It seems that almost every day there is news of another plant closure. Huge pricing pressures from often-foreign competition and Wal-Mart-style customers leads to cannibalistic cost-cutting, profits disappear and soon another plant’s production is coming from the other side of the world.
Still, despite being within easy earshot of the cries of their neighbors drowning in red ink, many plants stay afloat, continuing to survive and even thrive in the allegedly high-cost U.S. manufacturing environment. How do these plants manage to do so well against what often seem to be overwhelming odds?
Sure, some have an edge like a niche product or great technical innovation or a pricing structure that includes personal service their customers just can’t get from overseas. They can continue to charge enough to cover less-than-optimal manufacturing practices and still make a profit that keeps Wall Street bullish. Good for them.
But some do just as well without those kinds of advantages, competing with the world and making hay despite the higher labor and legacy costs, pollution controls and government regulations that so many CEOs cite as the reasons they had to convert their once-great integrated facilities into mere marketing mechanisms for the Third World.
How do those plants succeed? I think it’s due in no small part to excellent asset management. Whether by implementing a computerized maintenance management system that really works, actually performing preventive and predictive maintenance, understanding and eliminating root causes of failures, or simply having the best-trained and most efficient technicians, these plants remain in the business of manufacturing and part of the great economic engine that creates American wealth by adding real value.
We at Plant Services want to highlight plants that have prevailed in the face of foreign competition, and honor one in particular as our Survivor USA Plant of the Year.
Do you work in or know of such a manufacturing facility? Maybe it made the cut by paring energy or maintenance inventory costs to the bare minimum, or by increasing overall equipment effectiveness to record levels. Perhaps investment in human capital, through profit sharing, training or really listening to employees, was the key. Perchance it’s empowering maintenance personnel with mobile technology, access to engineering and operations data, or autonomous work scheduling, or simply justifying more reliable equipment by analyzing life-cycle costs. Could it even be, dare we say, farming maintenance functions out to more efficient and effective service providers?
Whatever the method, as long as it’s asset management and the people involved are willing to talk about it, it has the basic qualifications of a candidate for our Survivor USA awards.
We all want “Made in USA” to continue as a sign of quality and to inspire pride and respect. Plant Services is read by high-level decision-makers as well as real-world practitioners, and we believe showcasing winning companies will not only help everyone realize that American manufacturing remains a solid option, but inspire and assist you with solid information you can use to help your plant compete and succeed.
If you are aware of a plant that is beating the odds, send me a few hundred words that describe its before and after situations. Be as specific as you can about the threat and as quantitative as possible about what was done and the financial impact.
Based on your descriptions, we’ll ask for further information, do the research and make careful comparisons. One or more facilities will be honored as Plant Services Survivor USA and presented with an impressive award.
U.S. plants are closing virtually every day. Please don’t miss this opportunity to gain well-deserved recognition and help American manufacturers beat the odds.
E-mail Editor in Chief Paul Studebaker, CMRP, at [email protected].