Survey finds optimism about 2024 manufacturing revenues despite recession concerns

Despite some concerns about a possible recession, the vast majority of manufacturers in a recent Wipfli survey expect their revenues to increase next year. 

The Milwaukee-based accounting and advisory firm yesterday released results of its latest online survey conducted via email in August. A total of 335 manufacturing companies responded, 11% of which are based in Wisconsin. 

Eighty-eight percent of respondents project higher revenues in 2024, the company’s report shows. 

And optimism among these manufacturers appears to have risen this year, as 35% said they feel much better about their company’s financial future than they did at the start of 2023. Another 44% said they feel somewhat better about it, while 11% said they feel somewhat worse, 8% said no change and 2% said much worse. 

But at the same time, 24% said they are very worried about a possible recession and its impact on their business, 67% said they are somewhat worried and 9% said they’re not worried at all. 

Still, a recession was only the second-most common top “macroeconomic” concern among respondents at 26%, the report shows. The most common worry, at 30%, is inflation. And 23% pointed to supply chain issues while 18% said the labor shortage is their greatest concern. 

Bill Boucher, manufacturing, retail and distribution leader at Wipfli, in a statement highlighted industry challenges including employee retention, data security and rising costs tied to inflation. 

“Our research shows while there are many obstacles, there is even more untapped potential in the areas of digital technology and AI that need consideration as we move forward into 2024,” Boucher said. 

Many of the surveyed executives said their businesses plan to invest in various technologies over the coming year, including 50% who said they will invest in robotics and automation. That was followed by 47% who will invest in cloud computing, 41% in data analytics and business intelligence, 41% in AI and 36% in production/machine monitoring. 

Of those looking to invest in AI, 70% said they will apply the technology in operations, 63% will use it for sales and growth, 48% will use it for automation, 47% for financial reporting and 35% for front and back office. 

And while cybersecurity is a top challenge for manufacturers, Wipfli says its surveys show improvement in this area. In a previous survey two years ago, 45% of respondents reported three or more possible data breaches had occurred in the past 12 months. That percentage dropped to 24% in the latest survey. 

When asked about steps being taken to protect their data, 69% of respondents said they have upped their investment in cybersecurity technologies such as upgraded network security and 65% said they’ve implemented safeguards such as 24/7 security monitoring. 

See the full report:—state-of-manufacturing_final.pdf 

See the release: 

–By Alex Moe