How to Grow Global Markets

Forest City Gear says its reputation made it a global success.

The following is an excerpt from a speech that Fred gave at the National Contract Manufacturers Symposium 2010.

Although the title suggests Forest City Gear (FCG) deliberately set out to grow global exports, in reality, we fell into it accidentally. Our customers' desire for cheaper production and assembly, along with their unwillingness to lose Forest City Gear's quality and service, initially brought FCG into foreign markets. Once recognized in these new markets, our unwavering belief in concentrating on high quality, doing what others cannot do expediently and having the most up-to-date gearmaking equipment brought us additional business in these countries. As a result, staying true to these principles has established FCG as a leader in the world market for high-precision gears.

Forest City Gear was founded in Rockford, Ill. in 1955 by my parents, Evelyn and Stetler Young. We have stressed that quality and on-time delivery are essential in proving and maintaining a reputation of excellence, since our inception. The greatest lesson my father taught me was to reinvest every last dollar possible. I believe reinvesting has been a key factor in our success in the global market. Over the past 30 years, FCG has reinvested 25%-40% of gross sales each year into new equipment.

Our philosophy is: when you are competing with other gear companies all over the world, it is important to be on the cutting edge of machine technology. Others have primarily shot themselves in the foot with the lack of reinvestment. Those who would have been considered leaders 50 years ago didn't reinvest to update and bring their machines current and, as a result, they cannot compete in today's global market. Most people view the weak American dollar as "doom and gloom," but in some instances it benefits us -- it makes our products much more attractive on the world market.

It's important to remember we are a job shop and we don't have a standard product offering. We take our customer's blueprints and decide whether or not we can manufacture that particular gear. Orders can be anywhere from one piece to several hundred thousand pieces. We receive a blueprint, prepare a quote and go through the bidding process. In an effort to maintain excellence, we take an extra step in the process and invite customers, potential customers, even our competitors to visit our facility. As a result of our reinvesting, FCG has the most modern facility of any gear shop in the world. We believe it gives us a decided edge when our customers and potential customers compare us to the other gear companies bidding on their products.

We believe it is a serious error if we don't know our competition, know what they are delivering and how they do it. In addition to keeping our facility focused on quality and excellence, I visit gear companies and machine builders all over the world. Seeing how others run their facilities is critically important, as it provides knowledge and insight on how to offer something better than what the competition is producing. No matter where I have gone and no matter how poor the quality of the shop I have visited, I never fail to pick up some small bit of knowledge.

We have had gear companies come to us who are having trouble with a gear, tooth forming or another issues and they reach out to us to help fix the problem. We'll analyze it, correct it and tell them what we thought the problem was. Most likely we are right because we don't see the business. Chances are, they took our evaluation, made the correction and were able to manufacture the gear correctly.

We strive to maintain our reputation for excellence by doing what others are unable to do for themselves. Through the internet and by word of mouth, we attract customers from all over the world. We also find that, because of our reputation, others recommend and even help sell our products for us. We have an open door policy and a commitment to helping others and, as a result, we find we don't have enemies in the industry. Instead, we have friends who help market our company. If they come across something they cannot do themselves, they often pass it along to us. Of our 340 customers last year, 75 of them cut gears themselves.

The future of exporting manufacturing is critical to the health of our country, we need to educate our youth; keeping that notion going is important to our future. FCG continues to have a strong presence in the world marketplace by keeping our facility current, educating our employees with top-notch trainers who have global experience and by cultivating a reputation of excellence and helping others, even our competitors.

Our clients are now all around the world and they found us in little Roscoe, Illinois. Who ever heard of Roscoe, Illinois? Well, in the gear world, lots of people have, actually. The internet, along with our solid reputation, has brought people from across the world right to our doorstep. By maintaining high standards we have developed a reputation for gearmaking excellence... Forest City Gear is always seeking, always exploring and always learning. These are the reasons we've prospered on the international scene.

To watch the full video presentation of Fred's speech, go to: http://vimeo.com/10460533.

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