Metal workers expect decline in orders

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Metal-product manufacturers are expecting a decline in orders over the next three months, according to a new survey from the Precision Metalforming Association

Less than half of the surveyed companies expect orders to increase between now and June, down from 56% a month ago. The slip in confidence is unusual because companies usually feel good about business in the spring, Gaskin said. “We have done this survey for 26 years, and March has almost always been a positive month,” he said.

“We are all a little nervous,” said Jeff Clark, president of Waukesha Tool & Stamping Co. […] “The companies having the most difficulties are the ones that are very concentrated in the automotive and haven’t diversified enough”.

For years, some metal fabricators aggressively sought automotive contracts because the dollar amounts were large and the work seemed endless. But that might have been a mistake, as the torrent of money slowed and automakers stepped up the pressure on suppliers to deliver parts at lower costs.

“I have tried to stay away from the auto industry because of the way they pressure their vendors,” said Chuck Norris, president and CEO of Mechanical Industries Inc., a Milwaukee custom metal products supplier.

Mechanical Industries Inc. sales are up about 10% from a year ago, Norris said, partly because of an increased demand for parts in the agricultural and boating industries.

“We are making parts as fast as we can for some of our clients,” Norris said. “My biggest issue is the price of steel,” some of which has more than doubled in the last year.

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