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Editorial: Not Quite in Time

Jeff Sloan 

The early October lockout of the members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union by the Pacific Maritime Assn. induced an almost audible collective gasp from project, product, supply chain, and purchasing managers across the country. Within a day, products and food en route from Asia and other Pacific ports piled up on the docks and brought the American JIT manufacturing system to a screeching halt. Toyota closed a factory, and other manufacturers around the country were forced to run out to the warehouse to do a quick inventory and determine just how much longer they could stay in operation.

At first glance the lockout appeared mainly to offer a lesson on the Achilles’ heel of the JIT manufacturing process. That is, we realized how easily disrupted the world’s supply chain can be. (It makes one wonder how some other political, military, social, or natural mishap or confrontation might also prove problematic, but that’s for another day.)

More importantly, however, the lockout was a stark reminder of how dependent the North American manufacturing economy is on the export of products from Asia, and China in particular. So dramatic and fast has the exodus of manufacturing been that IMM has decided to devote a 2003 editorial series to the topic. Called “Crossroads: Crisis or Opportunity,” the series will start in the January 2003 issue and take an in-depth look at how the molding and manufacturing landscape is changing, and what molders and moldmakers can do to help themselves survive and prosper.

To start, I’d like to hear from you. What changes have you seen? How are you coping? What, if anything, do you think the government should do? How can molders and moldmakers reposition themselves to compete? We need your ideas, suggestions, and opinions. Further, I want to know if you’d like to be a part of this series.

I encourage you to e-mail me. Or, go to the Networking Forum and post your thoughts. I’ve started a thread there where you can voice your opinion. This is your chance to be heard; I encourage you to take advantage of it.

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TAGS: Business
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