Having attended a number of shows for the quality industry recently, namely Inspex and TCT in the UK, I am not a little puzzled by what appears to be a disconnection between events in the world of credit crunch and manufacturing gloom, with sales of cars etc plummeting and lay-offs and extended shutdowns in the news.
Yet, as far as one can tell, the suppliers of advanced quality control systems, measurement, test and inspection equipment and services almost uniformly report that orders and enquiries are holding up - that is , holding up so far. Reasons given are that big ticket items can't be shut down at a drop of a hat. They have long project planning and investment cycles that take time for events to influence, sometimes years. Others report opportunities in different manufacturing sectors, such as medical device and alternative energy systems, such as wind generators.
Others again, are finding that the advances in technology are revealing new applications perhaps in entirely new areas. For example, scanning technology can be used for a lot of rapid prototyping and reverse engineering applications, from jewellry to dental constructs. The technology has application from small scale measurement in the region of microns right up to detailed measurement of large building and even geographical features. And of course, there are those who are constantly innovating to retain a competitive edge and take market share.
Nevertheless, there is a sense of the possibility of very tough times ahead.
The question arises, what are you going to do to make sure your company (a.) survives (b) grows and, finally, (c) makes the right level of profits? Some CEO's may employ a knee jerk reaction -slash and burn, cut costs, cut investment, put a hold on product innovation, cut training, lose people, all before taking the company down.
Others, more enlightened companies, will re-emphasise their company's commitment to restructuring their business along the lines of a Lean organisation, with a positive emphasis on innovation, continuous improvement, getting rid of genuine non value added waste, and even making counter cyclical investment in all the slash and burn targets of our panicking CEO above. The question is: which one are you? Or to put it another way, are you part of the solution or part of the problem?