Manufacturing technology orders in December highest in 13 years

February 14, 2013
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Those who doubt that U.S. manufacturing is going through a self-sustaining revival may have to think again after the release of industry figures for December.

According to the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), orders in the last month of the year were the highest for 13 years, with member companies reporting a total of $499.43 million placed over the five geographical regions that make up the association. This was an increase of 17.8 percent from November, ensuring a year-end total of $5,705.58 million, a rise of 2.6 percent from 2011.

Each one of the five regions reported increases in December orders, with companies in the Midwest reporting growth of 27.3 percent from November, which equated to $166.19 million in machine tools and related equipment. The other regions experienced varying levels of manufacturing technology orders, ranging from 8.6 percent in the West to 19.1 percent in the South.

“Finishing 2012 with the highest order total in 13 years certainly confirms the renaissance of U.S. manufacturing,” said Douglas K. Woods, AMT president, according to Manufacturing.net. “This also shows the resilience of the industry in the face of GDP contraction in the fourth quarter, along with fiscal and political concerns that have been overshadowing much of the general economy.”

There has also been some debate over whether the principles of lean enterprise have helped propel the U.S. back to the top of the global marketplace, while there has also been a noticeable trend towards bringing production and supply lines back to America. However, a recent editorial by Bloomberg questioned whether there was a need for U.S. manufacturers to accelerate their production to compete in the global space, suggesting that the nation can already go “toe-to-toe with other countries on energy costs, workforce quality and supply networks.”

In his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama intimated that the U.S. could be the “magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,” a sentiment that received a cautious response from companies and markets alike. One aspect of the industry that is not in question is that it leads the world in innovation and attention to quality management in manufacturing, a significant part of the president’s vision for the future.

However some feel Washington, D.C. itself may actually be holding the industry back, with industry leaders believing that the “ripple effect” of increased confidence in the sector is essential for a continued economic recovery, according to Manufacturing.net.

“Manufacturers are urging policymakers to support and enact the pro-manufacturing policies that will spur job creation, provide a skilled workforce and help improve the pace of U.S. economic growth,” commented Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc.