Automotive tooling barometer points to a strong 2018

The automotive tooling industry is looking strong throughout 2018, with key indicators—sentiment, backlogs and utilization—all positive, according to the Q1 2018 Automotive Tooling Barometer. The report is published by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA; Troy, MI) and Harbour Results Inc. (HRI; Southfield, MI), a business and operational consulting firm for the manufacturing industry.

“Although we believe 2018 will be a strong sourcing year for the automotive tooling market, we are seeing some indications of a return to more normal sourcing levels in the near future,” said Laurie Harbour, President and CEO of HRI. “Automakers are continuously making product changes in response to market forces, which makes this industry difficult to predict. It is important that shops stay vigilant, monitor industry data and be prepared to make quick decisions to stay profitable.”

The survey population was comprised of mold shops (69%), die shops (18%) and other (14%) in the United States (56%), Canada (37%), Europe (5%) and Asia (2%). Shops with revenue ranges of less than $5 million up to greater than $40 million were represented, with the largest percentage (25%) of shops coming in the $5 million to $10 million range. 

Sentiment remains strong (80%) with a slight increase over Q4 2017. Additionally, the cyclical nature of work on hold continues, jumping to 11% from 8.4%.

Over the past 12 months, both die and mold shops have experienced strong capacity utilization (90% and 81% respectively). However, average throughput, a sign of efficiency which is strongly correlated to profitability, shows die shops are experiencing slightly higher efficiency levels than mold shops. According to Harbour, levels of efficiency are all over the map independent of shop size, with some of the best being larger than $40 million as well as smaller than $5 million. This likely is the result of how busy a shop is as well as its commitment to improve operations, making them profitable regardless of market forces.

For the first time the study looked at die and mold shop liquidity, and the data show that a shop’s liquidity is linked directly to payment terms and accounts receivable (AR) paid on time. Both of these factors continue to trend down with progressive payment terms dropping from 55% in Q4 2017 to 51% in Q1 2018, while ARs paid on time dipped one percentage point during the same timeframe.

“We feel the reason these two factors continue to trend down is twofold. First, the industry is starting to normalize, with supply outpacing demand. Second, the industry is coming off an unprecedented 18 months of tool spend—nearly $15 billion in tools—which has cash tight across automakers and Tier 1 suppliers,” commented Harbour.

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