For several years, we have cited the countrys declining manufacturing base as one of the biggest challenges facing automatic merchandising, since these locations have long been the biggest and most profitable customers.And while the manufacturing sector continues to decline, our magazines State of the Industry Report has noted that manufacturing remains the single biggest customer segment for automatic merchandising.Yesterdays Wall Street Journal carried an analysis of the state of U.S. manufacturing that sheds further insight on this key customer segment. The report noted that heavy manufacturing, such as automobiles and basic chemicals, has given way to higher-tech concerns such as computer chips. To access this article, go to: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703338504575041510998445620.htmlThe industries that have added capacity during the recession include: semiconductors, communications equipment, computers, electricity, and oil and gas.Those that have cut capacity are: plastic and rubber products, motor vehicles/parts, furniture, printing and textiles.The Wall Street Journal essentially notes that the recession has hastened some of the key changes taking place in the nations employer base.What this means for vending is that many of the largest customers require a more professional service. The manufacturing concerns that are growing have more white collar workers, and these consumers are more demanding than their blue collar counterparts. Vending operators have to understand their needs.White collar accounts typically give their employees more time for breaks and allow them to leave the worksite.The white collar customer is often more health conscious than his or her blue collar counterpart, and often more quality conscious.White collar workers usually want better coffee.Growth will occur through improving customer satisfaction. This will require understanding the new customer.It will also require using technology to better understand customer needs and to respond to customer needs faster.