Competitive Manufacturing

Summary
How things change… A new BCG study released on April 25, 2014 throws away out-of-date perceptions on which countries have the lowest manufacturing costs. If China is still ranked #1 in terms of global competitiveness, its position is now under pressure with the United States a close second. The world is not divided anymore between “low cost” emerging countries and “expensive” advanced economies.
What does it mean for investors and decision makers? Where should your next production plant be located?

Manufacturing Cost Competitiveness (MCC)
BCG’s study tracked 25 major exporting countries, accounting for close to 90 percent of global exports of manufactured goods. Their MCC index is built on four pillars of manufacturing competitiveness: wages, productivity growth, energy costs and currency exchange rates. Adjustments were made to take into account other drivers influencing a nation’s competitive position, such as available infrastructure, security issues, ease of doing business, corruption level…

Ranking and evolution
Apart from China and the USA, the final Top Ten MCC ranking includes the U.K. (4), the Netherlands (6), Belgium (9) and France (10) but this “photo finish” doesn’t tell the full story. A clearer picture is offered when classifying the countries in four categories, reflecting the trend of their competitive position. Highlights:

   Under Pressure: Rapidly deteriorating competitiveness affects Brazil, Russia, China, Poland, Czech Republic…
   Losing Ground: High cost countries coping with rising energy costs, high wage costs and no productivity gains. Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden…
   Holding Steady: Countries maintaining their position relative to the global leaders: Netherlands, U.K., India, Indonesia.
   Rising Stars: Increased competitiveness with gains in all four index components: U.S.A., Mexico

Click here for the press release on the BCG study.

What are the implications for business leaders?
The first message is that decision makers need to keep track and adjust to dramatic and rapid changes. Old (as in ten-years-old) perceptions stand in the way of new realities. “Overall costs in the USA are 10 to 25 percent lower than those of the world’s ten leading goods-exporting nations other than China”, the report says, and on par with Eastern Europe.
Entrepreneurs do not move their production facilities based on the latest trend or hype. Such a move has huge implications, is very costly and requires an economic horizon of at least one, usually two decades. This is true for medium sized firms as much as for global corporations.
This is why managers and investors should base such a strategic decision on solid cost structure evidence and the analysis of long term trends. Just like when buying shares on the stock exchange, if you follow the mainstream opinion, your late move is likely to end up in painful losses.

Where should your production plant be located?
Whether looking at added capacity or transplanting production, the decision of where your new plant should be built is obviously the subject of a careful strategic analysis. You will make a first selection of countries where wages, energy costs, productivity and currency all point in the right direction, and where the other drivers (ease of doing business, infrastructure, stability, rule of law…) are consistently positive.
Each firm is however a unique case, only partially influenced by macroeconomics. After all, your first concern is with your market, your customers, your people and your identity. This is why you will also want to consider a broad range of company-specific criteria, such as:

  • Competitive sourcing and efficient supply chain
  • Location and dynamics (growth, innovation) of your main markets
  • Availability of skilled labor and qualified specialists
  • Ease of adjustment to the local culture
  • Global market prestige and local market access
  • Access to local funding.

Building a production plant in a distant, foreign country, is a major strategic decision, one that might ensure growth and profitability for decades to come, if done right. When deciding where to move, take a new look at today’s evidence and tomorrow’s evolution, not at yesterday’s performance.

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Flemish exports reach record height in 2013

According to an article in the Flemish newspaper De Tijd exports from Flanders – one three regions in Belgium, the others are Wallonia and Brussels – grew in 2013 to a new record height. In comparison with the previous year exports increased by 1.64% to 294 billion euro. Flanders represents 83% of all Belgian exports. All the numbers originate from Flanders Investment and Trade.

Aside from all these positive macro-economic data, COGNEGY itself has seen a growing interest for the US market by many Belgian SMEs. More feasibility studies than ever before are being run, and more client businesses are enjoying our support with the execution of their growth strategies on the US market.
Another notable positive trend is the realization by many entrepreneurs that such a market entry has to be well prepared. Far more than in the recent past, they recognize the importance of early identification of ‘hurdles‘ and ‘springboards‘ (the opposite of a hurdle, an accelerator) and the understanding of competitive environments, which leads invariably to a stronger value proposition and in turn to more successful customer acquisition.
The original text was published in De Tijd – and can be found here http://www.tijd.be/r/t/1/id/9484774.
All numbers quoted originate from FIT – Flanders Investment & Trade.

