In this week’s Thomas Index, I’m going to cover what we call the “Thomas Index Four by Four.” These are four product or service categories that have seen an upward trend in sourcing activity in the Thomas Network at Thomasnet.com, for at least four weeks running.
First up is the category of Mil-spec painting services, where sourcing activity was up 34 percent last week over its historical average. Mil-spec, or military specification, is a United States Department of Defense standard for the manufacture and performance of military equipment. We expect this upward trend in sourcing for mil-spec painting services and other mil-spec service categories to continue, as the Trump administration has promised a record military buildup, and is expected to raise defense spending to a whopping 716 billion dollars in the 2019 budget.
Next up in the four by four is the category of conveyor belts, for which sourcing was up 30 percent last week over its historical average. This trend should come as no surprise, as more and more businesses seek to modernize their factories, warehouses, and distribution centers to keep pace with the skyrocketing demand for the fulfillment of e-commerce products. High-speed conveyor systems are a critical component in the next generation automated fulfillment facility, and it's not just giants like Amazon and Walmart making investments in logistics automation. A growing number of warehouse robotics providers are getting in the game of helping small and midsize retailers and third party logistics operators automate existing operations without major retrofits, to keep pace with the e-commerce boom.
Sourcing activity for aluminum sheets has also been on a steady rise at Thomasnet.com, and last week was up 10 percent above its historical average. This upward trend bodes well for the economy, as aluminum sheet is the most widely used form of industrial aluminum, and is used extensively in a broad range of industries. These industries include aerospace, where it’s used for things such as the skin of planes. In transportation, aluminum sheet is used for the body of automobiles. It’s widely used in the packaging industry for canning, and it’s used in the construction industry for things such as building facades.
Rounding out the Thomas four by four this week is the category of heat treating services, where sourcing activity at Thomasnet.com was up 9 percent above its historical average last week. Heat treating is a core process used heavily throughout industry to create the desired properties in various metals – and here’s an interesting fact: according to U.S. census data, 96 percent of heat treatment companies employ fewer than 100 workers; 68 percent employ fewer than 20. When small businesses serve local and regional markets to provide the lion’s share of such a critical and widely used service, it’s just a great example of how small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.
Well, that’s what we’re seeing this week.
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