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How Automation is Shaping the Manufacturing Industry

manufacturing

How Automation is Shaping the Manufacturing Industry

Without a doubt, technology has been instrumental in revolutionizing most, if not all, industries around the world.

However, even in the face of this undeniable truth, some businesses remain hesitant about integrating certain innovations, such as automation, into their operations. Esteemed economist Christine McDaniel explained how this resistance may be due to the overblown anxiety over the false claim that automation will leave millions of blue- and white-collared professionals jobless for good.

Be that as it may, with the ongoing crisis requiring manufacturers to take certain safety measures, the dynamics between automation and this specific industry has to change in order to keep up with the times. Furthermore, a lot of experts believe that automation could be the very technology that will prepare and allow the manufacturing sector to thrive in a post-pandemic world. To give you a clearer picture, here are some of the ways automation is shaping the manufacturing industry these days:

Raise savings and cut costs

Over 478 billion of the 749 billion working hours spent on manufacturing-related activities worldwide were automatable. The aforementioned 478 billion hours, which is equivalent to $2.7 trillion worth of labor costs, provides a great opportunity for manufacturers to increase savings. In addition, a new generation of robots that are not only flexible and versatile but also relatively cheaper can help cut costs in the long run and increase the scalability of manufacturing businesses.

Enhance resiliency and simplify processes

In the face of an ongoing global health crisis, most manufacturing plants have been left with no choice but to operate below full capacity and strategically schedule workers to limit the number of employees in a specific location at any given time. And with how tedious this task can be, it’s easy to see how some manufacturing managers could easily run into challenges when coordinating the workers and the machines. Fortunately, Verizon Connect details how manufacturing managers can rely on automated software that can make the intricate process of job scheduling and machine coordinating easy and hassle-free.

Increase labor productivity

As with every other industry, automation has the ability to make businesses even more efficient. With machines and robots that can get more tasks done within a given time frame compared to traditional manual options, manufacturers can look forward to a significantly reduced production lead time and a greater total rate of production. Moreover, automation can also help accomplish seemingly impossible manual tasks that often require precision and accuracy to a greater extent. Economics Help also mentions how automation can enable factories to produce a greater range of goods that come in different sizes and designs, as well as being suited to different functions.

Improve workplace safety

Even without the pandemic, safety has always been a significant concern for manufacturers. After all, data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace injuries and accidents, which are more frequent in this field, can cost businesses nearly $62 billion per year. For many years now, on-the-job injuries have been gradually falling, thanks to machines and robots that have been doing all the heavy lifting, taking over repetitive tasks and eliminating the need for employees to work in extremely hazardous environments. In the coming years, manufacturers can continue counting on automation when it comes to making hazardous workplaces safer.

As the world braces itself for a future that’s been completely changed by the current crisis, the manufacturing industry’s reliance on automation will only run deeper, and it’s easy to see why. After all, automation has the ability to raise savings and cut costs, enhance resiliency and simplify processes, increase labor productivity and improve workplace safety.

risk

New Manufacturing Priorities: Increasing Agility and Understanding Systemic Risk

COVID-19 dealt an unprecedented blow to the global supply chain. Almost overnight, demand skyrocketed in some sectors and plummeted in others, forcing manufacturers and their suppliers to adapt on the fly.

As many as 94% of the companies in the Fortune 1000 have experienced supply chain disruptions since the start of the pandemic, including global manufacturing titans like Apple. The fact that the world’s largest companies haven’t been immune suggests that abundant resources and relationships aren’t enough to help supply chain partners survive in times like these.

It also suggests that the traditional playbook for dealing with supply chain problems is no longer quite as effective as it used to be. The old methods of responding to crisis demand and supply are no longer enough to withstand these events — this pandemic, as one example, has led to shortages of everything from toilet paper to car parts.

Shifting Focus From Efficiency to Manufacturing Agility

If manufacturers want to withstand the next crisis, they’ll need a new approach. COVID-19 has highlighted the need to move from focusing on efficiency to adapting for flexibility, resilience, and agility.

Arguably, the focus on efficiency — on doing the most with the least — even exacerbated recent supply chain disruptions by leaving producers and suppliers under-resourced and locked into one way of doing things.

Even as the pandemic rages on, the takeaway is clear: Manufacturing agility is more important than operational efficiency. Efficiency strives to make incremental improvements, but reality calls for manufacturers to make sudden, sweeping changes in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Understanding Systemic Risk

The challenges the pandemic brings to the supply chain represent nonsystemic risks — or risks that are out of manufacturers’ control. Problems that manufacturers can control with the right tools and processes, on the other hand, are systemic risks — specifically, problems that start on the ground floor when machines break, then disrupt production lines, then cause issues all the way downstream in the supply chain. It’s like one domino toppling down the rest.

Nonsystemic risk puts additional pressure on manufacturers to ensure that their facilities are as systemically risk-free as possible to remain flexible around dramatic swings, either up or down, in demand.

