Equipment manufacturers cautiously optimistic for 2024

By |  November 28, 2023
Equipment and parts availability improved in 2023, but it remains an area to watch. Photo: P&Q Staff

Equipment and parts availability improved in 2023, but it remains an area to watch. Photo: P&Q Staff

Although aggregate volumes are trending downward in 2023, demand for aggregates remains strong with production near recent annual highs.

By Dodge Construction Network’s tabulation, nonbuilding construction starts were up 25 percent through the first nine months of the year. Residential and nonresidential starts, meanwhile, were respectively down 17 percent and 7 percent.

Despite total construction starts slipping 3 percent through three-quarters of the year, aggregate producers are plenty busy. Aggregate-intensive construction projects are fueling opportunities for equipment manufacturers and dealers, who are doing their part to keep pace alongside producer businesses.

“In 2023, there was a slight decrease in the production and shipping of total construction aggregates within the U.S., as compared to 2022,” says Peter Kilmurray, vice president of sales at Haver & Boecker Niagara’s North American operation. “However, the fact that this was a dip and not a dive reflects the resolve of aggregates operations seeking creative solutions to industry challenges.”

By and large, equipment manufacturers and dealers are cautiously optimistic about the industry’s prospects for 2024. Still, those on the industry’s equipment supply side are concerned about several developments that could make an impact in the months to come.

“The good news is that continued federal funding for roads and infrastructure, as well as an increasing demand for raw materials, will drive this anticipated growth for the industry,” Kilmurray says. “At the same time, the industry needs to respond to lingering supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, as well as a rising call from regulators and customers for decarbonized operations.”

Other perspectives

Swank

Swank

Like Kilmurray, Philippi-Hagenbuch’s Josh Swank is energized by the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and its potential to spark demand for aggregates in 2024.

Swank, though, is paying attention to a few dynamics that could take the industry in one direction or another.

“We expect 2024 to be very similar to 2023,” says Swank, vice president of sales and marketing at Philippi-Hagenbuch. “As we look toward 2025, we will keep a close eye on interest rates and how that will affect commercial development and construction. Without as much demand for construction, the industry will need to be able to fall back on infrastructure.”

Global unrest could also factor into the industry’s performance in 2024, according to Swank.

“Things could change dramatically in terms of the impact on the economy and the demand for raw materials,” he says. “That said, we believe conditions are right for a strong and steady year in 2024, and we are optimistic about the year ahead.”

Ian Edwards, vice president of global sales at Major, is yet another manufacturer who’s cautiously optimistic about 2024.

“If governments continue to invest in infrastructure projects, it will continue to boost demand for aggregates in construction, roadbuilding and other infrastructure-related activities,” Edwards says. “We know interest rates and lending will continue to play a role on this front. On a global scale, with the continued growth in population, the need for more infrastructure will continue.”

Additionally, Edwards says producers made gains in 2023 in terms of their utilization of equipment and technology.

“The industry has been evolving with the integration of advanced technology over the last several years, such as automation, digital monitoring and improved data analytics,” he says. “As these innovations can dramatically enhance operational efficiency and resource management, we saw a lot of businesses in 2023 working to learn and understand how they could continue to take advantage of these new tools for forward growth.”

Sustainability is another factor impacting how producers invest in their operations, Edwards says.

“Continued increasing awareness of environmental issues has put more emphasis on sustainable practices within the aggregate industry,” he says. “Many companies have or seem to have had to adapt to more stringent environmental regulations and work on minimizing their ecological footprint. With this, we saw a shift in where companies were spending or needed to spend, reducing their overall spending budgets for actionable products.”

The supply chain next year

Edwards

Edwards

Yet another area that stood out to Edwards in 2023: the supply chain.

Shortages experienced in various industries also had and continue to impact the aggregate sector,” he says. “This, for sure, has been one of the largest, more widespread challenges that all have continued to face and adapt to as we worked through 2023. Although we did see some improvements in availability and logistics, pricing remains a challenge on many fronts when working globally.”

Steel market volatility is one dynamic that further impacted equipment suppliers in 2023, according to Swank.

“With rising demand for steel, steel prices have also risen along with the cost to deliver the steel to our manufacturing facilities,” Swank says. “At Philippi-Hagenbuch, we’ve broadened our supplier base and have been very creative to meet producers’ demand for customized haul truck equipment without sacrificing quality.”

The supply chain remains something to watch in 2024, Edwards adds.

“Factors like transportation issues, natural disasters or geopolitical tensions could continue to disrupt the supply chain world and affect the availability of aggregates on a regional and national scale,” he says.

Related: How manufacturers are adjusting to meet demands

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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