By Michelle Bangert
The results of Quality Magazine’s 22nd annual spending survey are in, with the results showing concerns about COVID-19 are down, but inflation worries are up.
Clear Seas Research, in conjunction with Quality, conducted the study in order to determine actual spending for quality assurance and control equipment, systems, software, and services compared to the projected/budgeted amount as well as the change in budget allocation within quality equipment and service categories. Other key drivers were to get get a pulse on the quality professional themselves and see how their approach to quality today compared to the year prior.
The world looked a lot different in the fall of 2021.Back then, COVID-19 was a top concern for more than half of the respondents in Quality’s September 2021 survey. Today that number is down to 17%, according to to the results of the latest research, which surveyed Quality subscribers in September 2022.
While current events continue to change, the spending categories remained remarkably stable. Year after year respondents want their CMMs, scanners, and software. These products continue to be in demand every year, but of course, new technologies are joining the fold. Almost every emerging technology category saw an increase—from additive manufacturing to APIs—whether respondents are using them now or just beginning to plan for them.
A Snapshot of Survey Respondents
For almost two-in-three of survey respondents, the top manufacturing operation at their location is assembly. Next came machining, done at nearly half of locations.
Respondents came from locations with an average of 415 employees, with 74% of company locations employing fewer than 250 employees. These locations are scattered across the U.S., with 39% of respondents coming from the midwest, 22% from the south, 21% from the northeast, and 18% from the west.
In terms of the products they are manufacturing, the largest number of respondents came from companies in aerospace products/parts manufacturing, medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing.
Their major specialty areas were quality management (34%), along with quality engineering, corporate management, manufacturing engineering, and manufacturing management/operations. Other categories included research and development, technical engineering and purchasing.
More than half of respondents reported that their 2023 budget had already started as of mid-September 2022, and many were on their way to finishing them.
Three-quarters of respondents reported that they will have an approved quality equipment/services budget for fiscal 2023 in 2022, with 58% finalizing this in the fourth quarter of 2022. Twenty-one percent finished in October, 19% in November, and 18% in December.
However, many respondents are still working on this year’s budget. Twenty-two percent stated that they intended to finalize their budget in the first quarter of 2023. In addition, 12% of respondents intend to finalize their 2023 budget in January, 6% in February, and 3% in March.
Top Concerns of Respondents
The results indicated that COVID is not as pressing of an issue for respondents as it was in the 2021 survey. In fact, it was actually the least concerning issue for respondents at 17%, down from 52% the year before. The top three concerns for 2022 respondents were supply chain interruptions (69%), the current economy/inflation (63%), and skilled labor shortages (56%).
The Importance of Quality
Despite all of the changes impacting the industry, the importance of quality has not diminished. For almost all (98%) of respondents, it is just as important as ever or even more so. In fact, the importance of quality has risen significantly for some respondents, with 18% classifying it as very important.
When comparing the projected and actual budgets of respondents, 17% said that their 2021 actual spending was over budget, on average by 17%. For the 21% who said their spending was under budget, this was on average by 23%.
In terms of the fiscal budget, 69% projected that their 2022 budget will be on track with the budget set in 2021. The remaining group was divided equally among those who thought it might be over budget or under budget, with 15% for each category.
When asked about their 2023 spending, almost half of respondents (48%) anticipated spending to be the same as 2022. Almost as many anticipated spending more, with 43% expecting an increase, by an average of 19%. Furthermore, only 9% expected a decrease in the budget, on average by 25%.
For those who plan to increase their 2023 quality assurance/equipment/service budget, the reasons they gave were to improve productivity, reduce scrap and rework, increase production capacity, reduce costs, and replace equipment.
Whatever the reason, respondents indicated that the time to start spending is now. Twenty-five percent expected to make their first purchase for the fiscal year in January, whilst 61% planned to make this purchase sometime in the first quarter.
A strong inspection culture remains consistent amongst survey respondents. Lot sampling continued to be the most common approach to incoming (50% of respondents) and in-process testing/inspecting (41%). For final inspections, almost half of respondents’ companies test or inspect every part or product.
