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A Well-Crafted Combination of Assets Helps Manufacturers Thrive

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | 0 | 0 | March 23, 2012
Despite the job numbers, well-known publications and local newspapers alike are highlighting a manufacturing renaissance in the United States, and they are crediting technology, exports, and lean, among other things. This week, in Central Massachusetts, the Worcester Business Journal spotlights three businesses in its reading area.

For Saint-Gobain, a manufacturer of building and other high-performance materials, a $10 million investment in renovation and lean manufacturing has resulted in some of its product lines getting made four times faster than before. In addition, a more modern facility helped the company produce smaller grinding wheels for the electronics industry; thus enabling Saint-Gobain to gain new customers.

The article also credits lean manufacturing processes for improvements at FLEXcon, an adhesives and laminates maker. Training helped employees across departments learn how to use different machinery, and new equipment enabled faster changeovers. Using all of these strategies, FLEXcon did not lay off workers, but leaders did use furloughs and attrition to survive the recession.

“Manufacturers are not rushing to hire, but they are recovering,” says Jack Healy of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a manufacturing training services organization. “And they’re looking to build their capacity with an eye to the future.”

Heat Trace Products manufactures heated cable, and 60 percent of its revenues come from exports. Wayne Canty is the company’s president. He says his major export markets include former Soviet Union republics and Brazil. According to the Worcester Business Journal, “developing specialized products that few others (or no others) can make has helped [Canty] grow his international business.”

“Though the number of employees in Central Massachusetts’s manufacturing sector has fallen by more than 22,000 over the past decade, Healy says manufacturing is stronger than ever when measured by efficiency; productivity; and, for some, revenues.”

Using available tools

Most likely, your organization uses a variety of tools, including lean and advanced software and hardware, to survive the economic uncertainty. Many supply chain and operations management experts are turning toward the basics and reinvigorating them with new ideas. Consider the definition of material requirements planning (MRP) as it appears in the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework:

“MRP is a set of techniques that uses bill of material data, inventory data, and the master production schedule to calculate requirements for materials. MRP makes recommendations to release replenishment orders for material.”           

I’m excited to introduce a new educational opportunity from APICS. We are hosting a series of seminars in North America to reach out to the APICS community and share important lessons from the APICS body of knowledge. For example, on May 2, 2012, professionals in the Boston area will have the opportunity to learn about demand-driven MRP, a solution that helps companies tackle three pervasive problems of today’s supply chains and production environments: unacceptable inventory performance, inadequate service level performance, and related expenses and waste. The Demand Driven Institute’s Carol A Ptak, CFPIM, CIRM, and Chad Smith will present, and registration is now open.

Of course, the Boston-area event is only one example in the APICS lineup of activities__all of which can give you a new tool or technique you can put to work immediately to improve your job and your company’s bottom line. For more information on the North American Seminar Series or any APICS offerings, visit apics.org/events.


Idea exchange

Now, you can take the APICS Operations Management Now discussion to your social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the APICS Supply Chain Channel. Be sure to use the hashtag #OMNow and include @Tweet_APICS in any tweets to have your words featured on the APICS homepage.

  • Do enough companies engage in lean manufacturing?
  • Is your company using exporting to its greatest advantage? Why or why not?
  • Is US manufacturing stronger than ever?
  • Does your company train you in multiple disciplines? 

In other news

Related APICS education

  • TPS and Lean Move Beyond Toyota
    By J. Brian Atwater, Randy Cook, Ph.D., and Paul Pittman, Ph.D., CFPIM, CSCP, Jonah
    September/October 2010, APICS magazine

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