AEM: Market Challenges Lie Ahead, But Optimism is Warranted

Engineers at a construction site
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As manufacturers look ahead to the remainder of 2023 and beyond, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers says the economic landscape continues to present challenges and opportunities for the construction and agricultural markets.

In the Q&A below, AEM Senior Director of Construction Sara Feuling and Director of Agriculture Austin Gellings share their outlooks and trends to watch.

Construction Forecast

What are the challenges and opportunities facing the construction industry in the near term?

Feuling: As the construction industry embraces change, there will be no shortage of challenges on the horizon. However, along with those challenges come a multitude of opportunities. Numerous equipment technologies will fundamentally transform the way the construction industry operates, which necessitates an entirely new approach, not only to the jobsite itself but also to people and the workforce. A variety of alternative power solutions will also be considered and implemented as the industry looks to reduce its carbon footprint, each bringing along with it its own unique challenges. The construction industry is nothing but resilient, though, and it will continue to face challenges head-on and take advantage of opportunities in front of it.

How willing is the construction industry when it comes to investing in and adopting new technology?

Feuling: It's long been said the industry is slow to adapt to, and adopt, technology. That’s not entirely the case, however. The men and women who support the industry want to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, and they take pride in their work. New and cutting-edge construction equipment technologies allow them to do their work faster, better,  and safer. And, as technology is adopted, its benefits to people, planet, and productivity will be validated, driving wider industry adoption. Finally, manufacturers continue to invest in technology, focusing on the needs of their customers. The construction industry will soon see proven benefits, along with an even greater return on their investment.

What’s your outlook for the construction industry in the near term and long term?

Feuling: The construction industry is – and should be – optimistic in the near and long term. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will continue to be a key driver for construction growth, with hundreds of billions of dollars allocated for infrastructure, energy, and utilities. Meanwhile, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act are driving spending in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. This growth and momentum have even more potential, especially as the industry embraces technology to improve productivity and performance.

Ag Forecast

What are the biggest factors impacting how producers approach their work right now?

Gellings: Essentially, everything hinges on where a farmer will be able to improve their efficiency the most and,  in turn, see the greatest return on investment (ROI). With input costs continuing to rise, the best way for a farmer to respond and continue to reap the rewards of strong commodity prices is to operate on those margins and find wins where they can. Technology, and even more specifically, data, provides such tremendous value and benefits. As farmers are looking for ways to minimize inputs (and, in turn, costs), while still increasing yields, technology provides the answer. It can be an herbicide, fertilizer application,  or the feed being given to a dairy cow. The data insights technology provides allow farmers to make better, more informed decisions for their operation and lead to more effective execution. We’re even seeing the emergence of technologies, such as targeted spray systems, that can make decisions in real-time to reduce inputs in the field.

What factors will drive producers to invest in new equipment and technology in the near term?

Gellings: Ultimately, the biggest deciding factor in a farmer’s willingness to adopt new technology is whether or not it will actually work for them (and, perhaps more importantly, when they will see a return on their investment). Farms are a business and, more times than not, a farmer is ultimately more than likely willing to try something new if there is a solid business case to be made. However, most farms operate on the margins and don’t always have three to five years to wait and achieve an ROI.

What’s your outlook for the ag industry in the near term and the long term?

Gellings: In both the near and long term, farmers and the ag industry as a whole are in a really great spot. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are realizing now more than ever how fragile our food supply can be. As a result, society possesses a greater appreciation for the men and women along that supply chain who work to make sure everyone has nutritious food available to them. That’s why there’s reason for optimism in the near term. Looking further out, there is even more cause for optimism because of agriculture's role in our journey to being more sustainable. Agriculture has a huge role to play in addressing a number of the sustainability goals that exist around the world today. The critical part will be how the industry tells its story and lends its voice to those conversations.