Robots on the rise
30 percent of Wisconsin manufacturers responding to a recent Schenck SC study reported they currently use robotics in their production process, but that number is expected to grow to 47 percent in the next 12 to 36 months. More than half of the respondents using robotics use them for machining. One-quarter of the respondents use robotics for assembly and one-quarter use them for welding. Just over one-sixth use them for performing tasks requiring exacting specifications and material handling associated with machine tending.
A half glass of optimism
The indicators are a mixed bag when it comes to the health of the economy overall and the manufacturing sector in particular. Unemployment numbers continue to fall and employers are desperate to attract the talent needed to keep pace. Yet, sales, shipments and inventories continue to bump along from month to month. Perhaps it’s just a summer swoon. Or, maybe everyone just needed to catch their breath.
The latest data from the Census Bureau on durable goods, manufacturers’ shipments, inventories and orders show some dips after a few months of increases news. According to the May data released in mid-June:
• New orders for manufactured durable goods in May decreased $5.3 billion or 22% to $230.7 billion. This decrease, down following two consecutive monthly increases, followed a 3.3% April increase.
• Shipments of manufactured durable goods in May, down three of the last four months, decreased $0.5 billion or 0.2% to $231.7 billion. This followed a 0.4% April increase.
Orders go unfulfilled
• Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in May, up four of the last five months, increased $2.0 billion or 0.2% to $1,139.4 billion. This followed a 0.6% April increase.
• Inventories of manufactured durable goods in May, down 10 of the last 11 months, decreased $1.1 billion or 0.3% to $382.5 billion. This followed a 0.4% April decrease. Machinery, down nine of the last 10 months, led the decrease, $0.5 billion or 0.8% to $65.4 billion.