In Q3 2022, CompanyWeek writers profiled 81 manufacturers across Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, and Utah. These organizations included contract manufacturers, materials producers, companies specializing in tech and automation, and numerous OEMs and brands across a range of industries. In the telling of their manufacturing stories, CompanyWeek also focused on the current challenges, needs, and opportunities these businesses are experiencing.
The resultant data offers a snapshot of the ever-evolving U.S. manufacturing economy. And while the impact of challenges and needs was nearly universal, the manufacturers our writers interviewed all identified significant opportunities for growth. Below is a summary of the top challenges and needs cited by the manufacturers we featured along with a closer look at the opportunities currently developing post-pandemic.
In Q3 2022, supply chain and workforce continued as the most often mentioned challenges by manufacturers. That said, the impact of these factors has diminished a bit since Q2, with the percentage of manufacturers dealing with supply chain challenges decreasing by 19 percent and workforce challenges decreasing by 6 percent. Both managing growth and market uncertainty increased as challenges in Q3 as compared to Q2 (by 4 percent and 2 percent respectively). Market education popped into the top five this quarter, supplanting pricing.
Workforce was the most-cited need among the companies CompanyWeek profiled in Q3 2022. But that's nothing new. In fact, a need for additional employees has held the top spot nearly every quarter since we started tabulating this data in Q1 of 2017. (It was briefly supplanted by finance/funding needs in Q4 of 2020). That said, the percentage of companies citing workforce as a need fell slightingly in Q3 as compared to Q2 (by 7 percent), as did the number in need of finance/funding (by 4 percent), and equipment (by 1 percent). The need for real estate/space, on the other hand, increased by 3 percent.
Growing market was the most-cited opportunity in Q3 2022, a spot it has held consistently since Q1 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it remains a strong positive for many of the companies we profiled this quarter, opportunities as a result of a growing market fell 12 percent from Q2. New market opportunities seem to have picked up the slack, however. While 18 percent of the companies profiled in Q2 cited new markets as an opportunity, that number increased 13 percent in Q3 to 31 percent. Opportunities in new products also increased from Q2 (by 3 percent). New partners held steady, and managing growth replaced market or product leadership.
While this data is interesting on its own, an argument for the growing strength of the U.S. manufacturing ecosystem becomes only more compelling when we examine the trends revealed through our profiled manufacturers' anecdotes -- perhaps most notably, reshoring and exports.
Don Theriault, president of contract manufacturer Industrial Tool, Die, and Engineering in Tucson, Arizona, told CompanyWeek that his company is capitalizing on a growing awareness of the need for back-up suppliers among OEMs.
"Tier Ones have relooked at their supply base to try to see why they've had so many disruptions," says Theriault. "A lot of it might be from being stuff that was offshored. Or even stuff that was made in the U.S. that didn't have a second source ready to go at a moment's notice to produce the parts. Aerospace parts are long lead items, be it the materials or the processes involved. It's not like you can flip a switch and get parts tomorrow. Some of our larger OEM customers have decided to [invest in] second sourcing options."
Kevin Shipley, president of contract manufacturer One Source Manufacturing in Leander, Texas, is also optimistic about the reshoring of manufacturing.
"A lot of manufacturing is coming back to the United States," says Shipley. "A lot of people are realizing that you can't solely rely on foreign countries to do your manufacturing. We're seeing that in the semiconductor industry. There are some really good signs in that industry that we're bringing those jobs back to the United States."
Steve Macias, president and CEO of contract manufacturer Pivot Manufacturing in Phoenix, Arizona, plans to capitalize in the growth of semiconductor manufacturing -- a product that has traditionally been produced overseas -- in his company's home state.
"Taiwan Semiconductor did a worldwide search for a location to build their new fab plant, and they settled on North Phoenix," Macias says. "I mean, this thing is a $25 billion investment. And not only is that plant going in, but all the support system of suppliers [will need to be] there. There's going to be a lot of opportunity because that's a lot of equipment. And a lot of that equipment [requires] very precise machined parts."
Brad Mountz, president and CEO of torque tool manufacturer Mountz Inc. in San Jose, California, has his eye on the potential of exports.
"We certainly feel like international growth is a huge opportunity for us," Mountz says. "It's sort of a wind at the sail kind of thing. The trends are in the right direction, as far as our business continuing to grow."
Jerry Hanna, president and CEO of Clearflow Group in Phoenix, Arizona, shares this optimism. He says the gel flocculant manufacturer is poised to continue rolling out its products into the international arena. So far, the company has established presences in England and Brazil, and is poised to expand into other markets in the near-term including Mexico.
Dave Staheli, president and CEO of equipment manufacturer Staheli West in Cedar City, Utah, also notes that exports are a significant growth driver for his company.
"We don't have a huge worldwide presence, but we do have a worldwide effect. We're in seven or eight different countries now, and some of them in a smaller way. Australia is our next largest market to the United States, with about 15 to 20 percent of our sales going there."
Angela Rose is executive editor of CompanyWeek. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She'd love to help you tell your company's manufacturing story in one of our regional publications.