Growing Concern About Lead Times Dampens Metalformers’ Outlook

PMA's May 2021 Business Conditions Report shows 71% of respondents indicated a rise in lead times from the previous month due to challenges finding raw materials.

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Metalforming companies forecast a dip in business conditions during the next 3 months amid continued supply challenges and increased lead times for steel and other materials, according to the May 2021 Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) Business Conditions Report. Prepared monthly, the report provides an economic indicator for manufacturing, sampling 101 metalforming companies in the United States and Canada.

After 2 months of showing increased optimism, PMA’s May report shows that only 41% of metalforming companies forecast an improvement in economic activity in the next 3 months (compared to 56% in April), 49% predict no change (compared to 37% in April) and 10% anticipate a decline in activity (up from 7% in April).

The May report indicates that lead times continue to increase. When asked about lead times compared to the previous 3 months, 71% of respondents say that they have increased, up from 64% in April. Increases have continued each month since September 2020, when only 16% reported increased lead times.

“The May report reflects what I have been hearing from members during my visits to their facilities across the country: There are substantial challenges in finding steel and other raw materials needed to meet growing demand,” said PMA President David Klotz. “Our members continue to report high prices and increased lead times for steel, aluminum, copper, brass and other metals. PMA calls on the Biden administration to terminate the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, which no longer are needed and are one of the main causes for the supply problems experienced by our members. In addition, members also report that the semiconductor shortage that has resulted in the idling of some auto plants are beginning to negatively impact orders.”

Current average daily shipping levels decreased in May, with 60% reporting an increase (down from 72% in April), 30% reporting no change (compared to 23% last month) and 10% reporting a decrease (up from 5% in April).

The survey also revealed an expectation that incoming orders will decline somewhat in the next three months, with 42% forecasting an increase in orders (down from 58% in April), 44% predicting no change (compared to 33% last month) and 14% anticipating a decrease in orders (compared to 9% in April).

Four percent of responding metalforming companies had a portion of their workforce on short time or layoff in May, an increase from only 1% in April.