Supply chain, labor top list of risks in manufacturing industry, report says

May 27, 2014

The manufacturing industry is poised for growth in 2014. Still, the second annual BDO USA LLP analysis of risk factors listed in the most recent 10-K filings of the largest 100 publicly traded U.S. manufacturers found that they will contend with a number of challenges as they work to capitalize on an improving economy and increased capital spending.

Chief among those challenges is working to achieve a secure and efficient supply chain, a risk cited by 100 percent of manufacturers this year, up from 83 percent in 2013. Manufacturers are increasingly concerned about forecasting errors that could lead to backlogs or shortages, as well as quality issues they may encounter with suppliers. Moreover, 88 percent of manufacturers note risks related to natural disasters, which could cause transportation breakdowns and significant delays.

Significant concerns over additional exposures caused by the global nature of supply chains are fueling the reshoring trend in the manufacturing industry. But according to the 2014 BDO Manufacturing RiskFactor Report, manufacturers are contending with a number of U.S. labor challenges. In fact, labor was cited by 97 percent of manufacturers as a risk this year, up notably from 2013 (75 percent). The manufacturing workforce is being squeezed as growth fuels more demand for workers and a greater number of baby boomers are retiring. Moreover, the skills gap among prospective workers is leaving available jobs unfilled.

“Growth in the economy and an increase in capital spending is excellent news for the manufacturing industry,” said Howard Sosoff, manufacturing and distribution practice leader at BDO USA LLP. “But with greater opportunity comes greater challenges. Manufacturers will face intense competition this year as they work to attract new orders and workers and expand their capabilities.”

Manufacturers also report significant challenges when it comes to regulation. Nearly all (99 percent) cite federal, state, or local regulation as a risk factor, and 87 percent note concern over accounting standards and regulations, up from 66 percent in 2013. Manufacturers point to the June 2 deadline to file disclosures about the use of conflict minerals as a key compliance challenge which could prove costly to their business. In addition, an increased focus on internal controls by auditors and regulators is putting added pressure on manufacturers.

Ninety-four percent of manufacturers cite competition and consolidation as a risk this year, and many are turning to acquisitions to gain an edge. More manufacturers (89 percent, up from 80 percent in 2013) cite risks related to mergers and acquisitions, a sign that many are looking outside their company to gain access to new technologies, IP, products, and distribution channels to improve their market position.

BDO, Chicago, is a professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory, and consulting services to a range of publicly traded and privately held companies.