A little good news today

Every year, OEM Off-Highway’s “State of the Industry” issue takes a look at health of the industry, and how it is likely to be feeling once new calendars are on the wall. The last couple years haven’t been a lot of fun, but most experts believe the economy is improving. For OEMs and their suppliers, sales are climbing. Although often still not above the record levels of a few years ago, at least they are trending up.

A common concern we have heard when talking with readers and advertisers regards their supply chain, especially as the industry rebounds: Will suppliers be ready? When wholegood sales dropped and orders were cancelled, a ripple was sent down through the industry. Fabrication and machine shops, diesel engine distributors and others -- all others, really -- were forced to do what they could to survive, and many were successful. But are they ready?

With that in mind, the two answers we most wanted to be revealed in this issue were: “What proactive measures did you (and are you continuing to) employ to drive revenue during the recession?”

And... “What steps are you taking to prepare for the eventual economic upswing and increased demand?"

The answers (beginning on page 10) are varied, but reveal that suppliers and OEMs are ready to leave the recession years behind them and move forward.

Component suppliers and OEMs alike will do what was necessary to deliver new products on-time (often in spite of material shortages from their suppliers). Some, like AxleTech, have even moved into larger, more expanded plants to better serve customers.

And there are new products to be excited about. At many companies, while machines and components may not have been leaving the factory in record numbers, research & development was continuing. The engineering departments were busy, and testing was occurring around the clock. 2011 will be an fun year if only because of the new product announcements that will take place.

Raw material is important; but so is finding good help. A few years ago, when the construction industry in particular was booming, a common concern readers had was about the shortage of a skilled workforce, ranging from engineering to manufacturing. Companies such as Superior Industries (see page 38) decided to not wait around for a solution and started its own in-house welding school.

Recently there has been some good news on the public education front, too. Six states are receiving grants from the U.S. Department of Education to promote Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs. One of those states is Wisconsin, home to OEM Off-Highway.

The Dairy State has a long history in the mobile off-highway industry. The Wisconsin Technical College System will receive $258,400 per year for up to four years to design and implement its Wisconsin Advanced Manufacturing Pathway (AMP) education initiative, a comprehensive approach for delivering technical education to prepare students for career success.

We’ll leave the recession years behind. From the supply chain that delivers raw material to manufacturers, to the one that is supplying the talented workforce that will help to ensure North America’s manufacturers can compete in the world market, I think we’re going to be ready.