Ohio Manufacturing in 2019

I recently had the opportunity to attend a reveal of research titled “The State of Ohio Manufacturing in 2019.” The reveal was hosted by the FASTLANE MEP office in Dayton and presented by Ned Hill from the Ohio Manufacturing Institute at The Ohio State University.

This research is conducted annually by the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). A free copy of the report for Northeast Ohio can be requested at the Magnet MEP website. Nearly 500 manufacturers throughout Ohio participated in the survey representing 17 different manufacturing sectors across all regions of Ohio.

Here are a few highlights from survey results:

Labor Shortage Challenges

Attracting new workers was ranked by respondents as the most significant barrier to growth, with 27% of respondents indicating that this issue is significantly hampering growth. The biggest challenges in hiring included the following:

  • Applicants do not have the needed skills or education
  • Lack of applicants for our open positions
  • Lack of work ethic, commitment or interest
  • Can’t pass the drug test


Investing in Safety & Strategies

In terms of business investment, 15% of firms responded that they had invested in safety equipment or training in 2018 while 14% had launched a new product. In terms of business strategy, manufacturers responded with the following list of strategic focuses:

  1. Customized manufacturing  40%
  2. Better quality  19%
  3. Hi-tech products  17%
  4. Superior customer service  15%


Investing in Automation

Survey respondents answer questions regarding recent investments in automation on their factory floors. Approximately 55% of all manufacturers have invested in automation with the primary driver being the need to augment their existing workforce. There was a correlation between those manufacturers who invested in automation and their revenue trends. Those with positive revenue growth invested more heavily in automation. Ned Hill noted however that the cause and effect is not clear … “does automation cause revenue growth?” … or “does revenue growth cause automation?”



My conclusion from the research was that Ohio manufacturers, like many other manufacturers in the upper Midwest, need to make sure that they are educating themselves about competitive trends in new technologies – and also preparing their workforce to be in a position to adopt these technologies effectively to improve productivity and profitability.