What will be the biggest manufacturing trends for 2015? Manufacturing.net sat down with Cliff Waldman, Director of Economic Studies from the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation Foundation to discuss the U.S. economy, manufacturing technologies, and more.
1. What will be the biggest trend impacting the investments manufacturers make in 2015?
Industrial equipment investment, which is essentially the equipment investment made by manufacturers, has been quite strong during the first three quarters of 2014, averaging about 24 percent growth on an annualized basis. The question is to what extent this rapid pace can be sustained into and thru 2015. With U.S. domestic policy being somewhat less uncertain, investment strength in the New Year will depend quite a bit on the perilous state of the global economy-and whether a number of critical regional issues can be resolved. Deflationary concerns in the Eurozone, the continuation of a slowdown in China, an economic crisis brewing with Russia are all risks for business investment and U.S. manufacturing. Their resolution or non-resolution will make a large difference to the U.S. capital investment picture as a whole.
2. There has been a lot of positive news regarding U.S. manufacturing over the last 18 months. Is there one particular report of piece of data that stands out to you? Why?
The strength of U.S. GDP growth during the second and third quarters of 2014, catalyzed by some improvement in equipment investment and exports, sets the stage for the sustainability of moderate manufacturing growth.
3. If you could fast-forward 12 months, what would be the most interesting thing to see or learn about in regards to how manufacturing performs over the next 12 months?
Will the global crises, discussed in my response to question 1, be resolved-or will they have a negative impact on the U.S. economy?
4. Which of the following technologies—3D printing, robotics, enhanced connectivity, or network security—do you think will have the most impact in 2015, and why?
I would say that it’s a tie between 3D printing and network security. The uses and possibilities for additive technology appear to increase every day. And, even more significantly, manufacturers seem to be gravitating from a use of 3D printing for prototyping into 3D for certain areas of production. That’s very significant. On the other hand, cybersecurity grows rapidly as a business concern for manufacturers, who are becoming more aware of the issue. That puts network security on the front burner.
5. If you could give U.S. manufacturers one thing, what would it be?
I would give them a stronger and more stable global economic environment.