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From the Desk of Jack Healy

How Do We Compete Globablly

By Jack Healy, Director, Manufacturing Advancement Center, [email protected]

The recent presidential campaign discussed the horrendous loss of manufacturing jobs, which was especially acute in New England with 23% (226,400) jobs lost. But in all of the campaign discussions there was little mention of the loss of manufacturing establishments, except when a large firm closed and the loss of its economic impact was described in the local press. Even then, such losses were often referred to as inevitable, due to aging plants, high costs, global competitors, etc. While the politicians skipped over the closing of manufacturing establishments to talk about lost jobs, such company closings were a significant contributor to overall employment losses. These firms are not coming back, nor the jobs that went with them. Here’s how the data stacks up in New England:


% Mfg Jobs Lost
March 98 to Jan. 04

% Mfg. Establishment Lost
1998 to 2002

New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New England

Several recent research reports have falsely attributed growth in manufacturing productivity as the cause for the deterioration of our manufacturing base. Leo Reddy, CEO of the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing, recently wrote in an article for US Industry Today, “The most damaging outcome of the debate swirling around job loss has been the finger pointing at productivity as the main Culprit.” Mr. Reddy goes on to state, “ The only way that U.S. manufacturing can compete in the Global Economy — especially against low wage but high skilled economies such as China — is through accelerating productivity and innovation.”

Several of these productive, innovative, and globally competitive companies were recently recognized by the Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development (MAED) at the Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Awards. These businesses were recognized for having made a positive impact in 2003 on the five-state region’s economy through job creation and financial investment.

We were pleased to see that these awards recognized manufacturing as still able to drive the local economy. A manufacturer was recommended in each of the five regions (all of whom are MassMEP clients). We were even happier to see that three of the firms who won the awards were manufacturers. Two of the award recipients acknowledged the MEP’s contribution’s to their efforts in growing their respective companies when accepting their awards.

So our congratulations to the three manufacturing companies that received the 1 st annual Team Massachusetts Economic Impact Awards:

An employee-owned, custom plastics manufacturer based in Clinton, Mass. The company has evolved into a self-described Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) that designs, manufactures, and delivers product for clients on a worldwide basis. NYPRO’s design business has grown to the point where such valued added services now account for half of their total sales. If NYPRO hadn’t embarked upon its design strategy, it’s doubtful that the company’s existing injection molding sales would be anywhere near the level they currently are. And they certainly would not be at the U.S. staffing levels they currently enjoy. In this endeavor, NYPRO, the fifth largest U.S. employee-owned firm, has invested $10 million dollars in a new Massachusetts-based polymer research facility to support their growing design business. In addition, they have built a network of partner organizations around the world that can support their product launches.

New Balance
The only remaining major U.S. sneaker brand still manufacturing in five New England factories and one in California. The company recently invested $14 million in their Brighton, Mass., factory so they can now produce molded outer sole in 12 seconds. This allows New Balance to make a sneaker from scratch, working on a pull production system, by filling orders as they come in from customers. The company also shares a similar trait with NYPRO with respect to employee retention — turnover rates at their plants are a mere 5%.

Boyd Converting
A global supplier to industrial customers of high value-added non-woven and specialty paper products and converting services for technical applications. Located in South Lee, Mass., Boyd’s focus on workforce training has been a major contributing factor toward their overall employment growth, which has risen 88% over the last two years. Similar to NYPRO, Boyd has been able to marry it’s production capabilities with its marketing department, and is in the process of launching a retail product to be sold by a major Massachusetts consumer products company.

All of these companies, as well as the other manufacturing candidates for the MAED Award, share the same focus. They ensure that they leave nothing on the table by implementing Lean Manufacturing Methodologies throughout their organizations, and by developing and fully utilizing their employees’ skills.

Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing has been recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the “Great Innovations” of the last 75 years. The jury is no longer out. Lean Manufacturing works, as evidenced by the companies listed above. And implementing lean is easy. Simply contact the following MEP offices for a free “Lean Assessment.”

Massachusetts, Mike Prior, (508) 831-7020
Maine, Rosemary Presnar, (207) 623-0680
New Hampshire, Zenagui Brahim, (603) 226-3200
Rhode Island, John Cronin, (401) 294-3535


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