2018 is well underway, and, as we move forward, we must anticipate what the year may hold. Metal fabrication trends are constantly evolving as the technology and the market change and shift. In order to remain informed and proactive, the following are metal fabrication projections and trends to stay abreast of in 2018.
Overall Industry Growth
The prospect of growth in 2018 for the metal fabrication industry looks promising. The overall U.S. GDP is projected to grow by approximately 2.5%, and likewise, capital spending is expected to increase by 4.7%. In terms of metal fabrication specifically, the global market was valued at $16 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $24 billion by 2024. Leading organizations are reporting substantial growth rates. Aerospace, defense and agriculture—industries dependent on metal fabrication—are growing steadily as well. All these factors bode well for the industry as a whole this year.
Data-rich systems and robotic technologies are increasing in capabilities and use. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT), a network connecting warehouses and collaboration centers, enables companies to sense and control objects remotely, streamlining complicated processes. These kinds of resources allow organizations to focus on customization and customer support. This evolving technology will also create more positions for highly skilled technicians and data interpreters.
Research & Development
New technologies must be created before they can be leveraged. Many organizations in the industry will be investing in research and development. Technological innovation will prove crucial for metal fabrication, and those wishing to stay ahead will expand their capabilities and increase their resources.
3D printing is in many ways the future of metal fabrication. 3D printing technology is swiftly advancing, increasing opportunities for customization, improving efficiency and output and eliminating waste.
The cost of most raw materials, iron ore in particular, have been dropping steadily over the past several years. However, it seems this trend will reverse in 2018. The tariffs that Donald Trump wants to impose will have an extremely adverse effect on material prices; those prices will increase, if not skyrocket. Some suppliers depend on overseas material, and they will raise their rates as their inventory dwindles. Major U.S. producers will likely take advantage of this by scaling back production and raising prices astronomically, as they did in response to the Bush tariffs in 2002. In short, consider buying stock in U.S. steel producers as they should post record profits until inflation catches up.
Emerging Markets and Reshoring
Wages are rising in Asia, and much production is reshoring to North America—good news for the U.S. metal fabrication industry. This transition will lead to new opportunities in a variety of sectors for metal fabricators.
Another concern for 2018 is that the rapid growth of the industry will outpace the skilled labor supply. Increased automation will somewhat offset these concerns, but organizations should prepare to overcome some hiring challenges in the future.
A shifting landscape always carries with it some concerns. However, the overall forecast for the metal fabrication industry this year seems quite encouraging. If companies aggressively pursue innovation, growth is sure to follow.