What They’re Buying
When it comes down to what respondents are buying general-use test/measurement/inspection equipment, test/measurement/inspection services, and/or gages/gaging systems topped the list of purchases for fiscal 2023.
The list goes on. Other planned purchases included: product testing equipment, software, consulting and training services, optical inspection and measurement equipment, materials test equipment, nondestructive test equipment, form and surface measurement equipment, CMMs, and color and coating thickness measurement. In fact, 96% of respondents said they planned to purchase at least one of these items.
Specifically, with regard to CMMs, 17% of respondents planned to purchase one and spending in this area looks set to increase. Almost half of respondents predicted their company will spend $100,000 or more on a CMM in 2023, which is higher than budgets set in this category for 2022.
In terms of form and surface measuring equipment, the budget was less than $5,000 for almost a third of respondents. Spending for 2023 is predicted to remain the same.
Budgets for gages and gaging systems for 2022 and 2023 were similar, with the majority of respondents budgeting under $60,000. Handheld gages led the gaging budget with 27% slated for them. Custom/specialty gages, a new category in 2021, jumped from 7% to 13%, making them the number-two category. Fixture and special tooling gages, thread gages, plug and ring gages, thickness gages, bore gages and depth gages were next. Air gages, turnkey and in-process gaging systems, fixed limit gages, snap gages, gear and spline measurement, and ball gages rounded out the list.
Forty percent of respondents budgeted less than $10,000 for optical inspection and measurement equipment in 2022. Fifty-nine percent expected this year’s budget for this equipment will remain the same, and 35% expected an increase. Twenty-four percent of this category will be spent on machine vision systems.
The budget for color and coatings thickness equipment is anticipated to be similar to 2022. Three-fifths of respondents’ companies budgeted less than $10,000 for this equipment in 2022, and spending for 2023 looks like it will follow this trend.
Material testing equipment looks like it is poised to jump. One-third of respondents expected to see an increase in spending on material testing equipment next year, which is higher than last year’s predictions. Hardness testing leads this category at 17%.
In terms of nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment, the majority of respondents (77%) expected their spending to remain the same. For about half of respondents, the 2022 budget for this equipment was $10,000 or less, and this looks set to continue this year. Ultrasonic testing led the category with 17% of the NDT budget.
For general-use test, measurement and inspection equipment in 2022, three-quarters of respondent companies budgeted less than $60,000. For most, 2023 will bring a similar pattern. Calibration equipment dominated the category, taking up half of this budget.
Nothing gets done without software, and more than half of respondents budgeted less than $20,000 for this item. This trend looks set to continue in 2023.
For consulting and training, the majority of respondents expected no changes, with 79% anticipating the 2023 budget will remain the same. Twenty-eight percent of this budget is predicted to be sent on certification/registration. Quality management and process improvement were slated for nearly one-third of this budget.
The Adoption of New Technology
While many of the previous categories have been around for a long time, there are some emerging technologies to highlight as well.
When looking at the past two years, the trend is up for most technologies, with respondents saying they currently use them or are planning to within the next few years. These included cloud computing, automation, additive manufacturing, robots, digitization, wireless sensors, APIs, internet of things, and integration of smart connected machines and manufacturing assets with the wider enterprise. Other categories included on-the-job required mobile devices, artificial intelligence/predictive data analytics, drones, augmented/virtual reality, and blockchain technology.
For additive manufacturing, use has jumped from 36% to 47%. Use of application programming interfaces (APIs) climbed up to 24% from 16%.
No matter where respondents were on the adoption timeline, more of the respondents reported that they were at least discussing the use of these technologies in the coming years.
The survey was sent to domestic active qualified subscribers of Quality. The survey was fielded September 14-27, 2022. Each respondent that participated in the study received a $10 gift card and Quality received a total of 303 useable responses.
About the author
Michelle Bangert is the managing editor of Quality Magazine.