There is No Magic Bullet, Just Blood, Guts and DeterminationAugust 1, 2009
Every market for metalformed products and assemblies is not slumping. Two markets gaining momentum, and a lot of press, are alternative-energy (wind and solar power, among other technologies) and medical/healthcare. Whether or not these growing markets offer be-all-end-all opportunities for manufacturers is not the question to ask. Rather, the question is: Do these markets offer opportunities for manufacturers, left staring at idle, dust-collecting presses, robotic welders and other equipment, to flip the switches to the “on” position for at least a few hours a day, if not more? Also worth asking: Is it worthwhile to shed my business of some of its inventory of idled, aging and perhaps obsolete machines and reinvest in machines and technology more in-tune with the needs of OEMs in the energy and medical industries?
In this inaugural online-only digital edition of Metal-Forming, we explore these two targeted markets fully, to help metalformers answer these two critical questions. While both markets present some barriers to entry, they can be overcome with dedication and diligence. That’s the message that came through loud and clear as I interviewed key players working in these growing markets.
Frank Nisco, director of global sourcing for Covidien, a huge medical-device OEM, told me that, “We design here, and then rely on our manufacturing suppliers/partners to lend their expertise in manufacturability and methodology, to keep costs low and quality high…While a lot of automotive suppliers make larger parts and we tend to source smaller parts, certainly those companies come with a wealth of knowledge that cannot be discounted.”
Do opportunities in these expanding markets represent silver bullets ready to cure your woes and restore your companies to grandeur? Not likely, but a look at some key trends should provide hope. Consider that the world’s 65-and-older population is predicted to triple in the next 30 to 40 years—by 2050, that demographic will represent one of every six people. If that sounds crazy, consider that since 2000, the number of senior citizens in the world has grown by a whopping 23 percent. Healthcare products will be needed down the road even more so than today.
On the energy front, this go-around with wind and solar is unlike previous brief and frustrating dances with these technologies. Several key factors are at play, including the widely accepted notion that our power grid is sadly outdated and in need of a major overhaul, and the commitment being made by European OEMs to invest in North America to build their products here, for our market, using our supply base. Will some of the initial euphoria over wind and sun power subside? Of course, that’s natural and to be expected. But over the long haul, I expect that the industry to create alternative-energy sources will grow strong roots and become a foundation from which a whole new manufacturing supply chain emerges.
Are you equipped to meet the needs of these markets? Perhaps not entirely, but I bet that if you look at your list of strengths—a list, by the , you should be compiling for future marketing efforts—I bet you’ll find at least some capital resources that fit these expanding markets. Also, do not forget nor underestimate the value of your intelligence resources—the knowledge, talents and dedication of your employees. Any manufacturer can go out and acquire equipment and specialized capacity, but finding the dedicated, intelligent and creative people needed to expand into new markets poses the biggest challenge of all. And you’ve probably got some of those resources already.
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