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The American technology manufacturing sector seemed not to have much to smile about after the release of orders volume data for December 2018 by the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT). The data revealed that total orders in the sector had modestly reduced year-over-year. 2018 had been a strong year though. December results were just a small blemish on what would have otherwise been a perfect year for the sector. Numbers for all the other months have also been released and they look impressive.

Orders in the technology manufacturing sector summed up to $443 million in December 2018. This was a 2 percent decrease from November orders. However, the orders were higher by 6 percent than a similar time in December 2017. The drop was unprecedented, as the orders have always been expected to rise. For the 23 years that the data has been released, a drop in December’s numbers from those of November has only been recorded 4 times.

Not Enough Lean Thinking?

The drop was unexpected, given that the rest of the year had been impressive. The AMT attributed the drop partly to the government shutdown and the U.S-China trade war. Could lean thinking and proper planning have been lacking? Lean thinking enables businesses to plan or anticipate changes and challenges so that they are well equipped to deal with them. While the drop is quite insignificant as compared to the overall numbers of the whole year, it is still a source of concern. It shows what could happen if some of these challenges carried on for long.

Similar challenges could occur in 2019, given the prevailing political atmosphere. The various players in the manufacturing technology sector should be well prepared for such. Lean thinking focuses on continuous transformation and re-invention. Business organizations grow largely by being able to transform themselves in the face of adversity.

The AMT itself has admitted that the whole sector remains wary of the U.S-China trade war. There is a lot of debate concerning how much the war is benefiting or damaging the U.S industry. Input costs are rising because of high tariffs. At the moment, the forecast paints a stable market and most analyses are rooting for single-digit growth in 2019. Even then, every stakeholder in the industry ought to be prepared for unprecedented changes. You would never know what will happen as far as the trade wars are concerned.

The manufacturing technology sector is strong and robust. It is highly unlikely that it will struggle in the near feature. The business environment is very volatile nowadays, though. Often, the implications of certain political policies on businesses cause major tremors. If your organization is not well equipped to absorb the shock, it might struggle to keep up. The outcome in 2019 is largely dependent on the political atmosphere. However, with the first quarter of the year already gone, things are looking quite robust. It is poised to be yet another impressive year for manufacturing technology.

About Lean Learning Center

The Lean Learning Center was founded in 2001 to address the gaps and barriers that are holding back companies from successful and sustainable lean transformation. In addition to the advanced curriculum, the Center has developed a learning environment designed specifically for adult learning utilizing techniques that include discovery simulations, case studies, personal planning, and reflection – ultimately engaging people at a deep and personal level. We bring our unique lean understanding in creative ways to executives, managers, supervisors, change agents and front-line employees.

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