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Manufacturers recognize the value of setting themselves apart in a competitive marketplace.

What is more difficult is to figure out what will set your company apart and how to do it.

Do you focus on building strong relationships with customers, offering top-notch quality, on-time delivery and overall stellar customer service? That might help, but when all your competitors have the same ideas, it’s not going to set your company apart, nor will it ensure you remain in business.

We’ve all heard industry pundits preach about how to succeed in manufacturing by investing in innovation and new technologies and implementing strategies to improve productivity.

Sometimes though it’s about putting your ears close to the ground to hear the issues customers face in trying to meet customer requirements. Or reading about the industries your customers serve, identifying the challenges, and coming up with a solution to the challenges that could generate work for your manufacturing business.

Here’s an example of what I mean. An article in The Globe and Mail's July 3, 2012 issue, “Alberta’s big small-pipe problem” caught my attention because of the active metalworking market that serves the oil and gas fields in Western Canada. In Alberta, approximately 90 per cent of all pipes are small (eight in. diameter or smaller) and they’re problematic because small leaks from these pipelines—which carry “impure, unprocessed energy laced with hydrogen sulphide, water and sand”—can inflict damage on steel in the ground and lead to big spills that often release noxious chemicals and pose risks to human and environmental health. These small pipes can’t be monitored or inspected easily, nor can they be properly maintained with piggable systems—devices that travel inside a pipe to scrub it.

The article quotes Stefan Papenfuss, vice president of pipeline resources for Seattle-based Quest Integrity Group LLC, a pipeline maintenance provider, noting “there’s a huge market up there of unpiggable pipelines.”

If you are a metalworking shop that happens to serve the oil and gas industry and in particular the pipeline market, could you find a way to manufacture a better smaller-diameter pipe that could be easily monitored and maintained? 

A unique solution to a problem such as this could lead to more business and cement your position as a manufacturer that offers more than just a service to manufacture goods.

Instead of being a me-too kind of manufacturer, you could become the
go-to manufacturer. 

On behalf of the team at Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine, we wish you the best for the holidays and for a prosperous 2013.

Mary Scianna, Editor| This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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