Focus on Business

Susan MuchaTrade conditions bring “rain” to everyone. Focus on the customer experience.

As I write this, no relief is in sight in the supply-chain constraint situation, and the US is beginning a trade war with China. I’m reminded of a story my grandmother told me when I got my first marketing position after college. Nana worked at one of Miami’s largest department stores in the days when department stores had huge budgets focused on attracting shoppers via user experience rather than reduced prices. This was the era of department store “wars” for market share, where people would line up outside a store to wait for the doors to be unlocked any time a good promotion ran. Nana had just finished executing her first big fashion promotion campaign with ads in TV, radio and the local papers. She saw this as her “make or break” moment in terms of developing credibility in her new position. As she drove to work the morning of the event, it began to pour. Distraught at the negative impact this would have on shopper traffic, she went upstairs expecting to find an equally disappointed boss. Instead, he looked at her and said, “Cheer up Thera, it’s raining on Burdines and Jordan Marsh, too. And, we have the best ad campaign.”

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Escalating trade wars are causing disorder in the EMS market.

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Susan Mucha

Your customer wants to grow. Are you ready for the transition?

One of the difficult challenges small electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies face is the transition from a transaction-based job shop to a relationship-based, full-service EMS provider. There are a number of issues to consider prior to taking that journey.

Is it necessary? Bigger isn’t always better. The US is full of small job shops that are profitable and right-sized for their ownership and long-term strategy. At the same time, there are also companies that successfully redefine that model within their region and grow at a pace they are comfortable with. And, a restructuring in trade agreements and tax structure may drive greater opportunities for growth over the next few years as OEMs update their business models to take advantage of this change in the playing field.


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Susan MuchaIs the bigger issue a lack of trust of those who don’t “look” like us?

A month ago I had a conversation with a guy who worked for me in my corporate days. We were discussing the #MeToo movement, and he said, “I’m no longer sure where the line is drawn.” This surprised me because over the two decades I’ve known my friend he has never been anything but great to work with. When someone like him is concerned about crossing an invisible line, it scares me. To me, the #MeToo movement has started a conversation that could end up improving opportunities and working conditions for women, or hardening the glass ceiling.

Before the “you don’t know what women have gone through” mail starts, let me say I deeply understand the pain and anger that drives #MeToo. I’ve been inappropriately propositioned in a board room and at industry events more times than I can count. But what was much harder to deal with as I moved up in my career was getting a boss who really didn’t think women should run sales organizations and dealt with that by doing everything possible to destroy my credibility with his boss and my team. I won’t go into details, but I left for a job that paid twice as much and the best boss I’ve ever had.

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Susan MuchaBusinesses are happy, but more work remains to be done.

In February 2017, I published a column called “The Trump Effect and Manufacturing.” I thought it would be timely to revisit it since, with the passing of the tax plan, manufacturing companies face both opportunities and challenges in the coming year.

So, what will the Trump effect bring in 2018? Business is already seeing positive benefits:

  • Resurgence of the manufacturing sector. According to the US Jobs Report, the manufacturing sector added 196,000 jobs in 2017, compared with a loss of 16,000 in 2016. Peel back the numbers and 88,000 of the jobs were added in the last four months of 2017, showing momentum. While some of this growth in demand for labor likely relates to replacement product production driven by hurricanes and flooding earlier in the year, the passage of the tax reform bill is providing an incentive for US manufacturing growth as well. Reduction in regulations is also a contributing factor.
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Sue MuchaWays to resolve management variances across multisite operations.

One of the trends I’m continuing to see grow across the electronics manufacturing services industry is greater OEM focus on strategic use of multisite EMS facilities to maintain proximity with their facility structure or end-markets. Higher volume industries such as automotive and appliance have long dictated where their products would be built and sought EMS providers with facilities in the locations near their operations or distribution points. However, companies with much smaller volumes are also now looking at EMS facility site proximity to their operations. This can create an interesting challenge with smaller EMS providers.

Tier 1 EMS providers have done an excellent job of integrating their operations globally from a systems and process perspective. However, that is not necessarily true of multinational EMS providers in the lower tiers. Many in that category have grown by acquisition and have not standardized equipment and processes among facilities. Program management structures and processes may also differ.

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