Manufacturing Can't Prosper via Instant Gratification
Hard work pays off. It always did, and it always will. Take the easy way out and expect others to pick up your slack, and you will be bitten.
During much of the ’90s and continuing into the new century, taking the easy way out lured many U.S. manufacturers down a beaten and, unfortunately, one-way path to nowhere when off-shoring and outsourcing rose as prominent means to squeezing profits from already flawed companies. Alternatively, companies that resisted the temptation to outsource and instead invested within now are finding, at least in my recent journeys, that the best way to compete is based on the development of unique value-added offerings—now the favored strategy among so many in the metalforming arena.
Specifically, metalformers that can offer high-end die-design, engineering and die-build expertise, to help stampers improve product designs, save material and improve quality, among other benefits, have a leg up on the rest. This is not to say that sourcing tooling, domestically or globally, does not offer benefits. Of course it does. But to the point: Metalformers that bring die engineering and manufacturing expertise to the table offer a menu that’s tough to beat.
Two cases in point receive the spotlight in this issue. Cover model and incoming PMA Chairman Ralph Hardt, president of Feintool North America, told me during our interview that “stampers have to be able to do much more than just build parts to print. They have to exhibit technical leadership and innovation.” In the case of Feintool, innovation is exemplified by dedication to tool and die engineering and prototyping.
“Building tooling locally allows us to start projects from day one,” says Hardt. “More and more we are developing prototypes for our customers… To drive costs out of a new part, as well as ensure quality, you need to design it in up front. And you can’t do that for your customers unless you have skilled engineering, prototyping and tooling resources… If you don’t invest in these types of resources, then you will be constantly fighting against the lowest-cost provider.” Read more of Hardt’s thoughts on the future of U.S. manufacturing, and his plans for his year as PMA Chairman, beginning on page 22.
Also sounding the bell for maintaining excellence in die design and building are the folks at Composidie, which, among other credits on its resume, boasts of excellence in high-speed stamping (see the article beginning on page 18).
“Our stamping success starts with our die design and build capabilities,” is what Dave Abel, the firm’s vice president of engineering and production, told me. Abel’s comments were reinforced by Composidie’s manufacturing manager Bryan Christopher, who added: “The only way we can outperform other stampers in our market, which typically have the same press and feed technology that we have and the same access to good quality materials, is to put better tools in the presses.”
The message: Rather than only worrying about internal cost reductions, successful metalformers must focus on providing better services. The long-term security of U.S. metalformers will be defined largely by the future of technology development—the intellectual capital that has always kept manufacturing in our country at the competitive forefront. Make sure that your company cultivates and advances new technology development to expand your business offerings. Do your part to continue the cycle of U.S. innovation.
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