By John S. McClenahen One consequence of the current U.S. economic downturn is likely to be greater use of outsourcing when the business climate eventually brightens. The suddenness of the downturn may prompt additional companies to consider outsourcing such functions as marketing, customer service, and IT that management doesn't consider to be core competencies, indicates John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement firm. In fact, IT is already outsourcing's biggest area of activity. Some 93% of U.S. and European companies outsource some IT and business-process functions, indicates a recent Conference Board survey that Challenger cites. Manufacturing is another area of outsourcing concentration, with Challenger pointing to a Bear Stearns survey showing that 85% of OEMs in the electronics industry expect to increase their outsourced production during the next year.