As part of the 2007 chief executive officer leadership forum, Charles McClure of ArvinMeritor addressed a session on the subject of dealing with the changing complexion of the manufacturing industry. As a representative of a company based in the automotive industry, McClure felt that he could bring a unique perspective to questions about the evolution of the manufacturing industry, since his sector has been forced to deal with change head on in the recent past. Globalization, he said, had had a tremendous effect on everything that the auto manufacturers have done, creating similar problems across multiple aspects of the industry.
The goals, however, of a successful manufacturing company moving forward, are unchanged. Ensuring that business is flexible enough to adopt changes that might arise in the industry is key. While this goal may seem like a simple one to achieve, according to McClure the reality of implementing it is a great deal harder than one might think. “We have to look at the entire spectrum of the total cost model. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re in, we all have common requirements in maintaining flexibility to adjust to change. It’s required that we’ve had to strengthen our balance sheet; grow globally; create invest in core competencies; create and maintain a good technical workforce and of course, reduce costs,” said McClure. To stay ahead in the modern manufacturing sector, nothing less than total transformation is needed on the part of businesses. Simply steering the ship through tough economic times is not enough to get a company through the long run. Companies must be actively engaged in overhauling the way they approach their businesses in a globalized manufacturing economy. According to McClure, the common aspect shared by all successful manufacturers moving forward was constant innovation and receptiveness to change. This in turn creates a need for effective channels of communication between all members of the business chain.
One of the most important aspects of innovative changer in the industry, said McClure, was the overhaul of how companies look at the healthcare costs of their employees “The decisions we make today about how we’re going to handle healthcare in the future will either make or break our industry tomorrow and frankly, I’m not going to allow my business to get pushed to the brink over the cost of prescriptions. Goodyear’s $1 billion healthcare fund for retirees is a good example of companies stepping outside the box, taking action and driving its own destiny.” Finding new and outside-the-box ways to invest in the continued healthcare of their employees is an essential task for any company in a sector which, like McClure’s is in flux.