North American profile extruders are keeping a sharp eye on their rivals in China, and that's a good idea.
Imports from China for the window and door market are exploding. As our reporter Angie DeRosa has revealed, one small Chinese company has passed a strict certification process to sell entire window and door systems in the United States. Another much larger company, Dalian Shide Plastic Industry Co. Ltd., now plans to do the same.
If North American extruders have learned anything from reading about their brethren in the mold-making and injection molding sectors, they know that growing competition from China will mean huge changes in just a few years.
Their first temptation may be to seek pre-emptive protectionist measures - to enlist government help to limit imports and defend their own market share.
But that's not the best strategy.
Vigilance is good, you see, but extruders must take care to devote more time on what should be their most important goal: to become fiercely competitive.
Bankruptcy courts are littered with molding and mold-making companies that, faced with this new competitive landscape a decade ago, did not make the right decisions. But plenty of others are successful today: profitable, growing, and rewarding places to work. What's their secret?
* Choosing the right markets and the right customers. This is the toughest - basically picking any customer is a gamble. But you can minimize the risk by partnering with strong customers and diversifying your product mix. Some of today's most successful molders actually ``fired'' their less appealing customers. It's a strategy worth emulating.
* Developing the right products. China works best at producing large volumes of commodity goods. You may find greater success, and higher profit, at the high end of the market.
* Keeping abreast of the best technology. This gives you the ability to make products that your competitors cannot.
* Staying lean and moving fast. Obviously an advantage when competitors take days or weeks to ship product to North America.
* Keeping debt manageable. Make sure that you control your own destiny!
* Partner with your competitors. Instead of fighting over the U.S. market, how would you like an opening to serve the massive developing market in China? Partnering also helps provide your customers with a full range of product without forcing them to look overseas.
Today's best companies aren't the ones that spent the most time complaining the loudest about unfair trade. Political gamesmanship may have an impact, but the reality is that competition is here. The reality is that North American profile extruders need to find a way to compete in order to survive.