The Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA, Charlotte) Roundtable of Industry Leaders met in late February in Naples, Fla. During the meeting, the Roundtable released the latest Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing (MHEM) forecast and outlined key issues facing the material handling industry. Highlights from 2006 include:
- New orders for 2006 grew 10% over 2005 and set a new record high at $26.3 billion; Shipments grew 14% in 2006
- Unfilled orders grew 14% in 2006 versus 2005 to finish at $8.5 billion which represents the equivalent of 4.2 months' shipments
- Imports increased 11.9% in 2006 over 2005, while Exports grew 21.4% during that same time.
- The net trade value (imports minus exports) was $1.4 billion representing an 8.0% decline in the trade gap from 2005 from 2006
- Total US Consumption for 2006 finished at $27.1 billion, growing 12.4% over 2005.
MHIA forecasts a growth in new orders of 3-5% in 2007, followed by slower growth or perhaps a mild contraction in 2008. The association expects shipments to grow 7-10% followed by a mild contraction in 2008. Consumption will grow about 6.5-9.5% in 2007, followed by modest to no growth in 2008.
Key issues facing the material handling industry in 2007 as outlined by industry leaders include energy costs; raw material costs, inflation and overcapacity; the overall state of U.S. manufacturing and the continued pressure on U.S. infrastructure due to increased imports from China; the need for improved reverse logistics because of increasing Internet orders and imports; a continued shift from full to broken and mixed-case order picking; and growing use of automation to overcome looming worker shortages.