Metalworkers in the United States and Canada don’t see an end to supply (difficulties) anytime soon. That’s according to the latest monthly business conditions report from the Precision Metalforming Association, a trade group representing more than 850 companies that stamp, roll, and shape metal goods in the United States and Canada.
According to the latest survey, just over half of the 188 metalforming companies that responded expect the economic situation for their companies to stay the same over the course of the next three months, compared to 36% who expect it to improve and 12% who expect a decline. That outlook is slightly worse than it was in May, when 49% expected conditions to remain the same and 41% anticipated improvement.
Metalformers are struggling mightily with dual supply issues. As for other manufacturing industries today, materials to work with and employees to do the work are in short supply.
“Obtaining raw materials and finding workers are the biggest challenges reported by PMA members,” said PMA’s President, David Klotz.
Two-thirds of survey respondents reported an increase in lead times. That’s an improvement over the past eight months, which have seen the portion of those experiencing longer lead times increase steadily from 16% in September to 71% in May, but it also indicates that obtaining raw materials is still a significant concern.
“Members are reporting lead times extending into 2022 for steel, with similar challenges for aluminum, copper, brass and other metals,” Klotz said.
As for employees, 75% of respondents said they were currently expanding their workforce. The share of metalforming companies trying to hire more workers has been over 50% since December 2020.
Supply chain snafus in other industries are causing ripple effects on industry outlook as well. Auto production slowdowns caused by semiconductor shortages, for example, are pushing orders for shaped steel down, said Klotz. The share of respondents who expect orders to increase over the next three months fell slightly by 4 points to 38% and the share expecting them to fall grew 4 points to 18%.
In a statement accompanying the report, the PMA called for Washington to ditch Trump-era Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, which they say makes the raw-material situation even harder.
This article has been updated.