By: Paul Ziegenhorn
April 15, 2011
For anyone in manufacturing today, we have had the luxury of being handed a rich tradition in how to make things. For over 125-years, the United States has honed its skills as a manufacturing destination for making products sold world wide. Add in the knowledge gained by being thrown into two World Wars, where many businesses were asked to support the military effort. These wars required a rapid response and high volume production from our existing manufacturing plants, it was truly a national effort to support our military.
Today, we are faced with global competition that has a younger work force, one willing to work at greatly lower wages, and they are using the same equipment and software that we use. While this seems to be a competitive threat that would be tough to beat, we have one huge advantage over them. Our legacy of making world class products here is something significant, and not to be squandered. Much of China's manufacturing base in high end products is less than twenty years old. Having the latest and greatest equipment gets you just so far. The ability to win an endurance race such as the Indy 500 is more about the best and brightest technicians building an engine that not only performs well, but does it under the most grueling circumstances. While a stock engine might make it thru the race, someone committed to winning will only accept the best. And the fact remains that the best tooling comes from countries with long traditions of making things. Not the most populous regions with large groups of young people using the latest technology.
We have a duty to continue the legacy of manufacturing that was handed to us. What was passed on to us must be passed on to the next generation. We absolutely must invest in our youth, in our infrastructure and equipment. If not, the one huge advantage we currently enjoy will be gone. And once it's gone, playing catch up will be tougher than anything we've faced in the way of competition thus far.