The survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, found that 63 percent of U.S. manufacturers have a positive outlook and believe their industry will improve in the coming year. Sixty-one percent said their company is either in the process of investing in new automation technologies or will do so sometime this year.
Those results more or less jibe with the findings of a recent worldwide survey of business IT leaders done by market researcher Gartner, which also identified growing optimism with regard to tech spending in 2004.
In the Penn study, sponsored by German tech conglomerate Siemens and announced Wednesday, just under half of the executives polled said they are expanding their businesses this year, compared with 11 percent who said they are downsizing.
Respondents saw automation technology as having the biggest positive impact on manufacturing in the year ahead. Nearly three-fourths believed their competitors are investing in new manufacturing or automation technologies, the study found. Two-thirds said that more efficient production systems would help their companies win new business or increase sales.
"Technology spending is back because companies have a reason to invest in technology now more than ever," Bill Zadrozny, CEO of Siemens Financial Services, said in a statement. "Companies see a pickup in the demand for business equipment. They see consumer spending continue at a very high level. They see the economy improving. So they're investing in new technologies to improve productivity, increase efficiency and increase capacity."
The findings are based on 76 phone interviews of executives across various sectors, including semiconductor, consumer products, biotechnology and automotive, conducted between Feb. 20 and March 3.