Friday, December 21, 2012

Seasons greetings

It's that time of year when many of us reflect on the past 12 months -- and if we are honest, we give some thought to what we did that didn't quite work out the way we had planned. Out of this may come a resolution to not do such things again in the new year. I come at this from a different, more pragmatic, direction: basically, what happened is history and move on from there.

The reason I bring this up is that I have completed my Annual Industrial Laser Market Review, which will appear in the January/February issue of Industrial Laser Solutions magazine and also be presented at the annual Laser & Photonics Marketplace seminar in San Francisco (February 4th) -- in which I will gracefully acknowledge that I pretty much called the laser economic performance as it worked out.

Nursing a strained arm, a result of too much back-patting, I will bravely attempt to crystal-ball the 2013 markets. Like the most watched prognosticator, the weatherman, I'll take credit for the good forecast and ignore the bad; maybe that's where I developed my pragmatic attitude. (Just kidding, folks -- I don't get, nor want, gold medals for calling it right.)

The industrial laser market was 'so-so' in 2012, with some sectors having a great year and others a not-so-bad year, much of which came in quarterly ups and downs through the year, not too many in sync. However, the third quarter seemed to be the most common for "down" news, a result I posit was due to laser and systems suppliers working off their 2011 backlogs. If companies were supplying the aerospace, transportation, energy, agriculture, personal communications, and medical devices markets, their fortunes were up. Since these sectors represent a major chunk of the total laser market, it was a good thing. My take on the other segments was that they had just an average year and as a consequence 2012 ended up in the mid-single-digit range for growth.

For 2013, I am not convinced that the laser market will repeat the same performance. A message that came across when talking with exhibitors at the last big show of 2012, Fabtech, was to expect a flat year. Projections for 2013 ranged from that to low growth, with the exception coming from some of the 'star' sectors of 2012. I won't give away my analysis results; you'll have to read it in ILS or attend the San Francisco seminar. Suffice it to say, it's not the brightest forecast I have made.

Other than that, please have a happy holiday season -- and let's think positive about 2013.