Friday, October 15, 2010

How the jobless recovery helps lasers

Several laser segments have recovered surprisingly well in this recession. This is after my warnings over the last two years that capital equipment markets take it especially hard in a recession. So what gives? Who needs new capital equipment when factories are running at lower capacity?

Enter the jobless recovery. Plant managers are talking about buying more efficient tools that operate more efficiently. In good times, this means buying a new tool to do more with the same staff. In recessions, this means buying a new tool to do more with less. Lasers play a role because they are used in big machine tools like sheet metal cutters.

Companies have cash. They are using it to buy back stock, buy capital equipment, and increase their reserves. What they're not doing is hiring workers.

There's a lot more to it than just the jobless recovery. There's the turnaround of the electronics industry after a two year slide. There's China. There are segments that are less sensitive to recessions. And so on.

But the jobless recovery explains why so much of the laser market is recovering as well as it is.