Technology Renaissance for Small Manufacturers in an Era of Rapidly Changing Technology, Corporations in Two Very Different Industries Are Finding New Ways to Remain Competitive

Article excerpt

AS many of America's largest companies downsize, the smaller manufacturers that supply them are also adapting to new realities.

Firms are under pressure to cut costs and improve quality. They are finding that, to survive, they must learn to cooperate more closely with customers and even with competitors.

But if the pressures are great, so are the opportunities.

Technology, by reducing barriers to transportation and communication, is allowing many small, specialized companies to market their products globally.

Other firms find success in the opposite direction, working more closely at the local level with the larger manufacturers they supply. Chrysler Corporation is one of many big firms that view partnership with suppliers as a key to quality and product innovations.

The efforts of companies like Berkshire Plastics Network {see story to the right} and Jones & Vining {see story below} are part of a renaissance for small and medium-size firms.

Economist Dwight Lee of the University of Georgia says that companies "compete on the basis of organizational design." This era of rapid technological change makes it possible for small firms to use their specialized expertise to stake out far-flung markets or work closely with larger customers, he says. …

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