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When asked about plant closings and layoffs, many of today's ceramic manufacturers are quick to point at the increasing-and unfair-competition from low-cost manufacturing regions such as China. How can we compete against $.60 to $1.00 per hour wages, and against an economy with few, if any, environmental restrictions? How can we win the manufacturing game when the playing field is clearly tipped in the other team's direction?
While these are real problems that must certainly be addressed to ensure the longevity of U.S. manufacturing as a whole, there is also another, more subtle issue at play in the undercurrent of the ceramic industry-many plants are simply not in a position to be competitive. They've been using the same equipment and processes for decades. In good times, they didn't have to change; in bad times, they couldn't afford to.
Now we're at a crossroads. For some, the answer will be to follow the crowd and shift manufacturing overseas. Others will simply close their doors. But what if we could instead reinvent ourselves through new products, processes or technologies? What if, by making the right investments, we could reposition ourselves to take advantage of new opportunities?
Having a modern, efficient, productive plant won't guarantee that you'll remain profitable in today's challenging business environment. But there is no doubt that such plants will be better equipped to compete, and will stay in the game much longer, than plants with outdated manufacturing methods.
That's why we've worked so hard to make this issue, the fourth annual edition of our Equipment Digest, better than ever. We've added more than 70 new equipment definitions in our quest to make this the most comprehensive equipment resource in the industry; in fact, for the first time, each equipment category listed in the 2003-2004 Equipment Digest features a definition. In many cases, these definitions not only describe a particular piece of equipment, but also provide tips on how to choose the best type of equipment for a given application. We've also completely updated all of the supplier listings* to provide you with the most current contact information for each company. All of this information will be available in a searchable format online.
We hope you will find the 2003-2004 Equipment Digest to be a valuable reference tool in planning your equipment purchases. However, we also recognize that to be truly useful, the Equipment Digest must continue to evolve to meet the needs of our readers. More equipment categories and definitions will be added in the coming months and years, and existing definitions will continue to change based on feedback from the industry. Your support-and your suggestions-will help make the Equipment Digest a valuable, thorough resource in the years to come.
Please don't hesitate to contact me at (248) 366-2503, fax (248) 366-2504 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to suggest changes or new definitions for next year's Equipment Digest.
And in the game of ceramic manufacturing, may the best players win.