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Productivity Perspectives

Kevin Parker

Kevin Parker, editorial director of Processing magazine, has been writing about process industry, automation and information-technology markets for more than 20 years.

Automation suppliers see chemicals, pharma market gains

June 23, 2014
KEYWORDS Automation
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Bookings at surveyed automation and instrumentation suppliers were up more than 8 percent in Q1 2014, says the MCAA’s quarterly Industry Group Report, compared to the same quarter one year ago.

Member firms participating in the Measurement, Control and Automation Association’s quarterly “IGR” survey say bookings totaled an estimated nearly $587 million during the year’s first quarter of 2014, 8.3 percent greater than the first three months of 2013. Cumulative bookings during the past twelve months -- i.e., between April 2013 and March 2014 -- totaled an estimated $2.28 billion, just more than four percent above the total recorded during the previous twelve-month period.

The recent 2014 MCAA Industry Forum drew more than 200 attendees. Workforce generation, the history of instrumentation & control, best practices and corporate responsibility were among the issues presented and discussed.

The meeting wrapped up with Dr. Jeff Dietrich of ITR Economics, MCAA reports, who revised his earlier forecast to take out the small dip at the end of 2014 and predicted small but incremental growth through 2019. 

In the Industry Forum survey report, Economist Daryl Delano of Delano Data Insights noted that the early months of any given year are typically positive for bookings. Last year’s first-quarter improvement exactly matched this year’s increase of 8 percent.

However the specific make-up of this year’s increase was much different than in 2013. Bookings from manufacturing end-market industries recorded over-the-quarter growth of nearly 14 percent this year, in contrast to the 7 percent decline registered during the comparable period of last year. Orders coming from the various non-manufacturing sectors, on the other hand, recorded sub-par growth of only 3.7 percent during the first three months of 2014 versus the exceptional gain of just more than 20 percent posted during the early months of 2013.

Among the manufacturing sectors of greatest significance to MCAA member firms, bookings received from the pharmaceutical sector rose most sharply, up more than 35 percent over the quarter. Among non-manufacturing end-market industries, the steepest decline was posted in the value of orders coming from nuclear power companies.

The see-saw pattern of bookings from this industry sector continued, with a gain of more than 40 percent over the final two quarters of 2013 being followed by a more than 28 percent decline during the first quarter of this year.

Bookings from utilities were little changed in the first quarter, rising 1.7 percent from the previous quarter’s total. The early-2014 bookings trend for both mining (+30 percent) and oil & gas extraction (+10 percent) were much healthier than the rest of non-manufacturing, however, allowing the sector as a whole to post a small gain.

Comparing sector-by-sector bookings for the first quarter of this year with orders received during the first three months of 2013, the recent divergence in trends for manufacturing and non-manufacturing becomes even more apparent. The estimated value of orders coming to MCAA companies from the manufacturing sector as a whole were up nearly 27 percent between the first three months of 2013 and the first quarter of this year, a gain far-outdistancing the just-more-than eight-percent increase in overall industry bookings. Orders coming from petroleum refiners rose by more than 58 percent between last year’s and this year’s first quarters.

Exceptional gains on the order of 25 percent to 35 percent were also recorded by the paper/publishing, pharmaceutical and industrial & agricultural chemical end-market sectors. Bookings from companies in non-manufacturing market sectors, on the other hand, declined by a cumulative value of just more than 9 percent between the first three months of 2013 and the same period of 2014. Although a solid nearly 14 percent gain was recorded by oil & gas extraction, losses were recorded in the value of orders coming from all of the other important non-manufacturing end-market sectors.

MCAA exists to help process and factory automation product and solution providers run and grow successful businesses. Contact MCAA at mcaa@measure.org or 757-258-3100 and visit the website at measure.org.