The playing field keeps getting leveler, so to speak. Fewer and fewer factors are influencing a metalworking company's access to technology. Likewise, fewer and fewer factors are influencing access to markets. In short, it matters less and less if a shop is large or small, here or there, startup or well-established.
The Internet has a lot to do with this emerging situation, of course. Take access to technology, for example. Used to be, smaller shops couldn't afford licenses to advanced software. A "seat" of this or that CAD/CAM system was too expensive or couldn't be justified for occasional use no matter how urgent the application. Now, that software can be "rented" from an online provider, with charges or fees based on usage.
Online diagnostic services are helping small shops without a full-time maintenance department get problems solved quickly and properly. Software fixes or upgrades are downloaded in minutes. Repair parts are sent out overnight and may be installed within hours, whereas requisitioning the same parts from a large plant's centralized inventory of spares might take longer.
On the other hand, intranets and extranets are helping large plants work collaboratively and expeditiously, without bureaucracy getting in the way. Individuals from various disciplines are working together, sharing common databases and interactive applications. As organizations, they are as agile as any.
The Internet is also equalizing access to markets. Online request-for-quote systems are starting to multiply, with enough buyers posting jobs and enough suppliers responding with attractive bids to give this approach real momentum. Buyers will be rebuilding their supply chains from a wider pool of suppliers than logistics formerly allowed. Likewise, job shops of all sizes will be finding jobs from a wider customer base than they could have reached before.
Buyers will be less dependent on a limited number of sources for critical parts. Similarly, job shops will be less dependent on work from a small number of key customers or industries.
This not to say that a more level field means that no advantages will exist or that all companies will be equally competitive. It means that the natural advantages derived from talent, hard work and efficiency are more likely to be rewarded than any circumstantial factor. So work hard, be smart, and don't waste. This formula for success has never been surer.