The road ahead Featured

4:34pm EDT February 16, 2011
Dustin S. Klein Dustin S. Klein

I read a report recently about how U.S. manufacturing has fared in comparison to other industrialized nations over the past few years.

While global competition has increased dramatically during the past decade — including the notion that every company must have a China strategy — one of the more surprising items concerned an investment uptick in U.S.-based manufacturing plants.

That really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, especially considering that Bill Ford Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Co., echoed something similar at an event I attended in California late last year.

At the time, Ford mentioned that his company had made significant investments in its U.S. auto plants, including moving some manufacturing that previously had been done overseas back to the U.S.

Taken as a whole, this presents a much more positive picture than the usual doom-and-gloom scenario put forth when the conversation turns to the state of manufacturing in America.

This is one reason why, this year, we’ve chosen to focus our annual Evolution of Manufacturing Conference on “The Road Ahead …” and highlight what manufacturers have done to position their organizations for growth.

It’s easy to fall into a comfortable position of looking at all the negatives that have hit manufacturing hard over the past several years. But industry cycles ebb and flow, and like anything that ebbs and flows, there will be times when the tide is high and it appears as if you might just drown. Conversely, there will also be times when you believe you might just be able to walk along the beach and shoreline forever without worrying about slipping and falling into the water and being dragged down by the undertow.

The reality is somewhere in the middle. Manufacturers that have taken the sometimes painful step of embracing change in the face of global competitiveness have come to one of two conclusions — they adapted to meet the new challenges or they determined that they could no longer compete nor afford to make the necessary changes and bowed out.

Those companies about which you’ll read in this issue represent the first group and the ways that they’ve adapted to give them a leg up for the road ahead are impressive. After reading their stories, I welcome you to drop us a line and tell us about how your company has invested in change to hit the ground running for your own road ahead.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at dsklein@sbnonline.com.