In the News

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Hopes are high for better economy in 2003

At least two industry segments are predicting growth this year amidst general economic worries and conservative outlooks for a turnaround.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) both have issued positive business forecasts for the new year.

The ACC reported a "marked turnaround" from the decline experienced in 2001. In its annual report on the performance and outlook for the business of chemistry, the council noted a 2 percent increase in overall shipments in 2002 for a new record of $463.5 billion. Profits also rose, from $75.9 billion in 2001 to $80.3 billion in 2002.

The good news is "indicators suggest this growth will continue and perhaps accelerate in 2003." The ACC report said the increase in shipments was due to customers beginning to reorder chemicals following the longest inventory correction in the United States since the 1930s. While research and development and plant and equipment spending declined during 2002, ACC believes the increase in profits sets the stage for investment increases in 2003.

The PMA Business Conditions Report surveys manufacturing companies monthly. The most recent report, based on conditions as of Dec. 1, 2002, indicated steel parts manufacturers have a "hopeful economic outlook" for 2003. While more than half of the respondents57 percentthought general economic activity would remain unchanged, 28 percent predicted activity would increase. That is an eight percentage-point increase from the prior month.

PMA said the December survey was the first time in almost six months that manufacturers offered promise for the metalforming industry. The steel-consuming industry was significantly affected by steel tariffs imposed in 2002, enduring supply disruptions and price increases.

The report also noted 74% of those surveyed do not have their work forces on short time or layoffs, an improvement from 69% in November.

For a copy of "The Business of Chemistry in the USA, Performance and Outlook," contact the ACC at 703-741-6000 or go to www.americanchemistry.com.

For a look at the full PMA report, visit www.metalforming.com.

National Manufacturing Week kicks off March 3

National Manufacturing Week, March 3-6 at McCormick Place in Chicago, will include four separate but related exhibitions and technical conferences.

The Plant Engineering and Maintenance Show will feature suppliers and technical sessions covering plant and facility maintenance and management. The Industrial Automation Show will feature suppliers offering factory floor automation solutions.

The Design Engineering Show and the Industrial Enterprise IT Show also will run concurrently. Show management expects 1,700 exhibitors and more than 30,000 attendees. For more information, go to www.reedexpo.com.

Automation hit by recession, again

The automation market reportedly "slipped" into a recession the third quarter of 2002 after a quarter of "tentative" growth, according to the ARC Advisory Group, a Dedham, Mass.-based consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and technology assessment services.

The downturn was attributed to decreased capital spending and little or no growth in capacity utilization. There was hope for improved market conditions through the end of 2002, but ARC warned any turnaround for the automation industry couldn't be expected until mid-2003.

For more information or to request this ARC Insight by Research Director Larry O'Brien, go to www.arcweb.com.

OSHA, ASSE join forces to reduce injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) will work together to reduce workplace ergonomic injuries and promote worker safety and health.

The formal alliance will combine the resources of both groups to provide information and guidance to employers, employees and safety, health and environmental professionals about reducing and preventing exposure to ergonomic hazards such as musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive motion. OSHA and ASSE will share best practices, solutions and technical expertise. A team of representatives from the two groups will meet quarterly.

"Our members are on the front lines when it comes to workplace safety," said ASSE President Mark Hansen. "Their commitment to safety and their expertise combined with the excellent caliber of OSHA staff will provide an unending well of resources that corporations and organizations from all industries can tap into in an effort to reduce injuries."

ASSE members with industry-specific expertise in ergonomics will participate in stakeholder groups and other forums.

"Safety and health professionals are the key to further reductions in workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Combining our resources through this alliance will have a tremendous impact on improved worker safety."

For more information about ASSE or for more information resources on ergonomics, go to www.asse.org

What's your plant floor strategy?

Plant floor strategy is critical to driving a successful manufacturing enterprise. "Driving Operational Excellence in Manufacturing" is a forum focusing on concepts, technologies and business strategies for manufacturing. Sponsored by ARC Advisory Group, a Dedham, Mass.-based consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and technology assessment, the forum is scheduled for Feb. 10-12 in Orlando, Fla.

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