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Manufacturing: It’s Where and How, Not If

May 8, 2015
To succeed, manufacturers must ensure they are better than the competition in multiple ways.

The death of manufacturing has been greatly exaggerated.

Certainly, many industry operations have gone out of business, and others have moved elsewhere. But we’re all aware of companies returning operations to North America and the strength of many that remain.

People want things. As long as that’s true, those things have to come from somewhere. Manufacturing will not die. How and where it occurs—now that can change drastically.

We can’t control natural disasters, and we have limited impact on international governments at best. But we can be prepared to respond effectively when negative events outside our control happen. It’s called risk management.

There are many things we can control, and successful manufacturers are fully aware of those, focused, and leading the pack.

There are many things we can control, and successful manufacturers are fully aware of those, focused, and leading the pack.
  • You can’t find skilled workers? The best companies hire for character and attitude and develop skills. They also have apprenticeship programs again, either individually or in groups.
     
  • Can’t keep track of all the regulations? Many associations provide that information to members, and requests to representatives are usually filled quickly. Whether internal or external, quality legal council is important.
     
  • Bogged down by problems? Outstanding organizations have developed problem solving skills in all their employees, and are focused on eliminating repeat problems. It takes time, but much less time than rehashing old unsolved problems week after week.
     
  • Are your suppliers letting you down? Either you need new ones, or you need to work with these to drive improvement throughout the entire chain. Shifting costs doesn’t help anyone. Eliminating them while reducing lead-times dramatically is a requirement of future success.
     
  • Seems others are beating you to market with new ideas? Innovation and lean product development processes are basic skill sets in the best manufacturers. If you don’t have them, find help developing them.

It’s no longer sufficient to be better than the competition in one key area. You must be better in many.

Either your product will be replaced, or made by someone somewhere else using techniques similar to, or completely different from, yours—unless you take the lead and do it first.

Manufacturing is very much alive. It’s a question of where and how. Each manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that both answers are in its sweet spot, even if that spot is somewhere different tomorrow.

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