The Tortoise and the Hare in 2011 Manufacturing

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2009 was a rough year for our industry. We saw many shops (and friends) struggle as reduced orders and suppressed demand created a feedback loop that looked pretty grim. Then the calendar turned, and 2010 brought with it a dramatic bounce in the stock market and signs of life in manufacturing. So what do we think about 2011?

Two words – watchful optimism. Why? Not because of the impressive growth on wall street. Not because of reports of increasing employment or strong year-end consumer spending. While those things are welcome and positive, they’re also a bit erratic. Constantly up and down, sometimes dramatically so. No, we’re optimistic because in all the chaos and uncertainty of the past two years, our industry – manufacturing – has been plugging away, slowly gaining steam. And manufacturing is a bedrock of a solid economy.

How solid? The Institute for Supply Management index of U.S. manufacturing reports that we’ve seen 17 consecutive months of slow, steady growth. The index has hovered in the mid- and upper-50’s for that time. And while it’s much higher than that in boom times, anything above 50 means growth. Any growth is good, but 17 months of consistent growth – even if it’s modest – is something that builds confidence in what’s to come.

As we all learned when we were kids, sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

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