Now that COVID-19 has proven anything is possible when it comes to nonsystemic risk, manufacturers must turn their focus toward creating agile operations to contain supply chain issues in whatever form they arrive. For example, when a nonsystemic risk like the pandemic forces a manufacturer to shut down 80% of its production lines in a low-demand environment, the lines that are still operating will need to function at maximum productivity.

If the remaining lines aren’t up to par, the company will become vulnerable to slowdowns that could turn away what few buyers still exist, or the company may, once again, have to go through the time-consuming and costly process of shifting production to different facilities.

Nonsystemic risk highlights the need for organizations to uncover and manage systemic risks, taking control over whatever factors they can to keep bad situations from getting much worse.

Finding Opportunities in Manufacturing Agility

Managing systemic risks starts by understanding on-the-ground conditions, particularly when it comes to machines. When the unexpected happens, machinery bears the brunt of the consequences. As it ramps up or down in response to sudden changes in production, it must continue to operate efficiently, productively, and without downtime.

When manufacturers can gather insights on machines at the ground level, regional leaders can view those insights collectively to uncover companywide opportunities to manage systemic risk at large.

By de-risking operations in this way, these companies stand to gain substantial predictability and flexibility around their machines, which opens up opportunities for greater productivity and more effective, efficient asset planning at the corporate level. Focusing on the following three areas can help you uncover systemic risk and opportunities for more agile production lines:

1. Create redundancy in your production lines.

As a first step, you should have multiple lines running at the same time. This way, if one does fail, you’ll have a backup plan. That strategy itself should be viewed as the first step in a much larger strategy — as it really just serves as a crutch approach to mitigating systemic risk. Running many lines that are susceptible to machine failure and downtime can actually become a significant financial risk in manufacturing.

The eventual goal should be to have every line be your best line — which means no machine downtime. To create that kind of system, you need to understand the details about why your best line operates at maximum productivity and why your other lines pale in comparison. The real value of creating redundancy in your production lines will come from the insights you gather on your machines to optimize every machine companywide, making each production line your strongest one.

2. Leverage machine health data.

So how do you gain insights on individual machines in your production lines and view that machine health data collectively to reduce risk along every production line? It’s easier than you might think. In fact, sensors and IIoT networks combined with AI algorithms can do most of the work for you, showing you where risk and opportunity exist in manufacturing operations across entire asset classes.

When these tools give you insights into the health of all the components of your supply chain, you can both replicate what’s working best and predict what might fail in the future, removing the weakest parts and replacing them with stronger ones. Machine health data can help you find your best configurations so that you can replicate these practices across all your facilities.

3. Facilitate remote collaboration.

The factory floor as we’ve long known it is changing. That was true even before the pandemic, but COVID-19 sped up the transformation. Social distancing practices have meant that up to half of manufacturing employees have been unable to work on-site. Digital collaboration and remote work are the new normal everywhere, and the manufacturing industry is no different.

The good news is that by utilizing digital collaboration platforms, you can bring a lot more opportunity for flexibility and agility into your company. When your teams can collaborate from anywhere, you can draw on the institutional knowledge of your entire organization. Cloud-based software that identifies machine health problems and allows for remote collaboration to address them lets your teams work better together, even from farther away.

The pandemic forced everyone to adapt fast, but it should also force everyone to question their assumptions about what manufacturing looks like in 2020 and beyond. Surviving isn’t about becoming as lean as possible — it’s about being agile enough to stay in front of the waves of change, even the ones you’ll never see coming.

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Artem Kroupenev is VP Strategy at Augury, where he oversees Augury’s AI-based machine health, performance, and digital transformation solutions. He has over a decade of experience in building products and ecosystems and bringing technological innovation to market in the U.S., Israel, and Africa.

retail

E-Commerce’s Newfound Role in Stabilizing and Expanding the U.S. Retail Sector

Kenny Tsang, Managing Director of PingPong Payments, comments on the impact of the pandemic on the retail sector, and how global online marketplaces are providing a lifeline to businesses with thousands of new sellers.

In recent months, online marketplaces have taken a huge step forward to become the primary option for consumers with the pandemic forcing traditional retailers to digitally adapt to consumers. As these lockdown restrictions begin to ease, many businesses and retailers are increasingly finding value in utilizing digital marketplaces to support further disruption.

Worryingly, the existing retail space still lost a shocking 1.3 million jobs from February to June with data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in August[1] showing little signs of recovery for the retail industry. With retail being the primary outlet of the U.S. economy supporting one in four U.S. jobs [2] businesses utilizing the e-commerce sphere are experiencing significant growth by recording an 18 percent increase in online sales[3] this year.

Retail businesses that have been sustainable during the economic slowdown over the last few months are showing increased utilization of online marketplaces as alternatives to traditional retail services. Many who have explored, or been forced to adapt to digital avenues, are seeing the potential for temporary digital measures to become permanent as the U.S. continues to demonstrate a seismic shift in shopping habits. Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Rakuten are leading the way, with Amazon more than doubling its valuation so far in 2020 – gaining a staggering $570 billion in market capitalization. eBay has just reported a record eight million new active shoppers, resulting in year on year revenue shooting up 18 percent.

