Can We Compete in an Environment of Uncertainty?

You hear the word “uncertainty” used a lot these days. There is uncertainty about the health of the economy, uncertainty about the competence of Congress, and uncertainty about the results of the elections this fall. There is some really big uncertainty about healthcare and environmental regulations and government spending and Europe. There is so much uncertainty around that we have all pretty much given each other permission to be as uncertain as we want to be about just about anything we can think of.

This has to stop. The opposite of uncertainty is confidence. Confidence is also the hallmark of a real competitor. All of the decisions we make in business are based on a forecast. Even the decision to respond to the alarm clock by getting up out of bed and heading off to the job is based on the forecast that going to work is the better than staying in bed. But for too many people, that forecast is motivated by fear—fear that if they do not show up at work, they will lose their jobs and their lives will get worse.

In contrast, a real competitor heads to the plant with the confidence that every day is another opportunity to compete and win. They are comfortable with the fact that competitive situations are by definition uncomfortable and uncertain. They may not always win, but they can choose to always get better. And they are confident in their decisions to invest in the future because they are confident in their own ability to make sure that such investments will ultimately pay off.

We all know by now that if this economy is going to grow, then we will all have to compete. And to compete successfully we will have to invest. We will have to invest in machinery and buildings and infrastructure and people. We must manufacture products that are better and faster and less wasteful than the things we have now. Right now we are generating a lot of uncertainty for each other, but this is without a doubt our biggest impediment to robust growth in the plastics industry and the U.S. economy in general.

Prior to the start of NPE 2012 down in Orlando last month there was a lot of uncertainty in the plastics industry. What will the first-ever NPE in Orlando in the month of April be like? Will they have enough electricity? Will they be able to rig my booth? Most importantly, Will the customers attend? And if they do attend, will they spend more time at the show or at one of the local tourist attractions or theme parks?

I am happy to report that the signs of a major resurgence in American manufacturing were quite evident in Orlando. There was an abundant display of innovation, education, and dedication. The materials, machines, and components on display this year were more productive, more efficient, and of vastly greater value than ever before. The halls were not only filled with new products, there was also a multitude of new ideas. And if there is one thing about which I am quite confident, it is that the imminent resurgence in American manufacturing will be sparked and the fueled by just these kind of new ideas.

Bill Wood, Mountaintop Economics & Research, Inc.

Bill Wood
Plastics Market Economist

Mountaintop Economics & Research, Inc.

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