CIRAS to Iowa Manufacturers: Tell us Your Needs

“We want to get to the heart of where Iowa manufacturers are as an industry, what problems they think they’re ready for and what scares them a bit,” said CIRAS program manager Mike O’Donnell. “This is information we use to determine what programming we’ll offer in the months and years ahead.”

A previous needs assessment, based on a survey of more than 250 Iowa companies in 2015-16, found that manufacturers needed help developing strategies, exploring new markets, implementing proven ways of dealing with workforce constraints, and wielding technology as a competitive advantage.

In short, the survey found that one-quarter of Iowa manufacturers were thriving, with a reported return on sales of more than 15 percent. Three out of four manufacturers, however, reported margins much slimmer.

Other findings included:

  • Iowa manufacturers saw health care costs as the single largest, looming threat to their growth over the next few years.
  • Despite complaints about a scarcity of workers, few Iowa companies reported adopting proven techniques for managing that resource, such as embracing automation or lean manufacturing.
  • There was 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 tended to worry less about their ability to cope with things like a perceived workforce shortage.

Again, the next round of surveys is expected to land in company mailboxes by the end of June.

CIRAS will release a summary of the industry’s needs in early 2018.


For more information, contact Mike O’Donnell at or 515-509-4379.