While these numbers may be considered unsustainable in the long term, the 565,000 new merchant signups Amazon has already reached this year suggests the significant growth of online marketplaces will continue to exceed expectations. Many forecasters are estimating the business growth of e-commerce will to continue to reach unprecedented levels in the U.S. – with 1.1 million new sellers expected to join Amazon by the end of 2020.

Accessibility has long been a question for merchants hesitant to embrace the digital market and step out of their comfort zones into new mediums. Online marketplaces that are experiencing the most growth such as Amazon and eBay are increasingly finding ways to engage buyers and sellers to leap into the digital sphere. Thousands of sellers are experiencing natural growth, and the demand for consumer confidence while shopping on digital platforms has never been higher. E-commerce platforms cannot emulate the shop floor, however, we are seeing community-based marketplaces driving international consumer merchants to offer a quality service that delivers high customer satisfaction on primarily review-based models.

Sellers should capitalize on the opportunity to adapt and strategize against the current situation while focusing on understanding how their customer buying patterns were changing, to adjust quickly to demand, PingPong Payments identified the most popular selling categories in the e-commerce space during the pandemic to be groceries, toys and games, educational material and home and garden, while swimwear, travel-related products and consumer electronics such as cameras were no longer in demand.

With more consumer-centric additions, comes more growth, and the need for personnel to respond to the demand has heightened. For many e-commerce sellers, this is unprecedented ground, and it highlights the need for e-commerce sellers to have the right systems in place to facilitate these changes. Traditionally, a bulk of merchants’ operating internationally would spend their time minimalizing cross-border payments in unknown markets that would often lead to unforeseen expenses, long shipping times, and unreliable products. E-commerce sellers partnering with the right cross-border payment companies that specialize in convenient, quick money transfers can take this hassle away while lowering costs with these systems in place.

As consumers return to retail spaces – sellers should continue to utilize the flexibility that e-marketplaces have provided for businesses over the last few months with organic innovation increasing through competition for buy share. From the supply chain to customer-centric models – digital marketplaces are providing a platform to rival in-person sales with a significant expansion focused on retaining customers.

Admittedly, there will be consumers who continue to use traditional methods of shopping, and that will remain an open market for retailers as lockdown restrictions ease. Merchants with better familiarisation of the e-commerce industry should be able to continue to put the right systems and partners in place to maintain a continuous flow of sales worldwide. With added expansion in the industry, economic recovery in the U.S. can help propel pre-existing successful retail foundations into the future.

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[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

[2] https://nrf.com/retails-impact

[3] https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-ecommerce-will-rise-18-2020-amid-pandemic

safety

Warehouse Safety Guidelines

To the uninitiated, a warehouse might appear to be less hazardous than a factory or mill. Yet just because there is no manufacturing activity going on inside doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for danger. Forklifts and other heavy equipment are used frequently for moving goods. Chemicals and dangerous materials may be kept in storage. Simply put, safety is just as important in the warehouse as it is in any other industrial environment. Accidents and other incidents can lead to lost productivity, expensive cleanup and even legal troubles. This is why creating a culture that encourages and rewards safe behavior is essential for a warehouse facility.

Everyone bears some of the responsibility for keeping the workplace safe. From the front office to the workers on the floor, proper protocols and procedures must be among the top priorities for everyone. Owners and managers especially must be aware of what they should do to protect their staff’s health and well-being. This includes everything from creating an incentive program to installing the appropriate signage around the building. Getting employees at every level to take an active role in promoting safety is another critical strategy.

For these and many other important recommendations, refer to the accompanying guide.

Warehouse Safety Guidelines from Enviro Tech

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Colton Mandell oversees internal operations and customer service for Enviro Tech. Enviro Tech is a top supplier of stabilized n-propyl bromide and fluorinated solvents for industrial parts cleaning applications. He has four years of experience in the industry and focuses on providing quality, customer-centric service.

business

Why these Elite Lone Star State Cities are Right for Your Business

When it comes to site selection, there are a lot of big choices to be made. From locating a city with a business-friendly environment to selecting the perfect site to build your business, it can be hard to find a place that has everything you need if you go it alone. But that’s not a problem when you “Choose Texas.” The Choose Texas program wants to help you make the easiest choice you’ll ever make: to choose to relocate or expand in the Lone Star State.

The Choose Texas program helps new or expanding businesses looking to relocate in the state by introducing them to cities or towns that match their individual needs. Always free for businesses, the Choose Texas program can help with locating incentives, finding properties and getting valuable facetime with local economic development professionals. For more than 25 years, the team at Choose Texas has been helping new and expanding businesses relocate to Texas, all the while helping grow the economy within the state. 

Whether you’re already considering a move to Texas or are just beginning your site selection journey, these Texas communities are eager to tell you why Choosing Texas is right for your business.

