The 2023 manufacturing industry report found while manufacturers are more optimistic about their region than the national or global economy, respondents are concerned about overcoming supply chain disruptions, fluctuating fuel and energy pricing and – most importantly – staffing shortages.

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We anticipate manufacturers will put a greater focus on plant and labor in 2023. Manufacturers are taking a close look at the foundations of their operations, their talent and their financial outlook. Investing now in key capital improvements such as plant and equipment and ERP systems will help them prepare for an uncertain economy.

“The theme of the 2022-2023 Manufacturing Outlook Survey and Insights report is Foundations for Success. We chose this theme because survey respondents communicated a strong focus on plant and capital investments that will support more automated and productive companies in the future,” said Andrew J. Usery, LBMC Shareholder and Practice Leader of Manufacturing and Distribution. “Our goal is to bring you targeted data and actionable insights and tools that you can apply to today’s fast-paced, evolving environment.”

Highlights from 2022-2023 Survey Results

  • More local and regional strategic partnerships – Manufacturers are placing more trust in their regional economies and are looking for supplier relationships closer to home. National economic prospects are perceived with less optimism, while attitudes about the international economy are trending toward pessimism for 2023.
  • More automation to augment smaller labor pools – Although investment in plant and equipment and automation has been the talk of this industry for many years, the pandemic and accelerated labor shortage mean that real dollars are moving toward plant modernization. Top investments for 2023 include new manufacturing equipment, ERP systems, and robotics.
  • Exploration of machine learning and analytics tools – Manufacturers acknowledged an uptick in R&D investment this year, which aligns with their top operational spending priorities for information technology tools, new product or service development, and business technology and/or intelligence data.
  • Less cybersecurity response than expected – Although the manufacturing sector was the most targeted industry for ransomware and vulnerability attacks in 2021, companies in this survey did not plan to invest a significant amount in shoring up their cybersecurity in the coming 12 months. This could be because the companies have already invested in this aspect of their business, or they may perceive cybersecurity as less urgent than other investments in the short term. However, cybersecurity and data protection were among the top business drivers that manufacturers cited for using technology.
  • Less concern over ESG as an emerging requirement – This sample of manufacturers, particularly in the middle market U.S. machining/industrial (17%), transportation/automotive (12%), and construction (11%) sectors, indicated limited concern about environmental, social, governance (ESG) factors as serious barriers to growth, at least for the coming 12 months. However, it is an emerging requirement as larger customers must perform ESG due diligence along the value chain.

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