Purolator’s latest LI Index sparkles with positivity

Hot stuff: New technologies are sparking across-the-board increases for regional manufacturers, according to Purolator International's latest Long Island Supply Chain Index.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Optimism abounds in the latest edition of the Purolator Long Island Supply Chain Index, with regional manufacturers especially jazzed about production and hiring.

Jericho-based logistics ace Purolator International released its 2019 Long Island index data Tuesday, after surveying regional manufacturers and collating their projections for the next six months. Working on a scale of zero (complete decline) to 100 (complete expansion), the index tallied a 67.5 score overall – a “strong indicator of future business conditions,” according to Purolator.

The data comes from 106 Nassau and Suffolk county “manufacturing leaders,” who had their brains picked between December 2018 and March 2019 by representatives of Ohio State University, working off a survey prepared – and ultimately tallied – by Stony Brook University.

Purolator International hosted a panel discussion Tuesday to officially unveil the 2019 Long Island Supply Chain Index, featuring Gregory Penza, president and CEO of Hauppauge-based ULC Robotics; Frank Langro, North America director of product market management (pneumatic automation) for German multinational Festo; Kursad Devecioglu, co-chairman of the Hauppauge Industrial Association Manufacturing Committee; and Mike Attar, CIO of Future Tech Enterprise in Holbrook.

Among the promising results: Long Island manufacturers are particularly positive about new orders in the coming six months, with 64 percent of respondents anticipating an increase – a hefty jump from the 53 percent who predicted a new-order upswing in 2017, the last time Purolator International produced a Long Island Supply Chain Index.

A further 30 percent expect new orders to remain steady, meaning more than 90 percent of Long Island manufacturers are banking on either growth or stability through the bulk of 2019.

Similarly, 54 percent of regional manufacturers expect production to increase over the next six months, with 42 percent expecting it to stay level.

Attar, whose Holbrook-based IT solutions provider focuses on manufacturing industries and other key sectors, credited the production increases to the evolution of new technologies, and predicted that virtual reality and 3D printing tech would “touch every industry” within the next five years.

“Technology is transforming every part of manufacturing, from product conception (to) design, development, prototyping and supply chain,” Attar said. “We see VR and advanced 3D printing technologies as two of the most exciting innovations that can help drive productivity.

“Imagine you are an auto parts supplier,” he added. “Your designers can work on every part of a new product with collaborative VR and get the details just right before even a single dollar is spent on prototyping.”

Regional employment numbers, including recent hires and six-month projections, were equally healthy. Only 4 percent of regional manufacturers plan to cut staff, according to the survey, with 66 percent of respondents noting at least one new hire over the last year and 36 percent expecting to hire in 2019.

The upward employment trend is being supported nicely by regional schools, according to Attar, who said higher education is wisely focusing resources on “younger workers who have grown up in a technology-driven world.”

“Locally, we are seeing many schools and universities make some investments in low-cost 3D printing systems,” Attar noted. “This helps give students some experience on the technology.”

John Costanzo: Positive thinking.

Despite the auspicious numbers and trends, survey respondents were split on whether they felt more optimistic about Long Island manufacturing than they did 10 years ago, with only 45 percent feeling more optimistic. The less-optimistic balance cited the high cost of doing business on Long Island, a general decline in American manufacturing and a lack of skilled workers as the main culprits.

Not surprisingly, 73 percent of surveyed manufacturing executives suggested tax-relief programs as a regional government priority, while 24 percent suggested heftier government grants as the best elixir. Some 32 percent championed bigger, better education and training programs by both government agencies and business groups.

Respondents were also keen on incorporating robotics and advanced manufacturing into their formulas, with 47 percent of Long Island manufacturers saying they’ve digitized at least some of their manufacturing process – and 80 percent expecting to do so soon.

Devecioglu, who is also managing director of New York City-based software developer Bimser International Corp., said automation would be a key factor of “Industry 4.0,” a collective term invoking a fourth industrial revolution and embracing a number of contemporary manufacturing, data-exchange and automation technologies.

But digitizing certain manufacturing processes is less about replacing human workers than it is about giving them better things to do, according to Devecioglu.

“Nowadays, what we all are seeing is automating mundane tasks to increase productivity and safety in manufacturing,” he noted. “This is an opportunity to relocate resources to other parts of an organization.

“In terms of the future, workforce requirements will be more technology-oriented,” he added, citing new opportunities in cybersecurity, data analysis and wireless technologies, among other avenues.

Purolator International President John Costanzo framed the 2019 Long Island Supply Chain Index as a promising breakdown of regional manufacturing concerns, in line with other regional analyses – and, more importantly, with the national tide.

“We’re pleased to report this year’s survey data indicated strong positive growth for the local community,” Costanzo added. “These findings are in line with the state’s Empire State Manufacturing Index and the national Manufacturing [Institute for Supply Management March 2019] Report On Business, which means that Long Island is keeping up with national trends.”