Last year was a dismal one for the material handling industry, with material handling equipment orders falling by 37.4 percent and certain sectors seeing sales fall by as much as 50 percent for some quarters. But starting in late 2009, the industry hit a floor and has started to rebound, said John Nofsinger, CEO of the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA).
In fact, material handling equipment orders are expected to grow by 6-8.5 percent this year, according to the Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing Forecast released by MHIA last week at the NA2010 Material Handling and Logistics Show. Shipments, which fell by 34.4 percent last year, are expected to grow by 1-2 percent in 2010. The complete forecast can be downloaded here.
In an interview with DC Velocity, Nofsinger was even more optimistic than the official forecast, saying that most sectors are seeing a growth of 10-12 percent over last year. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that increase by a couple of percentage points," he added.
Nofsinger predicts that growth will accelerate even more in 2011, with gains of more than 20 percent. Although that will still leave the industry short of 2007 sales levels, all sectors of the material handling industry are rebounding, he said.
Hal Vandiver, executive vice president of business development for MHIA, says the impetus for the growth comes as the economy shifts out of recession into recovery and businesses re-establish inventories and respond to growing demand. Vandiver dismisses the chance that the economy will slide back into recession but does expect that growth will come in increments. "I see supply chains ratcheting up, then falling back a bit, then ratcheting up again," he said at a press conference during the NA2010 in Cleveland.
Signs of that recovery could be seen on the show floor itself. While the aisles were not packed, foot traffic at the trade show was brisk on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Many exhibitors reported that the attendees they met had come to the show with approved budgets and projects.