Most U.S. manufacturers are feeling the impact of the low-cost labor market overseas, as more and more production is being sourced offshore. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines—just to name a few—are luring manufacturing operations to their soil at a record pace, and China, with a population that is accepting of the lowest of wages, is predicted to put pressure on US manufacturers for years to come.
So what are we to do? Where does our competitive strength lie? Can U.S. companies support production capacity within our borders in spite of great disparities in global wages?
There are no easy answers to any of these questions, which many of us ponder on a daily basis. But I believe that if U.S. manufacturers commit to a strategy of using known technologies for new applications, we can, as a nation, combat the offshore low-cost labor pressures, and win. I am not suggesting that we abandon our commitment to developing new technology, but I believe there are substantial competitive gains, and subsequent prosperity that can be realized by applying current bodies of knowledge to new opportunities.
Take for example the work that is being done at Captrate™, a subsidiary of Phillips Plastics Corporation. This new organization was founded on an enhanced existing technology that was applied to a new application, and early estimates indicate that the sales potential is great. As a by-product of a broad market research study on potential applications for our porous ceramic technology, Phillips uncovered the ability to apply this technology to grease capture in commercial kitchen ventilation applications.
It is hard to believe, but it has been over 40 years since a new grease capture system has been introduced to the marketplace. Captrate's product, which consists of a stainless steel baffle and a packed bed of porous ceramic beads, is designed to capture substantially more grease particles than standard filter systems. Initial research indicates that at least 80 percent of the grease particles larger than one micron are captured by the Captrate system, compared to only 15 percent in standard filters. Now consider the number of commercial kitchens (i.e., fast food restaurants) nationwide, let alone globally, and you begin to see the magnitude of opportunity we have before us. All because we were able to take existing technology—porous ceramic beads—enhance it, and find a new application: grease capture.
Integral to the success of implementing a strategy that is based on innovating existing technology, is the people side of manufacturing. I am a firm believer in the success that can be achieved when you build upon a foundation that respects all people and the jobs that they perform. In doing so, you maximize technology advancements because when people feel valued, they are committed to the challenge of growing your business. It's a premise Phillips Plastics has built its business upon for over 39 years and is the reason we have achieved the status of being one of the largest privately held custom injection molders of plastic and metal in the country.
Phillips Plastics has been involved with the Design News Special Achievement Award for the last three years and we are truly proud of, and moved by, the engineers chosen to be honored. The dedication they exhibit toward their profession, the industries they serve, and their manufacturing innovation make them perfect examples of the type of people who can and will help our nation retain a competitive position in the global economy.