With all the buzz about Tiger Woods, you may not have seen the flurry of reports post FABTECH, such as this one that appeared in today's Rockford Register Star newspaper, that offer glimpses of where metal fabricating companies stand in the recessionary cycle.
According to the article, Farley LaserLab Vice President and General Manager John Johnson and his staff left the 2009 FABTECH International & AWS Welding show including METALFORM "with a bit of bounce in their steps, thanks to the optimism felt from potential manufacturing customers planning for 2010."
"Although Johnson didn't close any deals, he and his staff made about 100 contacts—half of which were new projects that Farley LaserLab can now pursue.
"'Attitudes have definitely shifted,' said Johnson. "Last year, everyone was feeling much more tentative. Although they're still planning for well into next year, they're set on spending the money and trying to decide where to go with their businesses.'"
News like this offers hope to metal manufacturing companies that have struggled throughout the Great Recession—companies such as those that employ the Stamping News Brief subscribers who responded to the November issue's question about where their companies stand in the recession cycle.
A subscriber who works for a company that makes lighting fixtures wrote that the business went to a four-day work week (20 percent pay cut) in October. The company is locking up the factory on Fridays, and its CEO said the reduced work week could last six months. "We've had multiple layoffs and now this pay cut; it's very hard to still come to work." (This subscriber also reported that most of those in his department are looking for other jobs.)
A machinery and equipment appraisal consultant said, "My practice is dependent on the ability of manufacturers to manufacture. To manufacture, those businesses need a friendly lending climate. The climate may sound friendly but the banks appear to be holding funds. I am receiving no calls from clients who are refinancing, expanding, or taking on new projects. I believe that the dull equipment markets support my view.
"I believe that manufacturing, in the USA, will never recover, but that innovation, lean manufacturing, and small business incentives will at least keep us viable."
A subscriber from Minnesota said, "I'm sorry but the recession is still on in my area. Like the last one it will take more than the stock market going up to change the thinking of my customers."
However, one subscriber responded with three little words that were echoed by many FABTECH attendees and exhibitors. This subscriber who works for an Ohio-based manufacturer of specialty hand tools wrote, "Coming back slowly."
Farley's John Johnson knows slowly. In the newspaper article he acknowledged the tortoise-paced speed at which some orders transpire. He said Farley, which sells and services laser-cutting equipment, is days away from finalizing a deal that originated from the 2008 FABTECH show in Las Vegas.
"'When we met them last year, we had no idea who they were,' he said of Farley's customer. 'They came in at the last minute on the last day, and we had a good conversation. They placed an order with us, and although we had to wait out their business slump, we're ready to finish this. That's a good sign.'"
Here's hoping other metal fabricating companies are seeing good signs ahead and coming back, albeit it slowly.
Follow Vicki Bell, fabcomlady, on Twitter.