 

Georgia #1 state for business

Georgia – that is the state in the US and not the country – has been named #1 state for business by the Site Selection Magazine.

In a press release by the office of Governor Nathan Deal, Site Selection editor Mike Ahrend was quoted saying:

“Executives at companies investing there regularly point to its many logistics advantages, cutting-edge workforce training programs, particularly Quick Start, and proactive economic developers on the state and local levels who understand the business requirements of today’s capital investors.”

Read the full press release here: http://gov.georgia.gov/press-releases/2013-11-04/georgia-named-no-1-state-us-business

So, just like Ray Charles you should have Georgia on your mind!

what is business development?

This blog has never been about us… but any good rule should have an exception.

Over time many people have asked me: ‘what do you do?’  I tell them: ‘…business development…’ And nine out of ten the reply comes: ‘so, you are a sales person, right…?’

Well, yes in a way, but actually no, not really…

Many people erroneously adhere to the idea that ‘business development’ is just another fancy name for selling. They see sales people as ego-hungry creatures, who are continuously looking to put something ‘new and improved’ on their business card. First they were simply sales guys, who then evolved into account managers and now have to be addressed as business development managers…

Or could ‘business development’ actually mean more than sales?

Sure, because others will tell you that business development is essentially the activity to forge new partnerships, alliances, joint ventures or even acquisitions, allowing the organization to grow non-organically.

Others again, will favor the concept that business development is in fact the opening up of new product – market combinations, and preach that actually its lifeblood lies within the R&D and new product development teams.

So, who is right? And, what do I actually do…?

In fact all of the definitions are accurate in a way – because business development is an effort that combines all of these elements and a couple more.

For us business development means ‘…leading the concerted efforts of a company’s profitable growth into new markets, new relationships and new business activities that typically take place outside the realm of its current day-to-day business…’

And that is what I enjoy doing – take businesses into unknown territory!

location…location…location…act 2

In this two-part article we are discussing the fact that many entrepreneurs do not use a logical process to decide where to locate their new business when arriving in the USA.

In the first act we looked at the importance of: time zones, customers and competition, vendors and transport, incentives and support, and the quality of employees.

Let’s move on to act 2 and discuss the second set of 5 elements in play…

6.    Cost of living

Can be very different from area to area, a nice suburb in a metro area with great schools will be much higher than a location 100 miles out in the country side. New York is on average double of Atlanta and Miami alike – play around with different calculators:

–       http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

–       http://www.bestplaces.net/col/

7.    Legislation

Employment laws and the impact of unions differ greatly from the North to the South. Many southern states have so-called ‘at will employment’ laws enabling employers to adjust their workforce quickly to new opportunities or an economic contraction.

8.    Climate

The North has winters with truly disruptive snow and ice, if road transport is important to you, it might not be the right location. Florida sees the odd hurricane that can actually close down an entire state, and the South can be very hot and humid in the summer… take your pick with a clear mind.

US climate

–       http://www.usclimatedata.com/

9.    Connectivity

Doing business in the US means flying. How easy is it to get to the airport? How often are flights delayed? How many direct flights to most (all) of your destinations are available from your airport of choice?

How is the commute to and from work – map it out for your team.

–       http://www.aci-na.org/content/airport-traffic-reports

10. Family – schools – education

As it is your decision where to settle, it is your responsibility to think through the impact of the relocation, for you and many more after you. It has been abundantly shown that if the other half of the couple is not happy with the relocation choice – be it employment, the schools, shopping, entertainment, sport, culture, neighborhood, friends, … it will become the venture’s highest hurdle.

Most importantly, know how to weigh, balance and interpret all these elements in play. Do not hesitate to define the unique mix that is important to your venture’s success. Developing a ‘weighted criteria decision matrix’ comparing all the options can be a very helpful tool to remain objective.

