ByDave Schafer Manufacturing bosses are getting younger, at least at privately held firms, according to a recent survey by manufacturing marketing firm TR Cutler Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The survey of 419 privately held manufacturing companies found that the average age of CEOs, presidents, and owners was 49. The surveyed companies had fewer than 1,000 employees. Cutler conducted the same survey in 1999 and found then that the mean age of company leaders was 63. "The precipitous drop in the age of senior management in the manufacturing sector can be easily traced to the dateline of when most U.S. manufacturing firms started," says Thomas R. Cutler, president and CEO. "Between 1955 and 1975 the bulk of privately held firms initiated business. These firms have either gone out of business, been sold to younger owners, or passed on to children and other family members." The survey also revealed the length of time in a senior management position dropped commensurately with the age. In 1999 65% of the owners had been in their position for 25 years or more. In the new survey that number dropped to 46%. In the 1999 survey, quality analysis and on-time delivery were the manufacturers' main concerns, while the new survey shows an emphasis on sales and marketing. Cutler says he believes veterans are leaving because of this shift in focus. Many of the new presidents, CEOs, and owners have backgrounds in business rather than the more-traditional engineering. "The savvy that these younger executives bring to the manufacturing business equation includes a tremendous receptivity to new ideas and systems," Cutler says.