Henry Ford was known for his in-house approach to manufacturing automobiles. He instructed his engineers to get away from their drafting tables and get down to the assembly line in order to see exactly how the engineers’ ideas translated into actual manufacturing. If there was a problem, Ford’s engineers were right there to observe the problem and come up with a solution. While observing, they also found ways to innovate and improve the assembly line, making the operation less costly and more efficient. Ford’s approach didn’t just revolutionize the automobile industry, but all manufacturing as well.
That was 100 years ago. Could Ford succeed in today’s global, outsourcing environment? Would his engineers have the same ability to observe manufacturing and come up with innovations on the spot? Not likely. American automobiles now contain numerous parts that are manufactured elsewhere. You might have a starter made in Brazil, taillights made in Taiwan, airbags produced in Japan, tires from South Korea, and an instrument panel molded somewhere in China. Ultimately, it’s all put together in Mexico. How much innovation opportunity is lost when manufacturing is so far away from Detroit’s engineers and designers? Not to mention the basic problems of quality, on-time delivery, communication, and customer service.
While automobile manufacturing is an obvious and well-known industry engaged in outsourcing, most American manufacturers, if not already wholly outsourcing overseas, are employing the same piecemeal assembly process as auto manufacturers: using parts and labor from overseas to make a nominally “American” product. Not only does this practice put American citizens out of work, it also stifles innovation because product designers cannot be present through the entire manufacturing process.
According to a 2014 report from the Executive Office of the President, manufacturing firms that do all of their production in the U.S. are 30% more innovative than their counterparts who outsource. Manufacturers who keep their process in-house provide better quality products, produce them more efficiently, and experience higher customer satisfaction.
Though overseas outsourcing has taken hold and will likely continue, manufacturers who resist this trend are sought out by customers who demand the best quality available, and who value the fast, collaborative solutions to their needs that an in-house manufacturer provides.
Contemporary Research is one of the few manufacturers who have resisted outsourcing from the beginning. Established in 1994 and based in Addison, Texas, Contemporary Research produces HDTV tuners, modulators, encoders as well as control products for professional AV integrations. All products are designed and manufactured in-house by American workers.
Why would Contemporary Research choose to remain all-American and conduct its manufacturing in-house rather than outsource and maybe save a few bucks? CR knows their local production staff, board assembly, and metalworking resources can compete with anything overseas. Also, with local sourcing, CR can immediately integrate new technologies, provide quick delivery to rush orders, and maintain the highest quality standards. Furthermore, an in-house approach allows CR to continue its commitment to green manufacturing.
Perhaps most important is CR’s ability to respond to customers’ needs. With engineers in the same location as manufacturing, individual customer design requests can be quickly incorporated on the manufacturing floor. Instead of an overseas phone bank, customers who call get a knowledgeable, English-speaking agent who is in direct communication with the engineers. From that point, an innovative solution can be found.
Christy Ricketts, Vice President of Operations and Marketing at Contemporary Research, gives an example: “Recently we had a customer who needed H.264 streamingbefore we were ready to release it. We offered him a beta version of the firmware so he could keep the system running and make his customer happy. We are always able to talk with our customers and resolve problems.”
Imagine this situation with an overseas manufacturer. Would there be as much concern, and would effective communication even be possible?
All-American manufacturing keeps the work in the United States. This not only guarantees higher quality products, but also keeps American workers employed and enhances local economies. Contemporary Research is as committed to keeping the work in the U.S. as it is to providing the best products and customer service possible. You can’t outsource dedication.
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