Measuring and Controlling Devices, NEC

SIC 3829

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry is comprised of companies primarily engaged in manufacturing a multitude of miscellaneous monitoring instruments. Major industry product segments include aircraft engine instruments; nuclear radiation detection and monitoring instruments; commercial, geophysical, meteorological, and general-purpose instruments and equipment; and physical properties testing and inspection equipment. This industry also encompasses companies that produce selected surveying and drafting supplies, such as transits, slide rules, and T-squares, as well as other measuring and controlling devices. For more information on the history of measuring devices, see other entries in SIC group 382.

This industry was fragmented in comparison to other U.S. manufacturing sectors, with a large variety of product specializations. Total sales across all sectors of the industry reached $9.5 billion in 2009. The overall industry leader of the late 2000s and early 2010s was created when Thermo Electron and Fisher Scientific International were combined in an $11 billion transaction to form Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. in 2006. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Thermo Fisher had sales of $10.1 billion in 2009 with 35,400 employees. Another industry leader was Vishay Intertechnology Inc. of Malvern, Pennsylvania, with 2009 sales of $2.0 billion and 22,300 employees. In the trace detection segment of the industry, GE Ion Track, formerly known as Ion Track before being purchased by General Electric in 2002, was a major player.

The main customers of the aircraft engine instruments segment were General Electric (GE), United Technologies, Rolls Royce, and other aircraft manufacturers. The sector shipped temperature, pressure, vacuum, fuel and oil flow-rate sensors, and other measuring devices. Growth in this market is linked to aircraft production.

Most of the products shipped by the nuclear radiation detection and monitoring segment were shipped to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, and nuclear power plants. These products included radiation detection instruments, radiation dosage monitoring instruments, pulse analyzers, and nuclear spectrometers. The segment's growth hinges on defense research and development (R&D) spending.

Commercial, geophysical, meteorological, and general-purpose instruments and equipment is a large segment in the measuring and controlling devices industry. Product shipments include weather forecasting and other meteorological instruments, seismic detection, petroleum exploration, and other geophysical instruments. This segment's growth is affected by the nation's economy.

Physical properties testing and inspection equipment was another large segment of this industry. R&D investment by durable goods manufacturers spurs demand for the physical properties testing instruments, physical properties inspection equipment, and kinematic testing equipment produced by this segment.

Construction activity affects growth in the surveying and drafting instruments and apparatus segment. Surveying equipment comprises the majority of product shipments.

After 1950, rising demand for measuring and controlling devices by aerospace, nuclear, and petroleum industries pushed industry revenues to about $2 billion by the end of the 1970s. Likewise, increased defense spending and general U.S. economic growth, combined with steady export gains, almost doubled revenues during the 1980s. Indeed, as aerospace and nuclear device sales proliferated, overall industry sales grew at an average rate of seven percent between 1982 and 1990, to more than $4 billion. Exports represented 40 percent of total shipments.

Although industry employment remained steady during the 1980s--at about 37,000 workers--increased automation and the movement of some manufacturing activities overseas resulted in workforce cutbacks during the 1990s. In fact, between 1990 and 1996, the workforce as a whole dropped 17 percent and number of production workers fell 11 percent between 1992 and 1996.

Sharp cutbacks in defense spending and the virtual cessation of new nuclear facility construction in the United States rattled industry participants in the early 1990s. Despite some domestic setbacks, the demand for meteorological measuring devices continued to grow, and exports surged. Sales in physical properties testing took up the rest of the slack in the industry, passing up meteorological measuring in 1995 as the largest division within the industry in terms of sales dollars. Total value of shipments in 1995 was $4.6 billion, with physical properties accounting for $1.5 billion of that total and meteorological measuring devices accounting for $1.4 billion. Although imports increased, exports still held a commanding 40 percent of sales, thus bringing the trade surplus down to $1.1 billion.

As with many manufacturing industries, the miscellaneous measuring and controlling device sector was changing rapidly due to increased computer, electronic, and digital innovations. Automation and efficiency, in conjunction with cost-effectiveness, were important factors in the products of the 2000s. According to the U.S. Industry and Trade Outlook, "the increased use of 'intelligent' products is allowing the end user--a manufacturing facility or power plant--to predict problems in advance of costly failures."

Through the mid- to late 2000s, the miscellaneous measuring and controlling devices industry continued to grow, despite the economic downturn beginning in 2008. Aircraft engine instruments was one of the industry's fastest growing segments. Furthermore, the addition of software and services contributed to overall industry growth, as did further expansion into overseas markets. The top five export markets in the late 1990s were Canada, Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom, and Germany; these five countries also were the top import countries.

Exports continued to be a vital part of the industry into the second decade of the twenty-first century. According to Supplier Relations US LLC, the United States exported about 30 percent of total production in 2009, worth $3.4 billion. Imports, on the other hand, were valued at $1.4 billion.

Dun & Bradstreet reported in 2010 that 2,600 establishments employed 44,100 workers in the industry encompassing miscellaneous measuring and controlling devices. About 88 percent of these establishments employed fewer than 50 workers, and these smaller companies accounted for 63 percent of total industry sales. The largest categories in terms of revenue included aircraft and motor vehicle measurement equipment and liquid scintillation and nuclear spectrometers.

Employment in the overall measuring and controlling instruments manufacturing industry was expected to decrease into the late 2010s, partly due to increased automation and the movement of manufacturing jobs overseas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 7.3 percent drop in job numbers between 2008 and 2018. However, output in the industry was expected to increase 3.3 percent during the same time period.

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