Twice a year, NTMA members participate in our Business Conditions Survey, a “state of the union” evaluation for small manufacturing businesses. Like all survey results, the most recent data holds meaning beyond numbers. It tells a compelling story about:
- The investments you made
- The changes you’re anticipating
- The way you train your team
- The concerns that keep you up at night
Let’s dig into these statistics and the larger truths they reveal.
Behind the Scenes with NTMA Member Shops in 2022
Every six months, NTMA’s Business Conditions Survey invites our members to tell us about their last two quarters in business and share their expectations for the upcoming two quarters.
We won’t share all the data here. (Complete results are free to survey participants and available for purchase.) Instead, we’ve narrowed our focus to four key points:
1. Modern machine shops made these investments in Q1 and Q2
- 71% purchased 1-2 pieces of equipment
- 35% purchased automation tools and technology
2. Manufacturers anticipate making these purchases in Q3 and Q4
- 78% plan to purchase 1-2 pieces of equipment before the end of 2022
- 42% plan to purchase automation solutions before the end of 2022
3. Precision machine shops provide these training opportunities
We asked respondents to select the training tools used by their shops. Multiple selections were permitted, resulting in some surprising numbers:
- 93% offer training through a local high school, college, or trade school
- 86% provide on-the-job training and mentoring
- 34% utilize online training, either through NTMA-U, Tooling-U, or another online learning platform
- 22% leverage training from a group or chapter’s apprenticeship program
4. The top concerns keeping shop owners awake at night
We asked respondents to identify the top five issues hindering their modern machine shops’ success. Employee-related concerns dominated the chart, with more than 41% of responders ranking recruitment or retention as their number one worry:
- 29.6% identified employee recruitment as their primary concern
- 11.8% selected employee retention as their top concern
Additional top-ranked stressors included inflation, raw materials sourcing, and the risk of recession.
Our Survey, Your Results
So, what do those numbers tell us about the business conditions manufacturers are currently facing? And even more importantly, what do the results reveal about how these conditions are being met and managed?
What matters most: recruitment and retention
It’s no surprise that both recruitment and retention were among the five top-rated concerns for manufacturing businesses. A modern machine shop can’t operate without people—skilled workers, specifically—so your team should take center stage in every business decision you make.
What surprised us were the conflicts with a people-centric approach.
Equipment purchases. When you’re facing recruitment shortfalls, investing in more equipment that requires human operators doesn’t make sense. Yet 71% of our survey respondents bought at least one new machine in the first half of 2022, and 78% have purchases planned for the second half.
Review your own business conditions: Do you have enough skilled team members to run the new equipment? If not, have you made plans to divert your operators to the new machines? Do new purchase orders justify these changes on your shop floor?
Automation purchases. If your shop is short-staffed, automation tools and technology can free up your existing team to accept more jobs and focus on higher-value work. Yet only 35% of the survey’s respondents invested in automation solutions during the first two quarters of 2022, and only slightly more (42%) intend to add at least one automation solution before the year ends.
Review your own business conditions: Are there any automation opportunities you should prioritize to offset labor shortages? Which automation tools and technologies can give your shop the most bang for your buck?
Training resources. Whether you need to attract more employees, train new team members, or keep existing workers from leaving the company, training is imperative to your shop’s success. And while most shops empower their people with a variety of training tools, a surprisingly low 34% take advantage of online training and only 22% leverage the resources available through their industry memberships.
Review your own business conditions: Have you explored all the training opportunities available to your team? Would you consider asking your team which training methods they wish they could access? Is your in-house training effective, or is it merely robbing your modern machine shop of precious labor hours?
Let the Numbers Guide Your Next Steps
Even if you didn’t participate in the latest Business Conditions Survey, the results can still reveal quite a bit about your own business. Ask yourself how you would have answered the same questions, then evaluate those answers against one another.
Are your challenges being alleviated or worsened by the other decisions you’ve made for your shop?
If you discover a misalignment between your company’s struggles and the steps you’ve taken to improve them, it’s not too late to make better decisions!
Consolidate your efforts with those of other shops, and help one another find effective solutions to your recruiting and retention problems. Get involved with a local manufacturing group or NTMA chapter, and establish a workplace development program or online training registration. Finally, compare your capabilities with those at other shops, and build partnerships for collaborative order fulfillment by optimizing each shop’s most valuable resources.
It’s a grind to go it alone. Thankfully, with NTMA, you don’t have to.
Join NTMA, and get connected to your manufacturing family.