J. Patrick Ervin
Charles Kettering, the prolific inventor and businessman, said, "The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress." It is wise to remember Kettering's words during this time of dramatic change in the world of manufacturing.
All of us are experiencing the changes brought about by globalization and technology. These changes have placed American manufacturers under intense competitive pressure and the rate of change seems to be ever increasing.
Everyday, we read and hear about the threats to American manufacturing. It is easy to become pessimistic. It is easy to debate the government policies of our nation and other nations. It is easy to debate whether or not the playing field created by those policies is level. It is easy to wish things were "the way they used to be." Spending excessive time doing so only hastens our demise.
The future of American manufacturing belongs to those that are best able to understand the changes occurring in their markets and adapt their organizations, processes and business models to meet those changes.
Fortunately, for all of us, our nation's political, legal, social and economic institutions and systems enable our economy to adapt extremely well to man made and natural events - perhaps better than any economy in the world.
Our capital and labor markets are efficient and free, ensuring the means of production are best allocated. Intellectual and property rights are protected by law, ensuring the best and brightest thinkers will be able to benefit and prosper from their innovations. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech ensure we will always have public forums in which to debate the issues of the day and sharpen our own perspective with the knowledge of others.
None of these systems or institutions are perfect, but they clearly provide American manufacturers with a framework which enables us to adapt quickly and efficiently as the world we live in changes.
That leaves it up to you to understand your market better than your competition and to adapt your organization, processes and business model to succeed. Be prepared to do it again and again, because the rate of change will continue to increase. Understand your market and develop the ability to change - it will not be easy, but it is certainly better than the alternative.