Change: The Only Constant

What a difference a couple of months makes. When I last sat at the keyboard to write this column, it was late August, and the number one thing on my mind was an upcoming trip to Europe to attend the EMO show in Hanover, Germany. For me, such priorities have been rearranged, not by choice, but by force.

What a difference a couple of months makes. When I last sat at the keyboard to write this column, it was late August, and the number one thing on my mind was an upcoming trip to Europe to attend the EMO show in Hanover, Germany. For me, such priorities have been rearranged, not by choice, but by force.

In general, we Americans don't like to have our ability to make choices taken away. One of the marvelous aspects of this country, and the culture that's evolved within it, is that each citizen has a remarkable and historically unprecedented breadth of options. It's the source of our success. However, it's also perhaps our greatest area of vulnerability.

Not since the 1860s has our homeland physically known the intrusion of war. We are now unfortunately in the process of re-experiencing that. Am I scared? No. Am I terrorized? I choose not to give them the satisfaction.

Mostly what I am, is angry. But that's an insufficient response to the imposition that has been forced upon us. I'm more aware and more concerned, but I'm nowhere near paralyzed by these cowardly acts. Obviously we can't just ignore what's going on, but we also cannot and must not stop being whom we are.

Our metalworking business is reeling. We were in bad shape before 9/11, and things haven't improved since. One big change that's occurred since the attacks has been a galvanization of our bipartisan Congress. The usual bickering with its resultant stalemate has melted away to a large extent, replaced with an emergency status consensus.

An output of that new spirit of cooperation is some long hoped for relief for the manufacturing sector, including precision parts manufacturers. This may be the kick-start needed to overcome what is primarily a psychological impediment. Consumers need to buy stuff, but so do manufacturers. Now may be the best time in recent memory for both.

If one looks close, there is little economic reason for recovery not to happen. Most of the critical economic factors that define good or bad times are stubbornly clinging to the good. Unlike the last big recession, interest rates are low—historically low. Energy prices, for the most part, are down. Unemployment is still relatively low. Inflation is not a factor. And the national debt has been reduced making more capital available.

Something we need to look at as manufacturers is the stimulus package that Congress is pushing through. In it are some very helpful things for manufacturers. A large plum is accelerated depreciation for capital equipment. This has been lobbied for a long time.

It's important because, when business comes back, it's looking like a good bet that it's going to come back quickly. Those shops that can hang on without losing their ability to respond will be the first at the trough. Moreover, those shops that are able to operate at reduced costs will bid and get the orders—that means investing in automation to increase productivity and profitability. It means changing what you've been doing.

Reducing the cost of operation is a different justification equation than trying to increase capacity. Often it's a leap of faith because the investment is based on potential business rather than known orders.

We have the ability to change and adapt personally and professionally to new ideas and processes. We are backed by an economic system designed to support such change. It's natural to resist change. But there is scarcely a society in human history that has shown time and time again that it can transition from what was to what is and be even more successful for the effort.

It's our understanding of change that infuriates our enemies. Many of them seem stuck in a bizarre time warp, forbidden to evolve. They can fight change, hide from it, ignore it or war against those who can deal with it, but ultimately resistance is futile