Are You Solving for the Wrong Opportunities?

Joe Weinlick
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The American manufacturing industry has been in flux in recent years thanks to renewed government and consumer interest in domestically made products. This sudden spotlight has manufacturing businesses scrambling to stay competitive — often using ineffective strategies. By identifying the areas in which your company is solving for the wrong opportunities, you can improve operations and reduce wasted resources.

Focusing on Jobs Added

The conversation surrounding the rebirth of the American manufacturing industry often focuses on job growth. Politicians promise to create new jobs, and institutions often use jobs-created and jobs-lost metrics as a way to measure the success of the industry.

Unfortunately, if your business focuses on adding jobs, you may be solving for the wrong opportunities. To be competitive in the global manufacturing industry, companies must focus on making products faster, cheaper and with consistent quality. American workers do not tolerate the low wages and poor conditions that are common in low-cost international manufacturing outfits, so domestic companies cannot survive using the same operational model. Instead, efficiency improvements and cost reductions must come from other areas — most likely, from automation and technology. This method of improving manufacturing output while cutting costs actually leads to job losses on the factory floor, but it results in a stronger overall industry.

Ignoring the Talent Pipeline

New technology does not mean that companies can ignore the jobs issue entirely. Quite the opposite: The success of the manufacturing industry depends in part on the availability of qualified workers. If your company's recruitment strategy does not include cultivating future talent, finding technologically advanced candidates and training existing workers, you might miss valuable opportunities.

What's more, companies must prepare for the changing face of the manufacturing industry. The bulk of incoming workers are likely to be younger people who have different preferences and needs than their predecessors. To be successful in the long haul, your business must find ways to attract and retain millennials.

Invention Versus Reinvention

There's no question that innovation is crucial to the modern manufacturing industry, but it is important to examine the target. During a period of change, it's tempting for companies to go after big, new ideas. A more effective strategy — one that can build a stronger foundation for future innovation — is to prioritize evolution and reinvention. Exciting and splashy new endeavors come with an inherent level of risk, which is dangerous in an industry that is still regaining its footing.

Instead, consider finding ways to improve your existing systems. Can you reduce production time to deliver orders faster? How can you improve product quality to better serve customer needs? Is it possible to find innovation that disrupts a slow and cumbersome process? Once you tighten up your existing operations, you can venture into new areas with greater confidence and security.

As the American manufacturing industry assumes a new form, businesses must evolve to be competitive. By solving for the right opportunities, you can set your company up for long-term success.

Photo courtesy of koko-tewan at


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