Friday, January 21, 2011

Changing attitudes

When last I left you, we were riding out another nor’eastah (as they say down Maine), which ended up leaving 23 inches on the ground, followed by another 4, then 8 and as this is being written, another 8 inches. We’ve already passed the annual average snowfall with another 6 to 8 weeks to go before the weather pattern changes to warmer temperatures.

As you read this, I will be winging my way to milder climes in San Francisco for the annual Photonics West, the SPIE LASE Conference, and PennWell’s Laser and Photonics Marketplace Seminar.

In reverse order, at the Marketplace Seminar, I will be bringing positive news to a roomful of marketing executives, who already know that the tide has turned and business is very good. I’ll be showing them market numbers that suggest the industrial sector will return to pre-recession revenue levels a year ahead of what had been forecast. Suppliers are reporting record sales revenues and profits, and bookings at many are at an all-time high.

I was visiting with a system integrator who said his bookings through 2011 and into 2012 are a record and that his main problem is finding vendors to supply the company’s production demands. It seems we all joked about this situation when we in the depths of the recession, saying, "It’s a problem we won’t complain about” then.

My Seminar presentation is full of optimism, and I will back it up with my view of the industries being served by industrial lasers and their buying plans for the coming year. Even the solar cell business, which looks to be in a cyclical downswing, as some countries cut or drop subsidies, is positioned to work off the inventory as new markets open quickly. This is great for the laser business as this is a key industry for laser processing.

At the LASE conference, I will show the status of the fiber laser industry and how its growth potential will make it a dominant player in the indusial laser marketplace as early as next year. Fiber lasers, along with other solid-state lasers, dragged the laser market up to significant growth last year, but the big growth numbers were with fiber lasers, which will now continue to eat into solid-state sales, especially in microprocessing.

And, finally, I will be meeting with a cross-section of laser and component suppliers, all of which focus on the industrial market. Photonics West set records for exhibitors this year, and its character is changing a bit as visitors are feeling comfortable with their products. I fully expect to hear nothing but good news from those I interview as the timing of the recovery couldn’t have been better.

It will be a busy week, but the show and conferences will be upbeat and a pleasure to attend.

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