In 2007, Ray MacNeil left his job at PPG Industries where he’d worked for 35 years and began consulting. With a background in sales and marketing, strategic planning and business analysis, MacNeil does market research and development for a variety of companies within the composites industry. This experience also allows MacNeil to look ahead and forecast the economic future of the composites industry.

Ray MacNeil–Principal at Ray MacNeil Composites Consulting

Ray MacNeil–Principal at Ray MacNeil Composites Consulting

Do manufacturers have a reason to be positive in 2011?

The unusually severe drop-off in demand that we experienced in 2009 in the composites business makes for an ugly line graph, but is not dissimilar from what most other industries experienced during the same time frame. We are fortunate that many composites segments, such as automotive, industrial and oil field applications, have begun to recover fairly quickly. Other segments like construction, marine, infrastructure and wind energy appear to have stabilized but will be slower to recover the ground lost. 2010 was a year of strong, albeit partial, recovery for most manufacturers, suppliers and distributors while 2011 shipments will level off to a single digit rate of growth and should provide additional volume to fabricators serving automotive, energy and diverse industrial markets.

What market segments will grow in 2011?

Automotive, for starters. U.S. auto makers posted healthy sales in October and November, lifting hopes for a strong finish to the year, especially with the typically robust holiday-sales season imminent. November sales were 870,000 cars and light trucks, up 17 percent from the corresponding month of last year and 11 percent ahead in YTD cumulative results. Passenger car sales for 11 months were up 4.7 percent, and light trucks were 18.1 percent ahead. Even more encouraging was the fact that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales in November was 12.3 million vehicles.

Are there economic indicators people should watch?

A popular and very useful indicator, the Purchasing Managers’ Index of Manufacturing (PMI), is a data series published by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), established in 1915. Every month since 1931 it has published this report based on a survey of 400 industrial companies. The PMI is considered a strong and reliable indicator because it captures 10 separate measures in its monthly survey: new orders, backlog of orders, new export orders, imports, production, supplier deliveries, inventories, customer inventories, employment and prices, each of which is scored and reported each month. 10 of the 18 manufacturing industries in the survey reported growth in November, and the Plastics & Rubber Products segment ranked 6th among the 18 industries reporting growth.