Iowa manufacturers need help developing strategies, exploring new markets, implementing proven ways of dealing with workforce constraints, and wielding technology as a competitive advantage.
Those are the findings from a 2015-16 CIRAS Needs Assessment based on a survey of more than 250 manufacturers.
In short, the survey found that one-quarter of Iowa manufacturers are doing well, with a reported return on sales of more than 15 percent. Three out of four manufacturers, however, reported margins much slimmer.
Other findings include the following:
- Iowa manufacturers see health care costs as the single largest, looming threat to their growth over the next few year
- Despite complaints about a scarcity of workers, few Iowa companies have adopted proven techniques for managing that resource, such as embracing automation or lean manufacturing.
- There’s a mismatch at many Iowa manufacturers between the stated strategy and what a company actually is doing. The survey found, for example, that only 62 percent of Iowa manufacturers with an innovation-first strategy have implemented 3D CAD and other similar tools that could help them prepare for the coming wave of manufacturing technology. Only 50 percent of self-described innovative companies have a formal process for bringing new ideas to market.
- Those manufacturing companies that have embraced 3D CAD and advanced engineering tools tend to worry less about their ability to cope with things like a perceived workforce shortage.
CIRAS is using these results as a blueprint for mapping our own strategy for the services we’ll be providing in 2017. The year ahead includes, among other things, a focus on helping companies improve their implementation of productivity measures, helping them explore new opportunities in new markets, and assisting them in a leap toward digital manufacturing technology.
We also are preparing to launch another needs assessment in 2017 as part of our continual effort to remain in touch with Iowa manufacturers.