Also – do not underestimate the power of the southeast – read Phil’s latest article:

https://doing-business-in-usa.com/category/phils-posts

Where to start a Business in the US? One Example:

Location, location, location! As my colleague explains in his post, the approach to select a corporate site should be articulated. Let’s focus on the Southeast for example.

After defining the target markets, the marketing mix, the partner or target profile, along with other appropriate criteria for the operation like sourcing, financing and funding needs, economical impact and organizational implication, etc., the entrepreneur might have a good idea about the right place for successfully growing a venture.

Other factors that might play a role include infrastructure, access to talented resources, cost of living, economic growth rate, local market size, taxes, economic incentives, schools, prospective partner location, the cost of doing business relative to the U.S. average, and the time difference between the location and the home country.

An article written in French by journalist Jean-Pierre Gonguet describes the Southeast‘s vision and the strategy for becoming a global logistic platform and high-tech hub. “Atlanta veut se mettre à l’air et a l’eau.” Read more in La Tribune (If you do not read French and want more information, let’s have a conversation.) Gonguet was part of the delegation from France during the France-Atlanta 3rd edition last November.

Without being specific on a business model, focusing only on the economic environment makes sense. The Southeast—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee— is the leading market for population and economic growth in the U.S.

The Southeast:

  • 7th largest economy (GDP) in the world at $3.15 trillion,
  •  home of 70 million people (+8 million in the last 10 years),
  • Atlanta airport is ranked # 1 in world in passenger volume and has 19 cargo-only carriers,
  • headquarters for 12 Fortune 500 and 15 Fortune 1000 in Metro Atlanta,
  • More than 80% of U.S. consumers can be reached from Atlanta in two flight hours or two truckload delivery days,
  • 40% of North American manufacturing and distribution locations are located within 800 kilometers of Atlanta,
  • Atlanta ranks # 2 among America’s most wired cities.

Cost of doing Business in teh US 001

“Source: KPMG’S 2010 Competitive Alternatives Study, Guide to international Business Location”

Despite the statistics, the best business location for a business model might be in San Francisco or in the Mid-West. This is perfectly fine! In other words, the best location for establishing a new venture is a complex decision indeed but key to successful operations.

location…location…location

That’s what a realtor will tell you when buying a home – it is not the house and its features but the location of your favorite piece of real estate that will determine its value.

Heeding this logic where should a new business in the US be located?

There are 3.8 million square miles (9.8m km2) to choose from…

Over the years COGNEGY has spoken and worked with many entrepreneurs who are faced with the very specific question where to start their new business. Surprisingly enough many of them do not pursue a rational process to reach such a decision. This article does not have the intention to promote either the ‘Big Apple’, ‘Big Peach’ or ‘Magic City’ – in fact we serve all three metro areas – but to provide a number of thought provokers leading to a well-founded business decision.

The East Coast offers many great choices, the question is: which one is right for you?

1. Time zones

Stay on the East Coast – a six-hour time difference is big a challenge enough. If the office closes at 5:00pm in Europe and the US starts at 8:30am – you only have 2.5 hours overlap. Move two time zones to the West and there is a mere 30 minutes left.

2. Customers and competition

This is the real question…where are your current customers and where are your prospects hiding. Also consider where your competition is located – you will want to hire (industry savvy) people without relocating them all across the US. It will be difficult to attract great employees if you are out there all on your own.

3. Vendors – transport

Where are your vendors based – having them drive out of their way to deliver your materials, components or supplies will drive up your costs unnecessarily. Also industry players tend to congregate in one geography, allowing negotiation for  better prices.

4. Incentives and support

Once decided on the larger geographical area it is time to talk to state representatives, county officials and local chambers alike and invite them to be creative with their entire incentive program to attract your business. Their enthusiasm will be directly proportional to the number of employees you plan to hire.

5. Quality of employees

Select a metro area if you want to attract the right caliber of executive and team. Not only for the quality of the schools for their kids, but also the quality of life. Blue-collar labor might be cheaper further away from a metro area, but you will struggle to find and retain the right caliber of management. The optimal solution will depend on your business. Do not hide out in the sticks.

We will look at 5 more elements in my next post. In the mean time, choose wisely, as the world famous Yogi Berra once said: “When you come to a fork in the road… Take it”.