Pulse of the Industry: 20-Second Survey Results Upbeat for End of Year
We asked our members how business is going, what are their expectations, and how are they addressing the challenges we are facing in a “shelter in place” world. Our members are concerned, but their spirits remain high, and their expectations for the future project a strong finish to 2020 leading to a great 2021. USMTO preliminary data on orders placed this past February pointed to an increase of 2%-5% over January levels. Our 20-second survey results note that 56% of members responding saw quotation activity in March at or better than February levels.
Our members don’t expect a quick end to the pandemic, but 44% expect business to be significantly better in six months versus 31% who expect business to be worse. However, only 13% are looking for tough times to continue into 2021, and 73% expect 2021 to show strong order levels as businesses begin to experience substantial growth rates similar to 2017 and 2018 rates. This is very much aligned with the economic outlook presented by Oxford Economics’ Chief U.S. Economist Gregory Daco on March 25,2020 during AMT’s “Economic Webinar–Trade Issues.” Daco noted that the second quarter of 2020 will mark the end of the longest and largest expansion in the U.S. economy ever–129 months. The second longest was the 120-month-run that started in 1991 and finished with the 20th century. Daco went on to note that the U.S. economy will expand in the fourth quarter and grow by 3%-4% in 2021. This would suggest a big bounce in capital spending during the fourth quarter.
So how are members dealing with a market where clients are afraid to see you, your administration staff is working from home, and supply chains are running roughly at best? Members are taking Brian Tracy’s advice on developing a plan: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000% return on energy!” Respondents noted that planning is key – planning how to allocate scarce resources like cash, service people, and time. Some members are taking the time to assess their structure and processes; to assess whether they are as lean as they should be; and developing action plans to get back into business shape.
Members are finding creative ways to keep working on their customer base. With respect to developing revenue generation, some have targeted customers that are in the medical equipment and supply industry as well as a few other industries that are still doing well. They address customers’ concerns about safeguarding their workers’ health by conducting service calls via video conferencing, offering to come into their shops when the staff is gone for the day to do repairs or preventive maintenance on equipment. Members are taking the time to call customers to check in. How is the customer addressing the pandemic? How are their people and families? Are they having supply issues? How are they being productive with their resources?
Members are increasing their cleaning, developing flexible work schedules, and encouraging staff to take online learning modules with companies like LinkedIn Learning, Tooling U-SME, and many more as well as learn from study guides for certification, or even Ivy League university courses for free. Links to the Harvard catalog and an article citing sources for free college-level learning resources during this pandemic are below. Additionally, AMT is putting together a learning center and you will see more about that on this webpage. Take the time you have now and prepare yourself for the market that will emerge from these tough times.