Survey: Most Manufacturers Optimistic, but Struggle Finding Talent

Most manufacturers are optimistic about their sales coming up in 2019, according to a survey of more than 350 manufacturers by Leading Edge Alliance, an association of accounting and consulting firms.

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Most manufacturers are optimistic about their sales coming up in 2019, according to a survey of more than 350 manufacturers by Leading Edge Alliance, an association of accounting and consulting firms.

"Across the board, manufacturers are optimistic about the regional economy, sector growth, and increasing revenue expectations in 2019," according to a press release from Leading Edge Alliance. "Looking ahead, manufacturers expect raw materials, labor costs, lack of available talent, and competition to be significant hurdles in 2019. The tariffs implemented by President [Donald] Trump provide productivity issues; however, an increase in spending on Big Data and business intelligence are delivering innovative technology for minimizing productivity concerns."

Of the manufacturers surveyed, 81 percent predicted their revenue to increase in 2019, while 61 percent were optimistic about the sector overall expanding. Despite political uncertainty, optimism for regional and national economics has increased by about 12 percent.

The most challenging part of the business manufacturers are facing this year is finding skilled labor: 52 percent say this is their greatest barrier to growth, followed by competition (35 percent) and profitability (25 percent). In terms of labor, 62 percent have responded by increasing pay, 39 percent by implementing other retention strategies, and 35 percent using internal training programs.

Three key growth strategies manufacturers are using to keep their heads above water are familiar in the business world: acquisition of new technology, mergers and acquisitions, and talent management. In terms of mergers and acquisitions in particular, 21 percent are considering acquiring another business, and 16 percent are in the early stages of a merger or acquisition.

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