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2019 Economic Outlook


(Precision Manufacturing Journal – Nov/Dec 2018)

Abraham Lincoln once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” While I don’t think he was referring directly to the machining and manufacturing industry, it is certainly analogous. In 2018, it certainly seems like manufactures were doing just that. The ISM index for the previous twelve months averaged 59.2 peaking at a high of 61.3. It should be noted that anything above 50.0 is considered growth. Using this as a barometer, 2018 was a very strong year.
As we look to the 2019 economic outlook, I think it’s important to revisit some of the lessons we may have learned from 2018.

  1. At the risk of generalizing, 2018 was strong. Customer demands increased and businesses we’re increasing output as best they could.
  2. A booming economy creates a shortage of strong, quality talent. The machining industry is no stranger to finding good talent but when most are working, finding and attracting new talent is even more challenging.
  3. Investment in people, technology, and efficiencies can alleviate some of the issues noted above. While customers are demanding products quicker and cheaper, it is up to us, the business owners/managers/employees, to find ways to improve which keep us competitive and profitable.

A news search regarding the 2019 economy will get you several different opinions. While I’m predominately the optimist, I also understand that as trends go up, they can also go down. Markets are high, consumer confidence is strong, and people are working. While we continue to stoke the fire of production and supply our customers with high quality products into 2019, I think it’s also wise to be sure we’re setting our organizations up for success whatever the New Year brings.
As we enter the Holiday season and look back on 2018 and prepare for 2019, we should ask ourselves a few questions and set goals for the upcoming year.
How are we setting our business up for success in 2019? What investments are we making to keep us competitive? How are we solving problems for our customers? How we are promoting and inspiring our team? If we can focus on improvement, any changes in our economy will be more mole hills than mountains.
We can all hope 2019 is as robust as 2018. We can hope we face the same demands and muscle through as we’ve done before. This has all been done with the backdrop of a strong economy and demands of our products and services. If this changes, we have to be ready.
Adversity makes us stronger and, in many cases, guide us to future success. Thomas Edison tried over 2,000 experiments before he invented the lightbulb. General Douglas MacArthur applied to West Point twice before finally being accepted on his third attempt. Buddy Holly was once called “the biggest no-talent I ever worked with” by a record label.
Whether 2019 is stronger than ever OR makes us navigate a changing economic landscape, let’s prepare ourselves, our businesses, and our team for success. Work hard, be strategic, be a leader.

Jesse Schelitzche – President – Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association