Editor's Page -- Building A Passion For Manufacturing Excellence

Increasingly I'm convinced that it's the passion for manufacturing excellence... that separates the excellent from the merely very successful.

This is my last issue as editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek. For more than 10 years in leadership posts at IW, I've worked to help deliver to you the best practices you could use to improve your business and to provide benchmarks against which you could measure progress. Along the way, I've discussed and debated political, economic and social trends in attempts to make sense of them so you could capitalize on them. My job has been to collect and analyze this information from the most successful manufacturing executives and public policy leaders and deliver it to you. But on reflection, there's one thing I've seen in the best-run, most-profitable manufacturing companies that I haven't yet shared. It's the catalyst that transforms all the action-oriented information, the analysis and statistics into a successful strategic plan.

That element, for lack of a better word, is passion.

Executives of the most profitable manufacturers and others dedicated to excellence in manufacturing don't talk so much about the passion they have for their work. It's a fuzzy concept, elusive. Some would say it's ridiculous to bring it up in a discussion of something as practical as best practices. Yet, in successful manufacturing companies passion is palpable: when an executive talks about capturing new markets and increasing market share; when an engineer describes a new technology and the benefits it will deliver to her customer; when empowered, fully-engaged machine operators extol the results of a recent kaizen event and cite the time and money they've saved the plant, the company and the customer.

Without passion, how else can you explain our collective commitment to a business in a sector that many believe is in decline? How can you explain the ability of the best manufacturers to meet the tremendous challenges and capture the opportunities of the last decade? How can you explain why some companies fail, even when they implement to the letter a proven strategy? Increasingly I'm convinced that it's the passion for manufacturing excellence -- as much as the practical strategies, better ideas, best practices and innovative technologies that we talk about all the time -- that separates the excellent from the merely very successful.

Unfortunately, the source of that passion is elusive, and I can only tell you where I found my passion for reporting, writing and speaking about manufacturing excellence: from talking with you, the successful executives of manufacturing companies, as well as with the leaders of the hundreds of organizations dedicated to strengthening the manufacturing sector in the United States and at U.S.-owned manufacturing plants overseas. Sharing best practices, we agree, works to improve operations. Perhaps acknowledging and talking about this nebulous concept of passion will similarly help capture its power.

As for me, following an extended vacation, I'll rejoin you in the discussion of what makes a manufacturing company successful -- both the tangible and intangible -- and return to the work of disseminating the information. In the meantime, you'd do well to consider how a passion for manufacturing excellence can propel your company to and sustain world-class performance.

If you wish to contact me, please e-mail [email protected].

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