CENTRAL TEXAS

Belton

Located along the I-35 corridor between Waco and Austin, Belton has a population of just under 22,000 and access to a regional population of over 450,000. With current major industries that include military, government, manufacturing, retail, agriculture and medical, the Belton area boasts a young, skilled workforce that is perfect for shift and part-time labor. Belton is also close to Fort Hood, the largest U.S. Army training post in the country, with more than 900 retiring soldiers each month—many of whom elect to remain in the Belton area after discharge.

Ana Borchardt, director of Business Expansion and Retention for the Belton Economic Development Corp., cites the hospitable climate in Texas among the many things that make it prime for incoming businesses. “In most parts of the state, the climate allows for higher productivity, housing costs are mostly below the national average, and the people are friendly,” explains Borchardt. “In addition, the Texas hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and the Gulf Coast shoreline offer many outdoor recreational opportunities.” Belton is no exception. With its captivating scenery, highly rated schools and low crime-rate, the city is poised to welcome a variety of incoming businesses.

Mexia

Located along US 84 in the heart of the “Texas Triangle,” Mexia is just 90 miles south of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, and it connects to San Antonio, Houston and Austin via state and interstate highways, making it an ideal distribution hub. In fact, you can reach 93 percent of the U.S. population within 48 hours of Mexia.

Additionally, Mexia boasts a skilled workforce, with access to a more than 40-mile-wide labor pool of over 85,000 workers. Mexia workers excel in manufacturing, customer service administration and distribution, and local workforce training programs such as the Texas Workforce CommissionHeart of Texas Workforce and the Skills Development Fund can assist with training the next generation of employees for incoming businesses.

Click here to listen to their latest podcast.

NORTH TEXAS

Bowie

Just outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area in the famed Red River Valley area of Texas sits Bowie. Positioned at the crossroads of US 81, US 287 and TX 59, Bowie is just 90 minutes from downtown Dallas, an hour from Fort Worth and under an hour from Wichita Falls. With a variety of available properties and workforce development programs at the ready, Bowie can help your incoming business get off the ground running. 

A designated 4A and 4B sales tax community, Bowie offers incoming businesses a one-stop-shop for economic development. The city of just over 5,500 provides site selectors with a lower cost of doing business, along with highly rated schools, excellent healthcare and a thriving business community.

Corsicana

Located 58 miles south of downtown Dallas, Corsicana has made a name for itself, especially in the food manufacturing industries. Formerly the home of Wolf Chili, Corsicana today boasts the Collin Street Bakery, a famous fruitcake bakery, and Russell Stover. It is also where distribution centers for retail giants like Kohl’s and Home Depot are located. Though the city is outside of the traffic and congestion of its neighbors, thanks to its proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area Corsicana benefits from the convenience and access to the city but provides businesses and residents with lower operational costs than the big city. 

Commercial flyers are just one hour away from DFW International airport, and those looking for cargo airports are within 75 minutes of Fort Worth Alliance Airport. Just 200 miles from the Port of Houston and 230 from the Port of Beaumont, Corsicana is convenient to ocean freight terminals. It is also accessible by rail, with service from the Union Pacific and Burlington North Santa Fe railroads. It is also just over 30 minutes to the Union Pacific Dallas Intermodal Terminal.

TexAmericas Center

The New Boston, Texas-based TexAmericas Center is one of the largest industrial centers in the Americas. Located just 15 miles west of Texarkana, the center boasts 12,000 acres with 3,000,000 square feet of industrial space, and it is the lowest aggregate mile location in Texas to reach the North American market.

TexAmericas Center Executive Vice President Eric Voyles believes businesses should Choose Texas because of the state’s diverse economy “where many industries can flourish.” According to Voyles, his center prides itself on working with small to medium-sized companies that may not have otherwise gotten a chance—and helping them flourish in a competitive marketplace. “We know these companies are growing and need to move quickly,” says Voyles. “They have opportunity NOW, and our focus is on providing speed-to-market real estate solutions. The match is perfect, and TexAmericas Center has developed a niche of meeting the needs of these often-overlooked employers.”

That’s a sentiment that Voyles says rings true throughout Texas and the Choose Texas partners. “Texas and many of its communities have invested in themselves in order to make choosing the right location less risky, especially when it comes to workforce development decisions. TexAmericas Center prides itself on being a ‘can-do’ company. We actively challenge the companies we work with to ask us to help solve their business problems.” 

 Cedar Hill

Just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill is a rising star in the economic development marketplace. Cedar Hill offers incoming businesses low taxes, low costs of living and a skilled workforce of more than 1 million people within a 30-minute commute. Cedar Hill hosts over 3 million square feet of retail and class-A office space, all without the cost and congestion of larger nearby cities.

Andy Buffington, Marketing and Research manager with the Cedar Hill Economic Development Corp., says site selectors should bring their businesses to Texas because the of the state’s reputation as a growth leader, especially when it comes to business incentives. “It’s estimated the state spends 1.3 percent of its GDP on business incentives,” says Buffington. “Texas also offers a variety of non-profit and government-backed programs for assisting small businesses with funding, coupled with the fact that neither corporate nor personal income tax are put on enterprise.”

