November 1, 2006
If youâ€™re short on bad news, take my inbox—please. The U.S. Labor Dept. reported that another 19,000 jobs were lost from the U.S. economy in September, the third consecutive monthly decline. Most of the losses came in durable goods industries related to home building, a market for molded products, but losses continued in nondurable goods as well, which also include plastics. But wait:
The manufacturing trade deficit actually shrunk in August, even if it was by only .1%. That would be better news if the overall trade deficit for August wasnâ€™t setting a new record at $69.9 million, more than $27 billion of it in oil. Manufactured exports actually jumped by $7.5 billion in August, though that was offset by imports rising by $7.4 billion.
If this sounds like a CD stuck in a track, so should be the idea that developed countries like the United States and Canada canâ€™t compete on price, but can and should compete on technology. Sorry, but it needs repeating; many of us are still in denial of the indisputable new reality. Many, but not everybody.
In early October I attended my first meeting of the Society of Plastics Engineersâ€™ (SPEâ€™s) Injection Molding Div.â€™s board of directors. I was middling enthusiastic going in because, though I know SPE is a positive force in favor of higher technology, the meeting started at 8 a.m. and ran all day. What did they have to talk about?Plenty, as it turns out, and if the members didnâ€™t move along so efficientlyâ€”covering upcoming educational efforts and a myriad of other subjects in rapid orderâ€”we could still be there. Most striking was the enthusiasm of the board members, and their obvious dedication. This was no social event, despite a very upbeat tone.
These people, a cross-section of the injection molding community, are on a mission to improve the business and technology of plastics molding, and I scribbled the words â€œgung hoâ€ on my notepad to note their enthusiasm. Oh, man—Iâ€™m writing Chinese! Donâ€™t hit me.
The original meaning of â€œgung ho,â€ the unofficial motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, actually is â€œwork togetherâ€ (www.chinapage.org/word/gungho.html), and described small industrial centers in China set up to replace industrial centers captured by Japan in the late 1930s.
Most members of the IMD board are direct competitors, but they, too, are working together, in this case to raise the level of molding technology. You can and should benefit from it. To see what the SPE is doing, check out www.4spe.org.
For immediate info on high-tech molding, take a look at â€œIs Necessity the Mother of ERP?â€ Enterprise resource planning, or simply, having the whole business on a computer system, is not, repeat not, for large businesses only. On the contrary, if youâ€™re an SME and you want to compete with (meaning win business away from) the big dogs, having your shop automated may be the keyâ€”backed up with a gung-ho attitude.
Rob Neilley, Editor
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