AMBA survey reveals an upbeat industry

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ROLLING MEADOWS, ILL. (Jan. 23, 4:25 p.m. ET) — The American Mold Builders Association’s quarterly business forecast survey revealed a generally jovial outlook for the present and future of the tooling industry.

Of the 240 AMBA members who participated in the Winter 2012 Business Forecast survey, 25 percent classified current business conditions as “excellent,” up from 15 percent this time last year. While 60 percent said conditions were “good,” no one claimed their business suffered “poor” or “bad” conditions.

As such, nearly half of those surveyed said their quoting and shipments remain comparable to last year’s numbers. Average number of hours shop employees spend on the job each week held at 49, while design and engineering employees spend 48 hours.

AMBA members aren’t only thinking positively about the here and now. Most foresee ongoing success for their businesses.

Thirty-six percent of surveyed members said employment numbers are up in their facilities and remained the same for 62 percent. However, the number of shop employees is reportedly the same as last year with 22, while design and engineering employees stayed at five.

Some employers expressed concern about finding young and qualified help in their workshops. One respondent noted: “We need to find qualified help for taking on larger tooling packages…there doesn’t seem to be anyone interested in moldmaking.” Another respondent said they needed to make more of an effort to attract people to the trade.

Despite this observation, 52 percent predicted that business over the next three months will stay the same, with 35 percent saying it will increase moderately. Not a single employer surveyed believed they would see a substantial decrease in business. Thirty-two percent said profits are up, compared with 24 percent last year. Fifty-four percent said their profits have remained steady.

“We have been hearing recently that business is getting better around the nation,” Shannon Merrill, national chapter coordinator of the AMBA, said. “It usually happens in pockets. They were certainly welcome results.”

The vast majority of mold manufacturers purchased new equipment at some point in 2011, at 82 percent. Of that number, 29 percent said they made the purchases to get the accelerated depreciation set to expire Dec. 31, 2011. Of those who purchased new equipment, 34 percent spent under $100,000 and a small minority, 4 percent, said they spent over $1 million.

Rolling Meadows-based AMBA represents nearly 300 member companies made up of about 9,000 employees, spanning 31 states. Companies associated with the AMBA serve many industries, such as automotive, medical, electronics, building and construction, consumer and industrial.

The survey results will be published in the AMBA’s quarterly magazine, The American Mold Builder.