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Metalformers Face Raw Material Price Hikes and Labor Shortages

Sept. 21, 2021
A majority of Precision Metalforming Association member companies have reported increasing lead times for 8 months running now.

A survey from the Precision Metalforming Association indicates that many metalforming companies expect lead times to continue increasing in the months ahead. The survey, based on reporting from 114 manufacturing companies that are members of the PMA, reflects conditions as they were reported at the beginning of September.

A majority of companies, 56%, expect general economic activity to stay about the same for the next quarter. Another majority, 69%, said shipment activity is up from last September, and just under half of respondents (49%) said daily shipping levels are above where they were 3 months ago.

Average lead times at metalforming companies are increasing with barely any sign of slowing down. Just over six in ten survey respondents said average lead times are longer than they were three months ago. That number fell three percentage points from August, when it read 64%. More than half of PMA members have reported increased average lead times for every month since February 2021 now.

The survey also showed that fewer metalforming companies expect orders to grow this month, while more companies expect orders to fall. In August, 41% of companies said they expected incoming orders to increase and 17% expected orders to decrease; in September, 35% expected increased orders, while 23% said orders would probably drop. The number of companies expecting their orders to remain mostly unchanged stayed the same at 42%.

Staffing, like in other manufacturing sectors, is a longstanding sore point for survey respondents. The amount of survey respondents that indicated they were seeking to expand their workforce was unchanged from last month at 77%: Companies looking to hire have made up more than 50% since the start of 2021 and 70% of responses since April of this year.

In a statement accompanying the report, PMA President David Klotz noted the lack of labor as one of several challenges in metalforming right now. Klotz noted that helping member companies find and maintain employees is “a major focus” for his organization, and that it was working on a campaign to attract workers to the industry by driving awareness and strengthen workforce training programs.

While the report did not include a question on the price of materials, Klotz said prices for raw materials are still increasing—trouble for companies engaged in machining and shaping them. “Lead times and skyrocketing prices for raw materials, particularly steel, but also for aluminum, copper, brass and other metals, continue to grow and now extend into 2022 in some cases,” he said.

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