Why Marc Hasrouny believes the time to act is not tomorrow but today on the challenges of decision making for equipment purchases and committing to automation.
SHOP: The industry seems to be weathering the pandemic storm much better than initially anticipated. Both metal cutting and metal forming posted levels in 2021 higher than expected, which shows job shops were busy. What do you forecast for 2022? Can the recovery continue?
Hasrouny: There are two perspectives to consider: the perspective of the machine tool dealers and the perspective of the end users, the manufacturers. Machine tool dealers are a bit nervous for this year because procurement is very hard and it’s taking longer to get deliveries of new equipment. On top of the time to produce the new equipment, transportation transit times are crazy – in some cases we are looking at over four months of transit time for the goods to arrive. Hopefully this will get better in the second half of 2022 but currently we are still facing these issues because of shortages of manpower at the ports, in the trucking industry and all through the supply chain. I think 2022 will be a little bit slower to start than 2021 but hopefully by the end of 2022 things will come back.
SHOP: What do you see as the top two threats to the industry’s continued recovery in 2022?
Hasrouny: Procurement is the biggest challenge right now and this is what is going to slow the economy. If you cannot deliver machines on time manufacturers can’t produce on time. The work is going to be here but if we can’t produce on time that work is going to have to go somewhere else. This is especially true if we continue having a shortage of people in machine shops.
SHOP: How can job shops respond to mitigate the impact of these threats?
Hasrouny: Manufacturers have to realize that the time to act is not tomorrow, it’s today. They need to shorten their time lines for making decisions on equipment because right now we are at an all-time low in inventory. We are being careful with equipment inventory because not only is the price of the equipment more expensive but so is the transportation cost to get it here. Equipment dealers can end up paying 30 per cent more than they used to. So when we do have equipment available we strongly recommend to buyers who are looking for equipment to not procrastinate on their decisions or they could be missing out on business. In the last few months customers who took an extra week to make their decisions were frustrated to find that the equipment they wanted was no longer available and they had to wait in some cases up to six months. Automation is also definitely something that business owners in manufacturing have to look at.
SHOP: You mention the importance of investing in automation but part of the challenge of doing so is that many Canadian job shops are small and can have a harder time trying to understand their requirements and being able to afford to make such equipment purchases. What’s your advice to them?
Hasrouny: This is like the example of your father refusing to learn how to use an iphone. Once they sit down and start using it, there is nothing scary about it. There are solutions now for automation that are so simple that small shops can easily integrate them into their operations. The price tag for automation solutions is not that expensive anymore and there are a lot of integrators out there who are very competent and looking for projects. You can have automation cells for less than $50,000 and you pay that once. Is a machine operator going to cost less than $50,000? I don’t believe so. Small shops should not be scared of automation. Automation is for them; it’s actually more for them than bigger companies.
SHOP: What role can CMTDA play in helping its members best deal with these threats to their business growth?
Hasrouny: We as the CMTDA need to help our customers understand what automation is, what is involved, and what is the cost. We have a job to do getting this information out and showing different applications and projects that were done for small, medium and large automation cells.
For more with Marc Hasrouny and the biggest challenge metalworking will face for the next decade, see the LEADERS section in the February issue of Shop Metalworking Technology.