In Derek Singleton's recent manufacturing blog on "5 Strategies for Growing As a Domestic Manufacturer," he echoes pretty much what we've been telling readers of IMM and MPW for several years: If manufacturers want to be competitive and grow domestic manufacturing, they must adopt a new business strategy. It's worth a read, but you may find the following analysis helpful.
Singleton's first piece of advice is to "prepare for re-shoring production." We've all heard about this phenomenon-work that's coming back from Asia because the OEM has experienced problems such as intellectual property theft, long supply chains, and costly shipping. Singleton brings up a few familiar tunes in his blog: the increasing cost of Chinese labor; longer product delivery cycles; poor production quality standards that result in defective goods; and environmental and patriotic concerns.
His second point, to invest in your workforce, is is a big one, and training is critical to manufacturing in the United States. I've had many molders say to me that they are only as good as their weakest employee. Making sure that every employee is trained, understands the importance of his job, and owns it is critical to a company's success.
Do design for the developing world, as it's the developing world that will produce the largest demand for many products. A recent article on PlasticsToday.com noted how Russia has become a huge consumer marketplace. Others include Brazil, India, and China-the so-called BRIC countries will see huge demand in coming years. Your OEM customers are thinking in this way. So should you.
Mastering supply chain visibility, Singleton's fourth point, has been difficult for many OEMs, especially with so many global suppliers. For many molders and moldmakers, supply chain management, which lends itself to visibility, isn't even on the radar screen. Yet, it should be. Knowing what your suppliers are delivering and when-especially with respect to resins-can be critical. How many molders still ship parts via Fed Ex because they ran out of material? Or worse yet, find out at the last minute that the material they need has been discontinued? That's a bad scenario, especially if you're molding for a medical device OEM. A good enterprise resource planning (ERP) program is great at providing this visibility.
MPW has written about molders such as Xten Industries (Kenosha, WI) that have embraced the fifth strategy presented-improve environmental responsibility-as part of a path to profitability. Xten is working to become energy efficient and is implementing lean manufacturing principles. Beyond being responsible, the benefits of these practices are far-reaching, right down to the bottom line.
So, we thank Mr. Singleton for reminding us to embrace these important strategies if we want U.S. manufacturing to become the powerhouse it once was.—Clare Goldsberry