Small and Medium Manufacturers Speak Up #2

By March 8, 2006Studies and Reports

Innovation is the buzzword these days and for good reason. Yankee ingenuity has always been one of the hallmarks of American business, especially in manufacturing. Innovation includes whole new products of course, but it is equally relevant to changes in processes that yield higher productivity, lower costs and greater efficiency. It’s not just big companies that innovate; all successful companies, regardless of their size are innovators. We found out what some small and medium manufacturers think of innovation when we interviewed them for The Future Success of Small and Medium Manufacturers–Challenges and Policy Issues.

The Manufacturing Institute interviewed over a dozen small and medium manufacturers for this report, in conjunction with our partner, RSM McGladrey. Here’s what Collie Hutter has to say about innovation. She should know, because her firm out in Nevada, Click Bond, Inc., manufactures fasteners for adhesive bonding used in the aerospace industry. She says, “basically, if you are making commodity products, you can’t afford to do it in ths country, especially if you are a small company. The one thing this country still has going for it is innovation. It is part of us, somehow, and it is what we do best. How long we can hold on to this leadership position, I don’t know. But to survive in manufacturing today, you have to keep bringing new, innovative products to the market.”

Chief operating officer and owner Hutter continues, “We sell not only innovation but also extremely high quality to meet the standards set for aircraft manufacturing. One of the reasons we can survive is that we sell on the basis of installed cost. We are not competing head to head with an ordinary nut or bolt that can be made in another country. We have a large engineering department for a company of this size, and just a week ago we had our 14th patent issued. We are not a job shop and we do not design to customer needs, but many of our new product and product-enhancement ideas come from observing what our customers are doing. Our engineers are contstantly studying current trends in aircraft manufacturing. They spend a lot of time on planes and as much time as they are allowed on the plant floor watching people build planes.”

As larger companies increasingly outsource production to small and medium firms, the process of innovation is being handed on too. More and more, small companies like Click Bond, with its 145 employees, are becoming innovation centers for their large clients.