Keep Your Manufacturing Efforts Out of Commodity Hell

We’ve all heard that manufacturing in the US is a dying effort.

Well, it need not be. Yes, you probably have to spend more in capital to make up for our higher labor costs, to meet (or go slightly above) imported prices. And, you might have to outsource some basic operations to Mexico or Canada. These two are generally considered to be better than China.

But, final assembly and finishing is doing fine in the US.

A 2013 study by Booz Allen highlighted the way: Innovation.

I can personally vouch for this as a great way to run a manufacturing company, having done it some 20 years ago. Apparently, the old lessons are still out there.

So, where do you get innovation? Here are some ways:

1. Look at what your competitors aren’t doing, and do for your customers what they aren’t. This can cover a wide variety of things: coatings, products, upping your service game, better people/processes, etc.

2. People first. I heard an interview recently with the CEO of a recent startup and he was absolutely manic on the subject. They hire good people even before they can technically afford them.

3. Have your inside/outside sales people talk to customers and find out what they’d like you to do. I got 10 years of innovations out of this method, and some of the ideas were still in the pipeline when I sold the company.

4. Look at foreign markets, even with the dollar up. Europe, Mexico, South America and even China and India are possibilities. Partner with local firms, though, because culture differences can kill you. Back in the day, my company had 25% of its sales in foreign markets, again during high-dollar times.

5. It takes money, but money is out there for well considered plans. Forget borrowing from the banks though. All sorts of alternative lenders are out there.

So, don’t just sit there in your exec chair….innovate!


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