As the senior director of partner program management at, Susan Orr is responsible for overall program management including partner on-boarding, operational integration, collaborative marketing, and demand generation strategies and programs. She sat down with Modern Pumping Today to discuss the findings of’s Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey. She can be reached at
Modern Pumping Today:  Of the 1209 respondees in’s Industry Market Barometer® (IMB) survey, the majority represent small companies (fewer than 100 employees and less than $10 million in revenue). How would you best describe the important role of small businesses?
Susan Orr:  According to NAM, the National Association of Manufacturers, companies with fewer than 100 employees make up more than 94 percent of all U.S. manufacturers. So the fact that small businesses represent the largest respondent pool to’s IMB survey is inherently critical to the validity and relevance of the findings to the manufacturing business sector.
Our IMB is the only survey of its kind that probes so deeply into the performance, outlook, and strategies of thousands of smaller industrial businesses. These companies drive manufacturing and their feedback on how their businesses are doing in terms of growth, strategic focus, investment, and upcoming challenges provide valuable insights for their peers and other related constituencies. These insights then lead to actions to capitalize on what’s working.
MPT: Manufacturing accounted for $1.9 trillion of the 2012 U.S. gross domestic product. What does the IMB reveal about how this segment of the economy is growing?
Susan Orr: Business continues to trend up for manufacturers according to our IMB survey—nearly two-thirds (63 percent) expect increases this year compared to the 55 percent who reported business growth in 2012. Significantly, a change appears in the number of companies that expect to grow this year by adding new and/or innovative products and services—almost double the number compared to last year’s survey findings. Not only does this increase signal confidence in the market and a willingness to make capital investments—increasing production capacity and facilities upgrades for example—it also represents a commitment to innovation. Nearly half of the respondents say innovation is responsible for their competitiveness which suggests that they are seeing payoffs from recent investments in new technologies to help drive their innovation.
MPT: The IMB also reveals a growing concern over a generation gap in manufacturing. How important is it for companies with an industrial focus to attract the next wave of talented, young professionals?
Susan Orr: At a time when innovations are opening up new opportunities for manufacturers, our IMB also reveals a big threat to the future of manufacturing. Manufacturing’s growth trajectory and the lack of urgency when it comes to filling their pipeline of talent reflects an overall disconnect that needs to be addressed immediately. This ticking “biological clock” must be heard loud and clear.
That said, some actions are being taken to address this issue. For example, a number of manufacturers have developed partnerships with schools to engage their “best and brightest,” and they consider educators important for their future. They continue to call on high schools to offer more skills training, and to increase their emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
However, these strategies are just the tip of the iceberg. For the manufacturing sector to benefit most in this era of innovation and technology, that who love the industry need to step up efforts to share their passion with the next generation—the potential talent pool of the Millennials and Generation X. They need to create a buzz starting at the grass roots level to ignite the interest of the next generations. Why not exploit social media (LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) to get the word out and consider recruiting new employees via technology-oriented career sites—be where these generations are and engage them. This industry has to let “the best kept secret about a great career” out of the bag!
MPT: In the next decade, when Generation Y (18-32 years old) makes up a majority of the manufacturing workforce, what happens to the institutional knowledge held by today’s professionals?
Susan Orr: IMB survey respondents are excited about their careers and acknowledge the need to promote its advantages. In fact, 74 percent of these professionals credit the people and talent in their existing workforce in keeping them competitive. Our IMB data shows that 42 percent of manufacturers are hiring this year—from line workers (69 percent) and engineers (60 percent) to sales and marketing (55 percent) and manufacturing/production management (53 percent). Having worked in this industry for fifteen years, I have faith that these companies will rise above this challenge. They will not be complacent about ensuring their institutional knowledge is carried forth. They don’t have an option—they have to.
Despite the generational labor pool issue, manufacturers will ensure that knowledge is passed on as they work to revamp the negative image manufacturing has with its realities—a hotbed of innovation, an environment that thrives on change, the pride of developing and producing American-made goods and the entrepreneurial and growth opportunities of this industry. And with the light shining on this challenge as a result of the IMB survey findings and other news coverage, this issue will be front and center and a strategic focus for manufacturers.
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