2015 Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor

Insights on global growth, innovation and information technology

Download a 2015 report:

Executive summary
Global growth
Investing for growth and innovation
Information technology and data security

With employment and wages in the United States rising and the dollar gaining strength, it is tempting to think that the U.S. economy has recovered.  Although expectations are not quite as high as they were at the beginning of 2015, the outlook for manufacturing remains positive and industry executives anticipate healthy profits to come in the next 12 months, according to the 2015 RSM Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor survey.

Industry executives in U.S.-based companies, however, are being challenged as never before by offshore competition. Because the U.S. economy has made the domestic market so attractive—and as other markets are less economically stable or saturated by local companies—more than half of the non-U.S. manufacturers planning to sell products and services outside their home countries are entering the U.S. market.

Conducted in March and April 2015, the 2015 Monitor survey presents the perspectives and expectations of 1,660 manufacturing and distributions executives based around the world. These executives represent companies based primarily in the United States, but also companies based in Canada, Latin America (Brazil and Mexico), the Asia-Pacific (Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan and Singapore), and Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom).

For U.S. and non-U.S. companies alike, the United States is the most common market currently served, the market most likely targeted for new sales efforts this year, and the market from which companies expect the most significant increase in sales in 2015.

U.S. manufacturers and distributors trail their global counterparts in many key areas that fuel innovation and business growth. This includes investments in information technology, but also in marketing and strategic planning, as well as processes to drive new services and identify new or emerging technologies.

In eight of 13 investment categories, a higher percentage of non-U.S. firms plan to drive growth through investments in non-traditional areas, such as customer service, delivery and logistics, supply chain management and monitoring, financial strategy, regulatory compliance, and cybersecurity risk mitigation.

While three-quarters of Monitor participants report that their companies have had no security breaches, more than 60 percent are only somewhat or not at all confident that they have the ability to monitor and safeguard sensitive customer data from unauthorized access. 

Overall, U.S. and non-U.S. Monitor participants are taking many of the same security measures to guard against unauthorized data access, but to varying degrees, depending on business conditions. Among the top five actions taken by Monitor participants overall, just over half of thriving companies purchase new or upgraded software while only 27 percent of declining companies will take this step.


The 2015 RSM Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor was conducted using an online questionnaire promoted by RSM, industry associations, and a research panel organization to manufacturing and distribution companies. There were 1,660 total valid respondents to the 2015 Monitor survey, with completed questionnaires received in March and April 2015. Responses were received by The MPI Group, an independent research firm, and then entered into a database, edited, and cleansed where necessary to ensure answers were plausible. All respondent answers to the 2015 RSM Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor are confidential. As an incentive to complete the study, participants who provided contact information are being provided a customized benchmark report.

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Steve Menaker 
National Manufacturing Practice Leader



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