Equipment Manufacturers Report Positive Outlook for 2021

As the industry emerges from a full year under the COVID-19 cloud, a clear majority (88%) of equipment manufacturers report a positive outlook for 2021, according to a new survey released by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. More than half (55%) of the respondents from leading equipment manufacturers expect sales to increase or remain stable despite the ongoing impact of the global pandemic. The online survey was targeted to employees of AEM member companies and includes results from more than 130 respondents, including CEOs, vice presidents, and sales and operations leaders, among others.

“The equipment manufacturing industry has continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and has successfully adjusted to challenges to make the equipment that builds, feeds, and powers our country,” said AEM President Dennis Slater. “Equipment manufacturers have begun to turn the corner. We now need Congress and the President to pass long-overdue legislation that will invest in and modernize our nation’s infrastructure.”

Looking at the biggest challenges facing company executives and the equipment manufacturing industry as a whole in 2021, respondents indicated that the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and keeping employees safe and on the job remain the top concerns, followed by finding skilled workers for new jobs being created.

Turning to how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the workplace, one in eight respondents said that it will have a lasting impact on how they work. Face-to-face meetings with colleagues and work travel are the top two activities they look forward to in 2021.

Additional top survey findings include:

  • A clear majority (88%) have a positive outlook for 2021 while only one in ten has a negative outlook for the new year.
  • One in five (19%) said that sales are up while one in three (36%) indicated that sales are stable, citing the following reasons:
    • Strong pipeline of orders
    • Increase in customer demand
    • Robust economic rebound
    • Essential status of customers (including construction workers and farmers)
    • Level playing field due to no travel
  • Almost half of respondents (45%) said that sales are down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing the following reasons:
    • Supply chain disruptions
    • Reduced demand for new products
    • Limited international sales (due to travel restrictions)
    • Inability to meet with dealers and customers
    • Delayed or cancelled projects at the state and local levels
  • Biggest challenges for 2021 are (responses ranked):
    • COVID-19 pandemic and employee safety
    • Lack of talent/workforce challenges
    • Regulatory challenges
    • Tariffs and modifications to tax code
    • Internal reorganizations
    • Supply chain disruptions, price of inputs, reduced demand
  • More than two thirds (68%) said that trade shows will be different (including virtual options) following the COVID-19 pandemic, while a quarter said trade shows will remain the same.
  • 80% said the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we work, citing the following reasons:
    • Greater emphasis on remote work
    • Fewer in-person meetings/more online commerce
    • New tools and technology to stay connected
    • Reduced work/life balance
  • Almost half (45%) indicated their work productivity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic while one in three (36%) said their efficiency went down.
  • One in five respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to consider retiring early, while eight in ten said that the global health crisis has not impacted their retirement plans.

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