DeSoto

Not far south from downtown Dallas, DeSoto is a uniquely poised city with the benefits of access to the big city and major highways, but without the higher cost of doing business in a metropolitan area. DeSoto currently has more than 400 acres of shovel-ready land, and 93 percent of U.S. markets are within two days or less via truck from the city of just over 56,000. With 90 percent of DeSoto’s workforce holding a high school diploma or higher, it’s no wonder that the city boasts a low 5 percent unemployment rate for its labor force of nearly 30,000. In fact, DeSoto’s labor force is growing faster than the national average.

 Joe Newman, CEO of the DeSoto Economic Development Corp., believes that the labor force and partnerships with organizations such as the Texas Workforce Commission are just a few of the key reasons businesses are so eager to call Texas home. That, coupled with a little help from their friends. “Oftentimes large companies see what their peers in other industries are doing and inquire as to why that firm moved,” Newman says. “Most often it is logistics or workforce, and most communities offer attractive incentives to justify such a move. As more and more companies move to Texas, it causes a synergy that attracts others.”

GULF COAST

 Brazoria County

One of the fastest-growing counties in Texas is home to the Brazoria County Alliance, an organization that was formed to “promote and diversify” the county’s economic base and attract high-wage jobs. 

Located in the southeast part of the state in the Houston statistical area, Brazoria County has a population of more than 313,000.

 Matagorda County

Beautiful Matagorda County is halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi and just 65 miles from the Houston metropolitan area. The county boasts a population of more than 36,000 with a total workforce population of over 18,000. The average household income of Matagorda County residents is $40,860, and the major industries include education, healthcare, farming, ranching, seafood, petroleum, manufacturing, pipeline and production among others.

The county, which is part of a growing energy cluster, is seeking retail and residential partners to help fill the growing needs for the workforce of the future and for the tourism industry for beachfront needs. The county is home to the Port of Palacios, which boasts one of the largest shrimping fleets in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Port of Bay City, which is home to a terminal turning basin and includes a modern concrete dock, metal shed and liquid cargo dock. With a 200-foot-wide channel and an average depth of 12 feet, the Port Turning Basin and Terminal Facility are conveniently located 15 miles from the Colorado River locks at the ICW.

EAST TEXAS

Grapeland/Crockett

Named for the legendary David Crockett, who is said to have camped in the town on his way to The Alamo, Crockett, Texas is the Houston County seat. Today, the storied town of 23,000 is more than just a stop along the way; it’s home to a thriving community with industries ranging from manufacturing to logistics.

In fact, Grapeland/Crockett is in an ideal position for your business’ logistics needs of the future. With projected area growth of 25 million more people to the Texas Triangle area in the next 30 years, Grapeland/Crockett provides a low traffic impact that will likely avoid the bottlenecks and traffic congestion that is projected for other nearby areas. Plus, with its proximity to highways US 287, TX 19 and Highways 21, 7 and 9, it has access all its own.

Mount Pleasant

Located in Titus County, Mount Pleasant has a population of 32,000. Thanks to its proximity to major transportation routes, the community owes much of its success to the transportation industry as well as the people working behind the scenes to ensure that sector’s success.

 Also known for its timber and poultry industries, Mount Pleasant is currently working to expand its workforce repertoire through a partnership between the Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corp. and the local community college system. Called the Manufacturing Technology Training Center, this workforce education program trains students in entrepreneurial skills that will help ensure Mount Pleasant remains a leader in Texas business for years to come.

WEST TEXAS

Floydada

Located in Floyd County, Floydada is known as the Pumpkin Capital of Texas. With high premiums on education, Floydada is the only city in the state that has the honor of their schools being Apple Computers’ distinguished schools. 

Floydada also has many free workforce training programs for residents that are run through the Floydada Professional Development Center and the Floydada Economic Development Corporation. Employers can even request financial assistance to train workers through the Skills Development Fund and the Self-Sufficiency Fund as administered by the Texas Workforce Commission

Seminole

Located at the northern portion of the Permian Basin and along the southern portion of the agricultural South Plains of Texas, Seminole is best known for its agriculture and oil and steel production. The town has a highly skilled workforce with expertise in fields ranging from metal and woodworking to carpentry and construction.  

A family-oriented community, Seminole also boasts a low crime rate and diverse business community.

Andrews

A city experiencing tremendous transformation, Andrews was initially built on oil and has since become one of the “most progressive” communities in West Texas, diversifying its portfolio of businesses in recent years. “Andrews is in the middle of the shale oil boom and we provide a great location for companies to set up business and serve clients all over the Permian Basin,” says Morse Haynes, executive director of Economic Development for Andrews.

 With significant investments in the city and education system, Andrews is now a modernized community poised to take on new businesses, but with expertise in everything from manufacturing to energy to chemicals. It is that very investment in the Texas workforce that Haynes believes is what sets the state apart from other states. “Texas has over 14 million productive workers along with top-notch schools that continue to grow our workforce,” he says. That, combined with the world’s most diverse economy, “provides job opportunities and a quality of life second to none.”

