Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Outsourcing is for big fat sissies

Rave ***** (f5-stars)

Unless you live and love the Great Lakes region of the the United States like I do you can't appreciate what I learned this past week. I learned that the Ariens Company, rather than outsourcing to China for a lot of the hard goods it uses to build its lawn and garden products, including its commercial mowers, relies on local domestic suppliers. It can do this, in part, because it's becoming more and more efficient. The company credits its all-out war on waste — time, effort, materials, whatever. Lean is the word at Ariens.

For the past seven years, management of the privately-owned company, under the leadership of Dan Ariens, has been systematically scrutinizing every system and process within the company, squeezing out waste wherever it finds it. The company's waste search-and-eliminate mentality allows it to maintain mutally beneficial relationships with ldomestic suppler/partners —companies that can stamp on their products "Made in the U.S.A."

Certainly, quality control and Ariens' sense of loyalty to the tiny community of Brillion, WI, (The company's been a part of the community for almost a century and Dan Ariens went to high school there) figure into the relationship Ariens keeps with surrounding suppliers.

As I walk the streets of my pleasant city on Lake Erie in northern Ohio and see all empty downtown store windows, I think about the hundreds of jobs that have left our community (about the same size as Brillion, WI) in the past 20 years, and what it means to the local school, merchants, everybody, in fact . . . and I wish we had someone like Ariens with the business acumen and guts to go "lean" and keep our jobs. (A big thank you to JP Horizons) — Ron Hall

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