Blog: Gears & Wheels

  • July 20, 2015
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The crucial role of manufacturing

ODG Blog Staff

In a recent conversation, the CEO of a world-renown high-tech support organization suggested to me that “manufacturing” is an old economy word, and that today’s manufacturers – such as ODG – are really in the “hardware business.”  It sure sounds sexy. But – and I admit I may be a bit sensitive here - if we’re making “hardware”, then that almost suggests we are only providing a support service for the “more important” software makers. And that I don’t accept at all! We’re not just suppliers of hardware to support the virtual world  – we are leaders and innovators, solution providers and problem solvers, right here, in the real world

The word “manufacturing” has roots in Latin (“manu factum”), Italian and French. It simply means “making by hand.” While the “by hand” part is not really true any more, our highly skilled people are the most important part of our process. But the “making” part certainly is.
Bob Lutz is the author of the book “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business,” and of a New York Times article entitled “Coming Back Home”, which focuses on the question of whether manufacturing could fuel a US economic recovery.
I very much appreciate what Lutz had to say: "From the earliest days of economic activity, it's always been recognized that there are only three ways to add value.  

“The first is to ‘get it out of the ground’ by mining (or drilling), thus creating a commercial commodity where none existed before. 
“The second, of course, is ‘grow it’: prepare the soil, fertilize, seed and harvest; again producing, through agriculture, an economically desirable product. 
“The third, and most important, is ‘making it’: using ingenuity, labor and capital to transform the products of mining and growing into hard tangible consumer goods.
“Other activities, like services, are helpful, but they do not create new wealth the way mining, agriculture and manufacturing do."

There you have it: whether you call it manufacturing or “supplying hardware”, what we are doing here is a wealth creation process.

With this reality in mind, let me be blunt: politicians who are enamoured with the “new” (aka “service”) economy are barking up the wrong tree. Sure, people will make money providing services to other people, or do B2B, but they aren’t necessarily creating new wealth. Without new wealth, the economy won’t grow. And without manufacturing (or mining and farming), there is no new wealth. To paraphrase Bob Lutz, wealth is created in one of three ways: you grow it, you dig it, or you make it. Everything else follows from that.

Our role as a manufacturer is to provide a foundation for innovation in the wealth-creation process. As an advanced manufacturer, we are committed to forward-thinking operations to make this process the best it can be. We are using use all the tools available – education and training, sophisticated equipment, software, hardware, research and development, etc. – so that in the end, we will manufacturer the products that answer the challenges of the market place.

After that earlier conversation, I came back to my office, logged on to odg.com, and found the word “manufacturing” all over our site. Right at the top of the home page is the word “Manufacture”. Our “About” page talks about our “150,000 sq ft manufacturing footprint.”
I’m not changing the website. We’re proud to be known as a manufacturer. We’re going to continue to “make” things – the best, most innovative, industry-leading products – and in doing so, we will continue to create new wealth as a significant contributor to the Canadian economy.