 Stamford

Part of the Rolling Plains area of Texas, Stamford has a population of just over 3,000 people. Located along US Highway 277, the small town has a strong economy in agriculture and natural resources.

Named in 1900 for the Stamford, Connecticut, birthplace of Central Texas Railroad President Henry King McHarg, the town today boasts a convenient location that is desirable to incoming businesses. Just 41 miles north of Abilene, and fewer than 150 miles west of Fort Worth, Stamford is close to both DFW International airport and the DFW Metroplex. It is also under 150 miles southeast of Lubbock.

Dumas

Located in Moore County, Dumas is halfway between Dallas and Denver, Colorado, and just 45 miles north of Amarillo. With just over 14,691 people, Dumas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., and it leads the state in retail growth. Dumas counts as major industries beef slaughtering, chemicals, gas and oil. 

The city places a high premium on education, with a branch of Amarillo College located in town as well as the North Plains Opportunity Center, a training center for  at-risk students and continuing education.

Check out their GT Podcast here. 

NORTHWEST TEXAS 

 Amarillo

The largest city in the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo is the 14th most populous city in the state, with a population of approximately 276,000 in its metropolitan area. Amarillo boasts a young, educated and non-unionized labor force that grew by more than 15 percent from 2000 to 2011. 

Amarillo prides itself on being able to match incoming businesses with valuable incentives and a skilled workforce, and it offers a number of workforce training programs.

Canadian-Hemphill County

Referred to as the “Oasis of the High Plains,” Canadian-Hemphill County is situated on the Oklahoma border. Founded in 1876, the county was named for Judge John Hemphill. The name Canadian comes from the Canadian River, a nearby tributary of the Arkansas River. Though Canadian-Hemphill County has a population of fewer than 11,000 people, it has a lot to offer incoming businesses, including available land, incentives and access to workforce training programs. 

“Simply put, Texas is open for business,” says Shane Spencer, executive director at the Canadian Hemphill County Economic Development Corporation. “Its lower tax rates and lack of personal income tax make Texas great for employers.” And that includes smaller communities, like Canadian-Hemphill County. “Texas consistently has a growing economy,” Spencer says. “It is such a huge state, there is plenty of room to grow and also to reuse sites for new companies.”

 With connections to nearby highways such as US 60, US 83 and Highway 33, Canadian-Hemphill County is well connected to the rest of Texas and Oklahoma. “Texas has a huge interstate system and roads that are built to carry those across the country,” says Spencer. “The Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and Houston areas can support global sized companies with large amounts employees, and our other towns and cities can play host to smaller ones.”

But don’t let the size of those smaller cities and towns fool you. As Spencer notes, smaller infrastructure doesn’t equate to slower service. “Companies continue to take advantage of Texas’ business climate because of ease and speed of getting a company up and running. Also, infrastructure is always growing to allow expansion of businesses.” Ultimately, Spencer believes when it comes down to it, it’s the people of Texas that make doing business there so much better than anywhere else. “When your employees are happy, the company performs well. Companies have discovered that there are a lot of happy workers in Texas!”

Click here to listen to their GT Podcast.

Shamrock

The first Route 66-city in Texas upon eastern approach, Shamrock is home to not just the famous historic U-Drop Inn but to a vibrant, thriving West Texas community. Located at the intersections of I-40 (Route 66) and 83, the city of just under 2,000 residents is a well-connected cultural hub in the Panhandle, with landmarks, museums and a famous St. Patrick’s Day festival that is so big it’s considered the official St. Patrick’s Day Celebration of the State of Texas.

With more than 600 hotel rooms, the city is well equipped to handle tourism and visiting business guests. It is also a notable hunting community. Shamrock is just 90 minutes from Amarillo (along I-40), three hours to Lubbock and about two-and-a-half hours to Oklahoma City.

SOUTH TEXAS

Harlingen

Located in the Rio Grande Valley, along the border of Mexico, Harlingen, was recently named the No. 1 Least Expensive Urban Area in the U.S. by the Council for Community and Economic Research. Though not a household name, Harlingen has become somewhat of a “best kept secret,” with an economic climate that’s heating up as the city continues to attract more businesses thanks to its proximity to the border. But besides location, Harlingen offers incentives and workforce training programs from South Texas that make it a bargain for many incoming businesses.

“Texas is so appealing to many people because of our diversity in climate, culture, geography and much more,” says Raudel Garza, the manager and CEO of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. “Our workforce training partners such as Texas State Technical College, with campuses throughout the state, work locally to help solve labor requirements for companies. Local utility companies along with the Texas Department of Transportation invest in Texas to improve access to electricity, clean water, great highways, rail and so much more. Texas has everything a growing company needs to succeed, from a young trainable diverse workforce to easy access to markets.”

But, according to Garza, the reason businesses are flocking to Texas is that the state has more to offer than just business incentives. “Texans enjoy all the amenities of both big city life and country living,” he explains “Large companies know about our standard of living and they understand that Texas is drawing people in because of all they can do here—not only during work hours but also when one is at home or nearby at play. Companies want a reliable labor force, and Texas provides all the amenities such a labor force wants, thus keeping people happy and productive.”

