Industrial capital spending continues to increase, according to a forecast published this month by IMS Research, and when the results are in for 2012 it will have risen 6.8% over the 2011 level. That study also predicts that total industrial capital spending in the Americas will pass $1 trillion by 2015: oil-and-gas is the sector drawing the most investment, more then one-third of all spending, IMS reported.

What is the principle metal that you cast?   How many employees work in your metalcasting operation?

Those are the generally positive conditions that foundries and diecasters find as a new year arrives, and it's context for the general developments found in the metalcasting market. But, the closer one looks at the metalcasting market the more challenging it becomes to draw any certainty even from such encouraging trends. Confidence, such as it is, is limited.

Metalcasting is an industry meant to outlast trends, to endure both booms and busts, and metalcasting businesses need a market presence built on reliability, not availability. From the perspective of metalcasters, the 2013 Outlook is not so clear.

How will your 2013 casting shipments (tonnage) compare with 2012 shipments?   What types of capital expenditures are you planning for in 2013?

If anything has been learned during 2012 it's that opinions don't matter as much as results. Opinions are widely available, but finding reliable insight requires reliable sources. Each year we trust our readers' understanding of the conditions prevailing in North America's metalcasting industry, and their evaluations of its prospects.

There is a risk to conducting surveys: the results may be unwelcome, or we may not be prepared with a proper response. Worse, we may not understand the results' meaning. But there is value in the survey that FM&T conducts among readers each year: it allows us to gauge the outlook of the men and women working in North American metalcasting, to identify what problems they face in their businesses and the economy, to know what plans they're making for the coming business cycle, and to learn what they're expectations are for the year ahead.

What are your borrowing plans for 2013?   How do you expect your 2013 casting shipments (tonnage) to compare with 2012 shipments?

We surveyed readers by email over a period of six weeks during September and October, identifying as nearly as possible the most senior individual at each location in our circulation. The results include responses from nearly 200 readers who represent a broad variety of foundries and diecasters: 27.4% indicate aluminum is the principal metal cast at their operations, while 19.5% are producing gray iron, 16.8% are producing steel, and 12.6% are producing ductile iron; 8.4% are producers of brass or bronze alloys, and 15.3% are producing some other alloys.

How will your 2013 casting shipments (tonnage) compare with 2012 shipments?   How will your 2013 casting shipments (tonnage) compare with 2012 shipments?

The respondents also represent a wide range plant types, from small shops with less than 20 workers to large operations with 250 or more employees. Thus, they are a reliable impression of the outlook among domestic foundries and diecasters, and an indicator of the expectations for their businesses in 2013.