By Dave Schafer A majority of manufacturing companies with fewer than 1,000 employees spy on their competition, according to a recent survey by TR Cutler Inc., a manufacturing marketing firm. In the national survey of 462 manufacturing companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, 56% of the respondents admitted to legal competitive spying in the past 12 months. Competitive spying was defined in the survey as using deception to determine information about a competitor. The most popular method of competitive spying was hiring outside organizations to gather bids, data, and client information, the firm says. There are no data to support attributing this study's findings to larger companies. Thomas R. Cutler, president and CEO, Cutler, says 78% of manufacturing companies have fewer than 1,000 employees. "Our survey findings validate that many manufacturers are increasingly aware that they are losing business to the competition and are taking measures to find out what the competition is offering to win business," Cutler says. "The actual number was probably considerably higher, since not everyone surveyed was willing to admit to these types of activities," Cutler says. "It reflects the increasingly competitive nature of manufacturing." In a similar study in 1999, "far less of this showed up," Cutler says. He says the change may be due to a recent shift in focus to sales, marketing, and the closing ratio by manufacturers.