Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct


By: Nick Howard  |  November 3, 2011  |  Contact the Author
Much has been written, especially during the last 12 months, of how market forces are actually starting to benefit the North American economy. While many plants shuttered in 2009/10, went either bankrupt or moved to low cost countries, perhaps this is starting to change. World economic events seem to now swing in North America’s favour. Less competition in our western region is helped by the reduction in capacities of not only print but all industries that manufacture specialty products.

Take, for instance, the revitalization of the huge automotive sector. Many overseas car companies - Japanese, Korean and German - make vehicles in North America. This spins off work to tool and die companies, specialty high end machine shops, die-stamping and custom interior firms. Add to this the boost in transportation to and from raw material sites and finally to the assembly plants. In particular, the FX (currency exchange) has been a key ingredient as the Euro and Yen have outpaced the USD - instantly making our goods and services less expensive.

The factories, large and small, that are the recipients of this new paradigm, seem to be the folks that have learned from the past. They control head counts, operate much more effectively and most importantly, re-tool their machinery and processes to take advantage of faster lower cost production. As is reported, there remains the illusion that high unemployment especially in the USA signals a continued loss of production and lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That may not be so and one wonders if the unemployed are trained in the new technologies and equipment or are they the untrained low wage section of the workforce.

Perhaps, administrative positions both in manufacturing and other sectors (like banking and commerce) are the ones that have difficulty as well in obtaining jobs in these new “Haves” type of businesses. As many have repeated, clerical jobs are needed less and less especially by smart process driven establishments.

In Canada and the United States, there remains a well educated workforce. Europeans have no problem making this known to the world. But, we have lagged somewhat behind in our praise especially for the young people who represent our future. It's time we realized that.

It could also be suggested that the huge China Inc. experiment may be faltering as China is in the midst of high inflation, stronger labour demands (for better remuneration) and working conditions as well as normal growth pains in everything from quality issues to environmental concerns. Outsourcing with all that entails, comes at a price and the price is getting higher by the month, meaning North American costs look better by the year.

Read between the lines. Print is set to recover. When one sees the revenue growth of Web-to-Print powerhouses everyone should ponder is this: Just as a snake sheds its skin to renew itself, so will our industry. Never stop looking to invest in tools, management processes and marketing. Failure to do it and do it now will leave many too far to catch up.

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