Orange County

Located in the southeast corner of Texas, Orange County has a population of more than 81,000. Orange County’s major industries include petroleum, rice farming, shrimping, paper milling and recently, shipbreaking. The county provides workers with training programs and opportunities to help advance skills zero in on the specific industries that help the county thrive. Orange County is home to a workforce of 39,824 workers, with an unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent.

With its convenient border location, Orange County is close to navigable waterways, major railways, interstate highways and the Louisiana border. As for air travel, Orange County has access to 18 airports within 50 miles, including Orange County Airport and Lake Charles Regional Airport in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

SOUTHWEST TEXAS

Boerne-Kendall County

With a growing population that currently exceeds 46,000, Boerne-Kendall County is projected to expand by 24 percent over the next five years. The seventh fastest growing county in the U.S., and the third fastest growing in Texas, Boerne-Kendall County is already home to a vast multi-skilled, multi-cultural workforce with above average levels of education. Boerne-Kendall County workers have a strong background in biosciences, aerospace, cybersecurity, renewable energy, military and more.

The county is also conveniently located just 10 miles north of San Antonio, and it is central to numerous highways that lead to the Dallas and Austin metropolitan areas, as well as the Texas coast. Within 50 miles of Boerne-Kendall County, there are 25 colleges, universities and trade schools that provide a population of nearly 150,000 college students, who add new energy to the pool of approximately 387,000 workers that already call Boerne-Kendall County home.

WEST CENTRAL TEXAS

Leander

Ranked by Forbes magazine as No. 3 in America for the Best Small Cities for Families, Leander is a northwest suburb of Austin that was also named the Fastest Growing City in the Nation with a population of over 15,000 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Leander has all the benefits of doing business in Austin without the high overhead and traffic. Leander has its own commuter rail, a lower cost of living and an award-winning education system that consistently ranks high in Texas’ STAAR testing. The city is poised to welcome not just new businesses but a new workforce, too. With more than 14,000 new housing units expected to be built within the next decade, this dynamic community is prepared to welcome you and your business.

To learn more about doing business in Texas and how the Choose Texas team can aid in finding a new location for your expanding or relocating business, visit www.Choose-Texas.com to register your project or request information. 

demand

Adapting Supply Chains for Increased Consumer Demand and Same Day Shipping

Same-day and next-day shipping options are increasing, and consumers are beginning to desire expedited shipping options with minimal delay. Through new technologies, space optimization, and supply chain auditing, there are various ways companies can adapt to this demand.

There used to be a tattered cartoon taped to every dry cleaner’s cash register. There’s a man laughing — holding his stomach, actually, as the joke is so funny — with a bold face caption that reads: “YOU WANT IT WHEN?!”

Faced with minimal competition, it was a time when companies held production and delivery control, with consumers at their mercy to indeed receive their press garments at a time of the dry cleaner’s choosing.

Those days are long gone. Armed with just a digital device, consumers have numerous options in finding suppliers who can provide things whenever they desire. As such, they expect — rather, demand —products and services on their terms.

As a result, companies must either adapt their supply chains to accommodate these expectations or find themselves with diminished market share. Below are key areas that companies must address to compete in today’s on-demand environment.

Take inventory of your inventory

As a first step, perform a comprehensive audit of your entire supply chain, even hiring a third-party specialist to develop the critical assessment. Such a deep-dive look will measure delivery accuracy, on-time performance, worker productivity and even call center effectiveness, all significant contributors to the overall efficiency of your suppliers and their impact on your supply chain.

Find a better mousetrap

Once the audit is complete, it’s time to take action, which may mean making fundamental changes to your supply chain. If you’re currently operating with a hub-and-spoke distribution model, for instance, the feedback may point to achieving greater efficiencies by adopting a decentralized distribution model (and vice versa). Especially when it comes to last-mile delivery, partnering with a third-party provider can also help, providing you with the fast turnaround that your customers expect without straining your existing operations.

Get your house in order

Any fundamental change to the supply chain must include enhancements to warehouses, adopting technological advances that deliver greater efficiencies. For some, this may mean incorporating a short-interval waving warehouse management system (WMS), which allows orders to be dispatched in clusters or waves. Other advances automate the sizing and selection of cartons, which makes packing more efficient while streamlining costs.

Taking things personnel-ly

Until supply chain logistics can all be outsourced to robots, bottom-line performance ultimately depends on the availability and performance of your employees. To those ends, leverage technology to minimize labor supply disruptions, especially during holiday seasons when demand peaks. (This is increasingly important as unemployment reaches record lows, further diminishing the labor pool.) Technology should also be used for scheduling and training, which delivers greater efficiencies and even job retention, as greater scheduling flexibility leads to increased employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Consumer demand for ever-shrinking delivery timelines makes ongoing supply chain refinements no longer optional, but mandatory. Your long-term success depends on it.

