Fifty years ago, manufacturing in the US was strong and manufacturing jobs accounted for over 25 percent of total employment. In addition to the jobs for production operators on the factory floor, major US manufacturing companies had large research divisions and engineering departments, internal construction divisions and maintenance departments. They were self-sufficient and outsourced very little. Self-performance was one of the tools they used to develop proprietary products, support quality of these products, meet schedules on aggressive time to market for these products and make certain they could manufacture in sufficient quantities to meet market demand.
It was a winning strategy for historic manufacturing behemoths such as 3m, IBM, General Motors, AT&T, General Electric, Corning and Kodak. It was the golden age of manufacturing. Innovation created by research departments was materialized by corporate engineering departments, fabricated in company shops, installed by corporate construction divisions and maintained by the company’s maintenance mechanics. It was the way to protect IP, accelerate time to market, guarantee product quality and stay ahead of the competition.
But sometime in the 1980s this began to change. Cost pressures began to make companies consider off-shoring. They began to look for ways to save costs in their domestic operations as well. Large corporations kept their internal engineering but reduced the size and focused on their core competencies. They began to outsource the non-proprietary portions of the work. This allowed them to cut costs and still maintain their competitive advantage. In time the definition of “core competency” became more focused and increased amounts of work were contracted. In time, some companies abandoned internal capex performance almost all together. As an example, in 2006 Kodak made a decision to give up self-performance completely and sold their engineering, construction and maintenance divisions to Optimation. Kodak began to outsource the design, fabrication and installation of their processes. Many other companies followed suit.
Optimation became a virtual engineering, fabrication and construction division for Kodak’s traditional film manufacturing. But Optimation had a lot more capability than was needed just to support Kodak. So, Optimation began to provide engineering, fabrication and construction support for many other companies as well. For some of these companies it may be only engineering and for others only fabrication.
There are large manufacturing firms that now have a limited amount of internal capability and outsource their overflow. There are start-up manufacturers with IP and patents who need to outsource their entire projects. The technology, the needs, and the solutions vary, but Optimation has grown its staff and capabilities to meet the needs at over 500 manufacturing firms. Engineering skills include process, mechanical, machine design along with electrical, automation, and software. Fabrication includes welding, machine assembly, pipefitting, sheet metal, electrical and instrumentation. Design fabrication teams are built to meet the demands of each application and help the clients meet a large variety of technical requirements in a dozen and more industries from food and pharma to chemical, oil & gas, glass, automotive and paper. Specialized technologies such as high pressure applications, hazardous chemicals, validated industries, test system and roll to roll systems are staffed with specialists in each area. Optimation runs its own internal NYS certified apprenticeship program to train apprentices to become journeymen in six industrial trades.
At Optimation our passion is manufacturing in the USA. The skills and talents we have enable us to practice our passion. Each year we work with hundreds of manufacturing companies who need our support. Like the manufacturing giants of half a century ago we are staffed to design, build, and maintain manufacturing plants. That is what we do. Sometimes people get hung up on trying to figure out the details of each unit operation we might undertake. This makes us look pretty complex. But looking at Optimation from a macro viewpoint it is easy to see what we do. We practice our passion for manufacturing by helping manufacturers materialize their ideas, accelerate time to market and build state of the art manufacturing lines for domestic manufacturing of world class products. As highly automated manufacturing lines continue to operate in the United States costs can be contained and we can all find opportunities for buying products made in the USA.