I had an interesting week travelling the state and engaging business leaders from many different regions. Almost everywhere I went people wanted to talk about Foxconn and its effect on their community. Now, I don’t have any inside information, but it’s very clear that this new industry will have far-reaching effects on Wisconsin and everyone who lives here. Predictable forces will impact most manufacturers. We all need to pay attention because the overall picture will come into focus over time – not in a single burst on insight.
Manufacturers have between 12-18 months to adjust to this transformation. If companies want to be a part of the Foxconn supply chain, they will need to improve their capabilities and focus in on the emerging needs of Foxconn suppliers. Even if you don’t want to be a part of the Foxconn supply chain, you must up your game because most Wisconsin manufacturers will be making transformational improvements. Finally, everyone must ask themselves how they will retain and attract the best talent in a tight labor market with fierce competition. It’s a watershed time for the state and we all must be ready!
There’s not much news for companies wanting to be a part of the Foxconn supply chain. The company hasn’t defined its requirements or what it will buy from local suppliers. Still, some things are crystal clear. World class manufacturing capabilities will become the price of admission for manufacturers competing for a spot in the supply chain. The new autonomous vehicle lane on I-94 suggests that new suppliers must be automation leaders and ready to handle those vehicles at their operations. The specific requirements will come somewhere down the road. They will gradually become clear as the operation develops. In the meantime, start moving! Waiting could be fatal.
Even if you don’t want to do business with Foxconn, you will need to up your game. Many manufacturers will chase the opportunity and will challenge everyone because those competitors will raise their capabilities. The market will see more companies that can deliver at higher quality and lower cost levels, putting pressure on prices and requirements for everyone. All of this will transform the Wisconsin manufacturing ecosystem, creating tremendous risks and opportunities. Companies will bifurcate into two groups: those that make improvements and thrive, and those that fade into oblivion.
Talent will be critical for everyone in the market. Again, companies will bifurcate. Those that solve the talent issue will thrive and grow. The others will struggle. Foxconn will require 13,000 new workers, and they are likely to attract thousands more. If you stand still, you will lose you best talent. Instead, develop a compelling narrative about why people should work for you and make your brand visible to potential employees.
It’s a great time to be a manufacturer in Wisconsin. We have a strong ecosystem with terrific cooperation on critical issues facing our industry. It’s a turning point for most operations. There will be terrific opportunities for companies that move aggressively and serious consequences for those who hesitate. There’s plenty of opportunity for everybody. It’s time to take advantage of the situation.
In all of this transformation, don’t go it alone. Change is accelerating and it’s impossible for anyone to see everything that’s happening. Reach out to other leaders of companies making things happen. Find people with great resources behind them and the ability to connect with experts on leading trends. Those folks should be able to help you craft those narratives that will let you harness the latest technology, build strong market positions, and secure the best talent. Make sure you stretch outside your comfort zone. That’s where great things will happen!
Together let’s create a terrific future for Wisconsin!