There is nothing new about globalization. Companies use it to maintain competitive advantage. The downside is that business is moving offshore faster than North American manufacturers can adjust. Problems arise when jobs and technology change faster than industry can adapt. Older workers have less time in life to get retrained and find work in some other up-and-coming industry, and students cautiously look toward the plastics industry as a place to get a lifetime career.
Major corporations and governments are the big-time players in globalization, with small companies unwittingly becoming the recipients of the outcome. Major corporations have frightening powers in natural resources, manufacturing, finance and cultural undertakings. They can control the economy and political destiny of developing countries. Ultimately, large gaps develop between objectives of major corporations and small companies.
At an alarming rate businesses have closed down or moved offshore. At the small-company level globalization can range anywhere from a catastrophe to a blessing. However, the best mind-set is to think of it as an opportunity waiting to be utilized.
The electronics industry is the largest and fastest-growing industry in the world, due largely to the Internet economy.
Components are now manufactured and assembled all over the world. Along with this offshore assembly work is the creation of support industries, for example, mold making.
The competitive landscape is also being changed by other developments, including the shift by industrial economies away from labor-intensive activities toward the production of more capital and knowledge-intensive products and services.
Managers need to be proactive looking for opportunities. For years managers work on day-to-day problems and spend very little time planning strategies.
Concerns occur when managers must choose what needs to be done to stay in front of the curve. Some basic strategies may be: Wait for business to increase, manufacture more cheaply, make high-value-added goods, fabricate offshore or lobby politicians.
Analyzing the opportunities is the most difficult part. Some tools available to help make an intelligent analysis include:
* Reading books, taking courses — which is time-consuming.
* Hiring a full-time strategy staff — which is expensive and top management still makes the final choices.
* Hiring consultants—but again, management makes final choices.
* Hiring a consultant to transfer the knowledge for strategy planning systems — which requires a high energy level.
The bottom line: It is better to do something now than to have procrastinated to the point of no return!
Biggs is a consultant with Strategy Planning Systems Ltd. in Quali-cum Beach, British Columbia.