CHICAGO—The owners of Flexan Corp. are big believers that manufacturing operations can be successful in North America.
The maker of molded rubber goods for industrial and medical markets has production facilities in Chicago, site of its headquarters, as well as in China, and the firm continues to invest in both.
That doesn't mean remaining competitive as a rubber products manufacturer—or in any other manufacturing industry—is easy, said Scott Severson, CEO of Flexan and one of three partners in owning that firm and its FMI Inc. medical components unit.
"You have to be prepared for the best competition from all over the world, and if you set your sights only on your domestic competition, you probably won't succeed," Severson said.
He participated on a panel earlier this year sponsored by Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News, which focused on manufacturing prospects in the U.S. He said part of the discussion was about how the state and federal governments could do more to support domestic manufacturing and, and the notion that there is a place for high-quality manufacturers, but they have to be willing to invest in world class technologies.
Companies also have to realize that with the global nature of business, it may be necessary to have operations elsewhere, as Flexan has done.
"You have to be reasonable with your customers when they want a logistics answer for their Asian assembly plants," Severson said. "You have to go where your customers are. You have to listen to what customers need first and foremost, and that really is what has to drive your business growth."
The panel also had discussed whether some production is returning because of rising costs in China, he said. Manufacturers in China don't have as big an advantage as they might have had six or seven years, ago, but it is still a very competitive place to produce parts.
"The attractive thing from our point of view is there's a huge and growing middle class in Asia, and we're well-positioned to supply the Chinese and Asian consumers as they become more affluent," Severson said.