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2009 DFMA International Forum Gives Listeners an Earful

The panel discussion held on the last day of this year’s International Forum was frank, eye-opening and invigorating.  After initial  remarks by Mike Shipulski (Hypertherm), Ned O’Donovan (Consultant), Chris Tsai (Consultant) and finally keynote speaker Richard McCormick (Editor, Manufacturing & Technology News), the discussion opened to comments from the floor.  Here is a selection of some of the more telling words we heard:

“A sound economy is the bedrock of a sustainable recovery.  It must be based on value creation, and manufacturing creates value.”  Mike Shipulski

“We are living through the de-industrialization of America and we have to acknowledge the problem before we can remedy it…this needs to be addressed at the highest levels of government, as well as by investors and individuals.” Ned O’Donovan

“Outsourcing your competencies to others gives away value.  If you’re manufacturing in China, like it or not you just gave away your IP.”  Chris Tsai

“We moved manufacturing of our lower-cost product to Asia and kept the higher-cost ones in the U.S.  Our CEO refused to let his top team of designers do the low-cost design work in China.” Participant.

“I think it’s dawning on people…[that, as quoted in the GE annual report], the evolution from technology to service is wrong.” Richard McCormack.

“We closed four CMs [contract manufacturers] in New England.  That gene pool is gone – we’re not teaching the guys in school like we used to.” Participant.

“We need to think about a common vision as a country…It is about the money, but it’s also about character.  Who do we want to be?  …Environmental [technology] is something we can set the playing field for.” Ned O’Donovan

“There are big quality issues with overseas production…Companies are fooling themselves that they’re doing their math correctly, but they’re not accounting for all the logistical costs of outsourcing.” Chris Tsai

“It’s very important for the manufacturing community to counter…this magnet of power re financial-engineering being more important than engineering-engineering.’ Richard McCormick

“We need a national strategy to nurture invention and innovation.  Compete globally, but invest locally in people.  Be proactive, make our value visible, communicate, be an ambassador.” Ned O’Donovan

“This group…has to demonstrate value creation, and then talk about it—here, at your own company, in groups, on the web.  Build a groundswell and educate the public.  We have a responsibility to teach it.” Mike Shipulski

“We can become competitive again—we are becoming less high-cost.  If we maintain our design capabilities in this country, eventually it will come around.” Participant.

“DFMA is a change of culture.  Be willing to…do the hard work of learning the software.  And relearn the important lessons of what made us great, which is a very strong industrial base.”  Richard McCormick.

The discussion frankly acknowledged the difficult times the U.S. has been experiencing, and the tectonic shifts that have occurred within manufacturing.  But there was also optimism that those characteristics that have always contributed to this country’s strength—energy, resiliency, innovative thinking—still resonate at the core of our national identity.  Many participants felt strongly that the principals of DFMA hold true, now more than ever, and are fundamental to the revival of U.S. manufacturing.


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