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Neil Wheeldon is vice president — solutions at BDP International in The Hague, Netherlands.

SMEs

HOW TO EXPORT TO THE UNITED STATES: 6 SIMPLE STEPS FOR SMEs

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Trade Statistics 1, participation in exports remains largely led by large enterprises (250 or more employees) in industrialized countries. In developing countries, the story is the same, and only a small percentage of small and medium sized businesses export at all. The World Trade Organization (WTO) reports that SMEs in developing countries make up roughly 45%, on average, of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (WTO, 2016), but SMEs’ exports represent on average 7.6 per cent of total manufacturing sales, compared to 14.1 per cent in the case of large manufacturing firms (WTO, 2016).

If you want your small or medium-sized business to get a piece of the export pie, according to the OECD Trade Committee, there are a number of challenges to be overcome. These include everything from limited access to credit, insufficient use of technology, and lack of export experience, to border controls. The most significant challenge posed, remains learning the ins and outs of getting your product from your country to foreign markets in a cost effective manner. These tips can help your small business become better equipped to enter the exciting world of exports.

The first stage in export planning is to investigate the market and identify your reasons for exporting to customers.
First, determine demand. You need to know where in the U.S. your product is needed. If you sell bathing suits, better export to Florida and California than to Nebraska or Alaska.

Second, you’ll need access to buyers. Start with researching buyers on the Internet, use your local U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a first resource, followed by the Economic Officer in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. Then, watch for upcoming trade shows where your goods could be featured.

Next, either start selling directly on your own ecommerce platform (secure payment and delivery systems should be integrated), or build a relationship with an international trade agent, whom you trust to help you navigate state and city markets, regulations, and opportunities for you to sell your goods in the U.S. , either to wholesale distributors, or directly to retailers. Improved logistics channels, eCommerce, and free trade agreements make that possible.

Third, find out what, if any, tariffs or exemptions exist for your goods. If there are no trade agreements between your country and the U.S., exempting your goods from tariffs, you’ll need the help of a U.S. licensed Customs Broker. A U.S. Customs Broker will be familiar with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”), and help you classify your goods and determine the tariffs you’ll have to pay to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, before your goods can enter the United States.

The National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of America can easily provide brokers in the state or region you’re targeting.

Fourth, once you’ve got a better understanding of your profit margin to determine how you’ll sell your goods in the export market, you may wish to consider how to potentially mitigate any risks that can occur while your goods are being shipped, or once your goods arrive at their destination and are with the buyer(s). There are payment risks, damage or destruction of goods risks, documentary risks with customs, and many others.

You may have access to a good trade and customs attorney in the originating country, but he or she may not be thoroughly familiar with U.S. trade compliance requirements. In that case, you may benefit from consulting with a U.S. international trade lawyer to learn how they can help you mitigate risks in exporting by intervening with customs on your behalf, managing disputes through a properly drafted contract, and putting you in touch with relevant agents for information on U.S. trade insurance and compliance with government regulations.

In the U.S., generally, a phone or email consultation with a reputable lawyer would be free. If they want you to pay to talk with them for a few minutes about your problem and find out if they can help you, then hang up and call another lawyer.

Fifth, you need to build a relationship with a reputable freight forwarder or consolidator, who will help you decide: whether to ship by air or by sea; what documents are required for the country you are exporting to; how to pack your products for shipment; label them, and insure them. Normally, the freight forwarder will take care of it all, for a premium, but beware of INCOTERMS (regulations that define the responsibilities of buyers and sellers involved in commercial trade).

You must have at least a basic understanding of them to comprehend the shipping documents your freight forwarder will have you sign, and to protect your rights and limit liability.

Sixth, yes exporting is exciting, but it’s also risky doing business across oceans and continents with buyers you don’t know and may never see. To that end, there are many export resources in the originating country that companies, small and large, can benefit from. Usually Chambers of Commerce are a good starting point. There are associations of American Chambers of Commerce in every region of the world; just check the American Chamber of Commerce online directory for the specific one in your region or country.

Your own government’s resources can usually also offer invaluable information and global networks, including relevant contacts in the U.S. This is particularly helpful if you have a problem that can be fixed by your government seeking the intervention of commercial or economic officers at the local U.S. embassy in your country (keep in mind though that the Embassy is meant to assist U.S. citizens and residents, not foreigners).

Further, your local manufacturers association(s) may have members who have exported in the past, and can share their expertise. Lastly, commercial banks and local Export-Import Banks can guide you on how to leverage export financing, and minimize your financial exposure, when transacting business with foreign buyers.

Against this backdrop, you can reduce the external challenges SMEs face in trading, and better manage the uncertainty inherent in doing business internationally, all while making a healthy profit and expanding to new markets.

Magda Theodate is an international trade attorney and Director of Global Executive Trade Consulting Ltd. She works as a senior consultant for international development agencies in lower and middle income countries, resolving project execution challenges affecting trade, procurement and governance. To learn more, please visit: www.globalexecutivetrade.com