U.S. manufacturing has dipped to its lowest level in more than 10 years. Yet the M&A market remains active, with promising signs for future improvements. Interest rates are historically low, and investors are flush with cash. Savvy investors are investing now in this growing sector, and reaping the rewards of doing so. Whether you’re a buyer, a seller, or an interested observer, understanding the most important trends in this industry can help you grasp the rapid changes it is currently undergoing.
Low unemployment means a tight labor market, and manufacturers are relying on robots to keep up with demand. Where skilled manufacturing jobs are abundant, businesses continue to struggle to find the right employees. Raising starting pay can only go so far. To manage this shortage, companies are relying on robots who can work longer and harder, and who are not susceptible to the same injuries and other risks humans are.
Automation, like the robot trend, is driving increases in productivity that may render some jobs obsolete. PE firms are increasingly investing in companies that can boost productivity and help portfolio companies to become more efficient.
Cost Cutting Measures
While many companies are investing in expensive new technologies to reduce costs over time, the overall trend is toward reducing costs. Labor costs have risen 15 to 20 percent, making new technology seem more appealing—and more affordable. Larger companies are increasingly prioritizing their core competencies, and looking to get rid of secondary assets.
Bigger and Bigger
Manufacturing is a challenge industry. Retaining customers and recruiting new ones can be exhausting. Consequently, many companies are growing their product offerings by merging with companies that offer valuable synergies. Mergers and acquisitions offer a faster path to attracting new customers and better capitalizing on investments.
A Focus on Infrastructure
Knowledge about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is now widespread—and a widespread source of concern. Companies that focus on basic infrastructure, like bridges and tunnels, stand to gain big. We may also see robots and other forms of automation figuring prominently in the push to rebuild national infrastructure.
Real-time data is increasingly important across industries. It opens new opportunities, and can help you better identify and meet your customers’ needs. Equipment manufacturers can use this data to offer important insights into equipment performance and maintenance needs, offering better service and a longer product life.
Honeywell’s acquisition of Harsum in 2019 gave them access to warehouse automation to the tune of $493 million. Businesses increasingly understand that smart warehouses can save significant cash, reduce risk to staff, and help them deliver ahead of schedule. PE firms are increasingly interested in investing in these warehouses, and in supporting their acquisitions.
A subscriber is a long-time customer. To whatever extent a business is able to sign up customers for recurring fees—maintenance service, routine deliveries, or other recurring services—it can increase its bottom line, reduce risk, and better weather unexpected financial crises.