CHICAGO Roll formers, stampers and tool-and-die makers seem to have emerged from the summer doldrums.
There was a marked gain in the proportion of those predicting higher incoming orders and greater economic activity over the next three months, according to the latest survey by the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), which tallied responses from 123 companies nationwide.
"Business is measurably better than three months ago and a year ago," the owner of an East Coast stamper of red metals for electronic parts told AMM. Her company has won new business and is extracting higher volume from existing customers.
"One of our old standard products is now selling like hot cakes," she said. In addition, exports to Europe have not slowed as she had feared.
Preparing for the future, the company recently ordered a new CNC machining center to replace one that was 18 years old.
During a recent regional PMA meeting, "most people said they were busy; several said theyre working overtime. Nobody said theyre having a terrible year," she said.
"We are seeing a slight upswing in our business with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers," said a sales executive at a Great Lakes maker of deep-drawn metal parts. "Our order book for the third quarter will be ahead of the first half. It will probably lighten up again in the fourth quarter, but thats seasonal."
"Things are picking up substantially," the sales manager for a Great Lakes fastener producer said. "Ford (Motor Co.), GM (General Motors Co.) and Chrysler (Group LLC) all have overtime schedules. Demand is high right now. We hope it continues."
In addition to winning strong orders from domestic automakers, his company is expanding and diversifying its product line and "stretching out" to capture global business opportunities. He said his company has set up sales and engineering offices in China, Mexico and South Korea, and because of its streamlined and innovative manufacturing process it will be able to keep production at home and still be competitive.
More than a third of PMA members this month forecast an uptick in economic activity, compared with 22 percent in July. Thirty-eight percent of those polled expect orders to rise (up from 28 percent last month), while 10 percent foresee orders declining (down from 19 percent).