‘Stop Complaining and Start Competing’

By April 16, 2007General

OK, the blogger-in-chief is back from vacation with a vengeance today. Things have been entirely too quiet ’round the blog corral and this oughta get things started….

Our friend Kevin Meyer, lean zealot and keeper of the great “Evolving Excellence” blog wrote an e-mail to our mutual pal Richard McCormick — editor and writer of the equally good Manufacturing and Technology News — and copied us. In the e-mail, Kevin said that the MTN too often tells a gloomy tale about manufacturing. Kevin, who is also in the leadership of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, had this to say in part:

“I completely agree that ‘competitiveness burdens’ are very real, and I believe that attention needs to focused on those burdens as NAM and others do.

But what I take issue with is the continuous stream of drivel from companies that claim they ‘simply can’t make it.’ Quite bluntly I think that’s a cop-out for pathetic leadership in those companies. Your previous issue described a couple furniture companies that have given up and blamed foreign competition.

Guess what… there are many furniture companies that are thriving and competing globally from U.S.-based factories. The difference is that they’re looking internally instead of complaining externally, have reduced waste and cycle times, and found that they can deliver value, faster, to their growing customer bases. They look beyond simple hourly labor cost and look at processes and methods. A couple of those companies, along with a well-known motorcycle company and others, will be on a panel discussion I’m moderating at a manufacturing conference at Kellogg next month. The topic: Creating competitive advantage through onshoring.

There’s a t-shirt company in Los Angeles (American Apparel) that employs 4,000 workers (in LA) at significantly above minimum wage, with full benefits. Basic t-shirts and underwear. Nothing special. They are growing rapidly and command margins greater than those of companies that import from Asian sweatshops. If they can do it with a product line in a typically miniscule margin industry, anyone can.

I support NAM’s efforts to improve the political and regulatory landscape for manufacturers. But at the same time we need to be promoting the leadership, methods, and actual capability of American companies of all types to compete globally from the U.S. today.

It’s time to stop complaining and start competing.”

The e-mail became the basis for a blog post from Kevin on the topic, some good and thought-provoking writing that we’ve come to expect from him.

Let us know what you think.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Ken Tolbert says:

    Hallelujah! It’s about time someone pointed out that companies are succeeding from the U.S. all the time. The difference is leadership, and if a leader doesn’t think he can do it then he needs to find someone that can. I’m glad that Kevin is finally supporting NAM on the impact of regulation but as he says it isn’t an insurmountable barrier. I wish leaders would put as much time into identifying and promoting best practices that work as they do complaining.

  • Bill Canis says:

    Thanks for your comments and for quoting the NAM blog on Joe Loughrey’s speech to business leaders down in North Carolina. Most of the companies I know are doing everything possible to be competitive and become the best producers in their market area. We write about some of them on the NAM blog. Be sure to check the NAM blog from April 14 about the innovators down in Chattanooga, TN. Or read about successful small companies in The Future Success of Small & Medium Manufacturers at http://www.nam.org/innovation.