Manufacturing Can be Competitive in the U.S.

I came across this article about how manufacturing can be competitive in the U.S.  It was very well written and seemed to capture that lean is more than just waste reduction and continuous improvement tools.  It highlights how companies are going against conventional thought and turning to cheap labor overseas.

An increasing number of domestic manufacturers are countering the notion that one must turn to cheaper labor to reduce their expenses. Instead, they have turned to lean manufacturing, which has increased their productivity, strengthened customer relationships and most importantly, kept jobs at home. To top it off, they don’t have to worry about paying the skyrocketing transportation costs that come with shipping those foreign-made parts back to the United States

While transportation costs are rising, due to oil prices as well as technology that is being used to decrease the water travel time, it is not the only cost that improves by “on shoring”.  Other benefits are improved quality, increased productivity, and lead time decreasing due to better communication of issues and opportunities.

Lean manufacturing is effective because – when done right – it can make a business flexible and integrate its supply chain, which streamlines production flow and assists just-in-time delivery. But we should remember that although the continuous improvement philosophy behind lean manufacturing has seemingly limitless potential; it is not an immediate fix-all. Businesses must make holistic and long-term commitments to these principles to stay on a profitable course. Companies who have truly embraced lean manufacturing have incorporated it into their culture by focusing on improving cash flow, enhancing their organizations through leadership and continuous improvement, driving out operating waste and building a profitable sales pipeline.

This is one of the best paragraphs I have seen in the media about lean.  The author makes note that when lean is done right, showing an understanding that organizations are doing it wrong.  It is mentioned that lean manufacturing “assists just-in-time delivery.”  I read this and believe the person has some understanding of how the lean principles and thinking get to solving problems that allow JIT practices.  The author also understands lean is not a silver bullet and while limitless in potential is not going to fix everything right away in one swoop.  He also talks about improving leadership and continuous improvement.

When reading so many articles written by people you can tell have no understanding of lean, it s very refreshing to find one where you can tell they have a strong understanding.

Here is a good example of when going overseas is a good idea.

For example, a Switzerland-based supplier of measuring instruments with U.S. headquarters in Greenwood, Ind., has exemplified this focus. Ninety percent of its products are manufactured in the United States and the company are currently expanding its Greenwood facilities. The manufacturer credits much of their success to its commitment to lean principles.

This is a good idea, not because it came to the U.S., because the company moved manufacturing to where the consumers are.  There was one time I was pushed to build a new plant and move manufacturing to China.  The plant would service our customers in Asia.  It was closer and we could eliminate shipping a boat to China from Wisconsin.  It just made sense.

If we are talking about serving the U.S. market, the manufacturing should be done here.  The U.S. was built on the backs of strong manufacturing labor.  We can rebuild the strength of the U.S. by getting back to our roots as I mentioned in a previous post.

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Posted on July 19, 2010, in Manufacturing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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