During the first quarter of 2011, NetSuite conducted a benchmark survey on the state of business within the mid-market North American manufacturing industry.

The exciting news is that the majority of respondents reported significant optimism for growth in the future. More than 75% believe their business will improve in the near term, and almost 98% reported that they believe their business will either improve or remain steady—a dramatic and significant improvement over results NetSuite saw in its earlier survey of manufacturers in the first half of 2010.

For key objectives, 60% are focused on both revenue growth and cost savings, with about 30% focused primarily on revenue growth only. Maintaining and increasing revenue growth while watching costs and delighting customers are key priorities for manufacturers in 2011.

The optimism among manufacturers has increased significantly from 2009, when companies were focused on cost reductions above all else. The results of this survey indicate that manufacturers are once again focused on investing to create new products and get revenue growing among both new and existing customers.

The survey also reveals a strong focus on improving customer satisfaction, retention and profitability, with CRM and ecommerce systems among the technologies to help achieve these strategic business goals. At the same time, manufacturing leaders are looking to improve employee productivity, automate and streamline business processes and reduce overhead to boost overall efficiency.

Some findings from the NetSuite survey report, The State of Manufacturing, include:

  • 71% are focusing on improving employee productivity to reduce costs
  • 58% are looking to grow revenue by deepening relationships with existing customers
  • Only 3% are considering layoffs, indicating a robust and growing business climate.

To achieve their objectives, manufacturing companies want a system that supports all business processes and gives a complete view of what is going on within the business. For that reason, many manufacturing businesses are looking at web-based SaaS (or cloud computing) applications, specifically SaaS manufacturing,  as an effective technology for getting visibility into the business, reducing costs and improving business efficiency.

NetSuite’s survey was designed to better understand the manufacturing industry’s economic health, business objectives, focus areas, key challenges and its use of software to support key business processes. Over 85,000 contacts received an invitation to participate. With more than 800,000 manufacturing businesses in North America, the survey was a significant undertaking and builds upon similar industry assessments from the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, as well as NetSuite’s 2010 survey.

If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to download the results of the survey.

Ranga Bodla, Industry Marketing