In our December 2023 poll, we asked you, the readers of IndustryWeek, how the economy is shaping up for 2024 and what you see ahead for your businesses.
Who better to understand the ups, downs and outta-left-fields of our world than leaders of capital-intensive businesses involving complex processes, highly skilled labor and supply chains with more links than a Vienna sausage factory?
Your answers ranged from mostly sunny to appreciably gloomy. Worries include labor shortages, sluggish demand and an economy that never fully bounced back from COVID. But you are optimistic about improving technology, easing credit and better business practices learned from past crises.
We’re sharing a sampling of responses, with the respondent’s title and sector included in each quote.
Of course, we hope that clarity and optimism win the day, and you have a prosperous 2024!
Relief Mixed With Struggle
“2024 will be a rebound from 2023. Credit will ease but the backlog of business that was delayed due to the (criminally under-reported) credit crunch in 2023 is probably a lost opportunity. Manufacturing in particular—burned from the tight credit of last year—will struggle to make up its losses.”
—CEO, manufacturing as a service
Proceed With Caution
“I see definitive uncertainty. Labor issues are a huge problem. What will be the long- and short-term impact of rapidly advancing technology? We’re definitely engaging in software upgrades. We’re also being very cautious and hoarding cash.”
—Vice president, prototype manufacturer
“Our coming year is viewed with hesitation of what can we expect. 2023 has been swings of being loaded with work and everyone wants something immediately to shallow times of subpar business activity.”
—Vice president, metal finishing
Where’s the Prosperity?
“I see a poor year for individuals coming in 2024. In spite of being told that the recession didn't come, inflation has once again hit us.
Companies are reporting around a 20% decline in orders. I do not see the observations about the economy (such as an increase of about 3%) in my personal life!
I don't trust the people that tell us about our economy anymore.”
—Unspecified team member, electrical equipment manufacturer
History No Longer Predicts
“Our manufacturing company is working diligently to refine our market outlook. Many of our planning tools focused on history to guide future decisions, and recovery after COVID helped to point out the weakness in that approach. We should have stronger predictive capability, and be more efficient as a result. 2023 was a strong year, and we expect to cautiously anticipate a similar year in 2024. Many external events may impact plans, so we are monitoring events more intensely. We continue to strengthen supply chain so that what our customers need, we can provide”.
—Analyst, components manufacturer
A Wish List
“I am looking for increased retail revenues, lowered interest rates and some semblance of our return to law and order, for all of us to grow.”
—Regional manager, printing/publishing
A Roll-Up-Your-Sleeves Year
A plant manager in agricultural equipment sees the year ahead as “bumpy with good results.” Plans for the year include “increasing output and stabilizing the workforce, as well as continuing the plant’s safety journey “with measurable results.”
Gains in Technology
We will pass a critical threshold in how we embrace digital technology with a clear realization that it truly brings about significant productivity. The skeptics will become a minority and clarity will emerge around frontline operations and composable solutions. ‘Consistency of purpose’ will become a thing again!
—Manufacturing technology consultant
We are cautiously optimistic that our revenue will grow in 2024. Indicators are pointing to an uptick in volume and the seasonality of our business should return.
—Process improvement director, food and beverage