They are having trouble finding qualified candidates. They say there is a shortage of skilled machine operators and welders.
Manufacturers are also concerned about the increase in health insurance costs.
These are some of the findings from a recent survey of 80 financial executives representing U.S.-based manufacturers in more than 25 different industries conducted by Prime Advantage, a buying consortium for midsized industrial manufacturers.
More specifically, Prime Advantage found that all CFOs plan to grow or maintain the size of their workforces. What's more, nearly one in four (72 percent) expect to hire in 2011. This is very significant, given that in last year's survey, just 24 percent of CFOs planned to hire more employees.
Still, 23 percent reported having difficulties filling open positions.
CFOs are also ready to open their wallets for other spending needs.
Nearly all survey participants plan significant capital expenditures this year. For example, 88 percent said they will buy manufacturing equipment and 56 percent plan to buy computer hardware.
Interestingly, nearly three quarter said the ability to use business investment tax credits is accelerating plans to invest in manufacturing equipment this year.
In addition, 58 percent of CFOs said they kept the level of R&D investments in 2010 equal to pre-recession levels, and 19 percent increased R&D investments above pre-recession levels.
As for new product development, 39 percent plan to increase investments in this area in 2011.
Still, the finance executives do have some concerns.
For example, uncertainty about customer demand remains the top external concern among 48 percent of respondents and in the top three concerns for 82 percent of survey participants. However, these levels are down from 61 percent and 80 percent in 2010 and from 76 percent and 93 percent in 2009 respectively, the first year this annual survey was conducted.
Concern over the cost of non-fuel commodities was cited by 73 percent of respondents, up from 27 percent in 2010, with 30 percent ranking it as the top concern.
Price pressure (55 percent) was the third most cited concern, down from 70 percent in 2010.
Not surprisingly, medical insurance premiums jumped to the top internal concern for 33 percent of finance executives, with 67 percent citing it in the top three concerns. The survey also showed that 76 percent of CFOs saw health care premiums increase between 5 percent and 25 percent in 2010.
Otherwise, the ability to maintain margins was cited among the top three internal concerns by 52 percent of respondents and singled out as the top concern by 30 percent, while attracting/retaining qualified employees and maintaining morale/productivity were cited in 42 percent of responses.