CHICAGO The outlook among companies that stamp, form and fabricate metals products held fairly steady in May compared with April, even though some have experienced uneven order rates and shipments this year.
The proportion of respondents who believe economic trends will improve over the next three months dropped 5 percentage points, according to the latest survey results from the Rocky River, Ohio-based Precision Metalforming Association (PMA). More members viewed the trend as flat (63 percent in May vs. 56 percent in April).
The proportion of metalformers predicting an increase in incoming orders over the next 90 days fell 3 percentage points year on year, while the number of those predicting a drop in orders fell 2 percentage points.
"Our orders in May are down considerably, like 40 percent from a year ago, and shipments are off by almost as much," an East Coast stamper of copper-based electrical parts said.
However, April orders held steady year on year, and March orders rose 40 percent in the same comparison, this stamper said. "Its literally up and down, feast and famine," she said. "Last week we had no new (requests for quotes), and this week we have five," she added.
A New England stamping and machine shop operator agreed that there is a see-saw effect in the market. "What we are doingand we hear the same from othersis a lot of quoting activity, but nobody is making investments for new stuff. We have our regular work coming in, but other programs are herky-jerky," he said.
Uncertainty rules the day, he said, noting that his company is keeping inventories level while also reducing items where possible.
Current average daily shipments did improve for the PMA members surveyed, with the proportion of companies seeing shipments decline from three months ago falling by 4 percentage points as the proportion reporting an increase in shipments rose 7 percentage points.
The situation has prompted PMA members to be more proactive and creative. At the East Coast stamper, employees have been notified they might be placed on shorter work weeks during the summer. At the same time, the company is applying for patents on four new products, for which it hopes to build sales.