Thriving through innovation

As I write this article, a host of negative economic data is streaming in and the major markets appear to be in a state of freefall. Transcending the subprime mortgage debacle, which has devastated the housing and financial markets, today’s economic woes seem to have a grip on virtually every industry—including manufacturing.


As I write this article, a host of negative economic data is streaming in and the major markets appear to be in a state of freefall. Transcending the subprime mortgage debacle, which has devastated the housing and financial markets, today’s economic woes seem to have a grip on virtually every industry—including manufacturing. Consumer confidence is down, raw material and fuel prices are up, and the Labor Department reports that inflation hit a 17-year high in 2007. In short, the “r-word” ( a.k.a. “recession”) now appears to be a disappointingly appropriate categorization of where recent events are leading. So what’s a manufacturer to do?

The answer is simple: do what you do best. Innovate.

The resiliency of the U.S. economy is rooted in the manufacturing sector’s innate ability to transform adversity into opportunity. We develop new technologies. We streamline and improve processes. We build a better mousetrap. This issue is dedicated to the indomitable spirit of industrial innovation which, despite challenging economic conditions, is always in great supply.

If you’re looking for evidence of this truth, look no further than the 2007 Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards supplement. This year’s Engineers’ Choice coverage highlights more than 150 products, spanning 21 categories and reflects the votes of more than 870 engineers who completed ballots. From components and connectors to enterprise connectivity applications, there were a host of new solutions designed to help industrial organizations become more efficient, more effective, and more secure.

The pharmaceutical sector also presents an interesting case study in transforming challenges into opportunities. Despite conducting business in an industry ruled by tight regulatory controls where production errors are literally life-and-death matters, pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to thrive. When faced with FDA mandates like 21 CFR Part 11, for example, progressive manufacturers responded by using the regulation as a catalyst for changing the way electronic batch records are reviewed and approved, yielding greater visibility and improved communication between the plant floor and the enterprise. (You can find more examples of innovations in this sector beginning after page 64 or online.)

Are today’s economic conditions a speedbump on the road to brighter days or a bona-fide downturn? Only time will tell. Regardless, relentless pursuit of innovation will always yield the greatest chance for success.

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