On The Web, February 2003

Volume IV, Issue IX Maybe the single greatest contribution the Internet has made to U. S.

Columns From: 2/5/2003 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Volume IV, Issue IX

Maybe the single greatest contribution the Internet has made to U.S. machining business professionals is it has opened up the floodgates of alternative sources.

Just as many of you have experimented with products from alternative (foreign) sources, so too are your customers and suppliers experimenting with these new channels. And, like you, many are discovering that “lower price” doesn’t always mean “less expensive.”

Now, machining business professionals have never been accused of being communicators, marketers and business gurus of the first order. While these qualities were never requirements to get into the business in the past, they are more necessary now to ascend to the higher, more stable levels of today’s manufacturing strata.

Fact is, marketing and communications play more prominent roles in today’s manufacturing tidal pool than they did even 5 years ago, because prospects can so easily compare your business to a much broader collection of competitive sources.

Wading into today’s plugged-in market with a moribund, stagnant voice makes us appear uncomfortable, tired, incompetent and ineffective. And if you think it’s going to get better or less challenging in this regard, think again.

To put it bluntly, no one ever said it was easy playing on the first string.

Today, branching into new markets and securing new business means you must compete with these new, developing channels. That competition—or inaction—will define the long-term health of your business.

Today’s globally evolving manufacturing landscape demands that U.S. manufacturers overcome resistance to change and stop acting surprised that international markets are emerging and evolving in some of the same ways that ours did over the past hundred years.

Whether it is a shop facing competition from Asian and other foreign markets, or a manufacturing division facing internal scrutiny to lower costs against external alternatives, the fundamental issue is the same: Redefine yourself through higher quality in products, practices and processes as this offers the only long-term trump card to lower costs offered by today’s emerging markets. And understand that that may mean abandoning a long-held product or process that has become comfortable to you.

The realities of international competition—and change in general—aren’t pleasant, and they aren’t always entirely fair. But griping is not going to solve anything. There are still many reasons why manufacturing in the United States makes sense. And the companies that energetically re-engineer themselves to focus on those strengths will prevail. Those that don’t probably won’t.

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