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ECONOMIC MARKET ANALYSIS: Outlook Is Strong for Material Handling Industry in 2018

The outlook for the U.S. economy, global economy and material handling is strong for 2018.

By Jason Schenker

Leading economic activity data, low interest rates, favorable tax policies in the United States, a falling greenback, and solid equity markets were all positive dynamics coming together to push material handling orders and overall activity to strong levels at the start of 2018. And a mix of these factors continue to provide reasons to be optimistic about growth overall throughout the year.

Global growth and purchasing manager index (PMI) data are supportive of material handling activity The U.S. ISM Manufacturing Index, the Eurozone Manufacturing PMI, and the Chinese Caixin Manufacturing PMI all conveyed growth at the end of 2017, with the Eurozone Manufacturing PMI at a record all-time high in December 2017, very strong expansion in the U.S. ISM, and continued growth in the Chinese Caixin. These leading indicators provided strong tailwinds for growth going into the start of the year.

In January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also raised its forecasts of global growth for 2018 and 2019 from 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent. This is a very strong economic growth rate.

In January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also raised its forecasts of global growth for 2018 and 2019 from 3.7 percent to 3.9 percent. This is a very strong economic growth rate.

In addition to PMIs and IMF global growth expectations, the New Orders series for the MHI Business Activity Index (BAI) also showed two consecutive record high levels at the end of 2017, when 71 percent of respondents reported rising new orders. This very industry-specific data series offers the best glimpse into the health of material handling and it also presented strong tailwinds at the end of 2017 for the first part of 2018. The most important data to watch with forward-looking implications for material handling are global PMIs and the MHI BAI.

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The Q2 2018 issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the supply chain workforce, including finding, retaining and unleashing the talent that is out there. To tackle the growing challenge of securing the right talent to effectively implement new technologies, firms must collaborate with industry associations, universities and career and technical education programs to develop the next generation supply chain workforce. This workforce will look very different as supply chains increasingly require purple people—those with business acumen (blue) and technical (red) skills—to leverage digital technologies and take full advantage of the business opportunities they offer.

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