DECEMBER 2015 The FABRICATOR 83
total of $2.3 billion. Overall, this shows that the met-
al fabrication manufacturing technology business
has regained its losses from the Great Recession and
then some (see Figure 1).
Among the spending category trends, one tech-
nology stands out: bending equipment. Total the
projected spending for hydraulic and electric press
brakes, as well as other bending equipment such as
folding and panel bending, and you get well over
$328 million. This surpasses the $231 million projected spending for both CO2 and solid-state (fiber
or disk) laser cutting machines.
Planned spending on bending surpassed laser
cutting for the first time in the 2015 forecast, and the
trend seems to be continuing. True, total spending
on all cutting processes (laser cutting, plasma cutting, punching, oxyfuel, and waterjet) together account for more than $500 million in total projected
spending. All the same, the industry is now making
bigger investments in the forming department.
When you consider the needs of the custom fabricator, this isn’t surprising. A fab shop needs to
produce kits of parts as quickly as possible, with
minimal setup time. For years shops have been able
to nest kits of parts on the laser or punch press, but
until recently press brake changeover was an issue.
So fab shops increased batch sizes and nested identical parts on sheets to make life easier for the forming department.
Today advanced setup and quick-changeover
technology—bending simulation, automatic tool
change, the use of panel bending and folding when
possible—is making the forming department as
flexible as cutting. All this technology of course
adds to bending investments, and the 2016 spending forecast certainly reflects that.
Gains in Welding
Welding power supply spending is up 10 percent,
and welding consumables and supplies spending
is up almost 40 percent from last year’s forecast.
Spending on guns, cables, and other welding torches is up 32 percent.
Planned spending in all the welding-related
equipment combined is more than $600 million.
That’s the largest spending category by far, and the
jump in consumables spending may be a harbinger
of busier times ahead.
Shifts in Laser Spending
The initial cutting process remains the engine of
the industry. Without reliable cutting, part flow
halts. This year’s forecast shows a significant shift
in spending. Projected spending on punching declined from last year, and for the first time, projected spending on fiber and disk lasers surpassed
spending on CO2 machines.
True, the difference is less than $7 million—a tiny
amount when measuring industrywide spending.
And this survey doesn’t account for existing laser
cutting machines, where CO2s still dominate, simply because the technology has been around for so
many years. But it seems the popularity of fiber and
disk laser cutting is stepping up rapidly.
Information and Software
When looking at the order-to-cash cycle, many now
have their eye on front-office operations. As more
custom fabricators are taking on more design work—
beyond just design for manufacturability—
engineering and estimating functions become more complex,
especially as that work focuses on more subassemblies and full assemblies that call for multilevel bills
of material and a multitude of sourced parts.
2016 Capital Spending Forecast
Reported Dollar Volume of Plants Planning to Purchase by State
The top 5 states represent 45.3% of the dollars planned to be spent.
The top 10 states represent 66.4% of the dollars planned to be spent.
Ohio - 6.2%
Michigan - 10.5%
Texas - 9.7%
Wisconsin - 8.5%
Tennessee - 6.5%
Illinois - 10.1%
Missouri - 3.2%
Georgia - 4.3%
Indiana - 4.1%
Arizona - 3.3%
West South Central
Capital spending dollars remain geographically concentrated. More than 66 percent of all planned spending in metal
fabrication comes from 10 states.
This chart shows average planned spending dollars of survey respondents. Note the significant drop in spending in
organizations with 1,000 employees or more.
2016 Capital Spending Forecast 28
Trend Data 2012-2016
Actual Reported Planned Average Spending Dollars by Plant Size
n;2016 n;2015 n;2014 n;2013 n;2012
0 $1,000,000 $2,000,000 $3,000,000 $4,000,000 $5,000,000 $6,000,000