your equipment up and running? If you aren't already investigating condition-based monitoring then I'd suggest you start.
My question to those of you in the sensor industry proper, however, is this: how are you doing? Although there are a handful of very large sensor manufacturers, the bulk of sensor companies are small or mid-sized and are (I suspect) getting hit harder by those spiraling energy, materials, and healthcare costs. Am I right? How much is the low exchange rate helping your overseas sales, if at all? Drop me an email or post a comment and let me know.