How to Gain Ground


Last December I wrote an editorial about "Finding Our Footing" and asked readers to share their personal experiences regarding jobs lost to China. It was my second request for this information, leading me to suspect that maybe I was imagining a problem that didn’t exist. Then, one brave soul, followed by a second, stepped forward to tell their stories.

After recounting the experience of a Wisconsin magazine and book printer who lost reprint business to China, the first reader wrote:

I read with interest your editorial in the December issue of PFFC, especially the information about losing jobs to China. Midwest Imaging & Roller Services is a small company whose primary product line is the covering of rollers and sleeves for the printing (mostly flexographic) and converting industries. We are located in east central Wisconsin with many paper and printing plants in the area…. A decision by Wal-Mart last summer did [have a direct affect on our business]. We laser engrave elastomeric-covered rollers and sleeves for tablet paper printing for a number of different companies around the United States. One of those companies is Mead Paper, and one of their largest, former customers is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart informed Mead last year they were going to purchase all of their tablet paper from China. This meant that two Mead plants, one in the Dallas, TX, area, and one in St. Joseph, MO, would have to close. How many jobs were lost, I am not sure, but I was in both plants, and I know they were large. That decision also meant that we had to go through some downsizing and had to layoff some people. So for those people who approve of Wal-Mart’s business strategy, let them talk to the workers who are unemployed and explain to them the positives of the Wal-Mart ideals.—John Shreve, Midwest Imaging & Roller Services

Another reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, raises a bigger question about losing more than jobs to China. The reader refers to a Web site anyone may readily access hosted by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries ( that provides a public list of newly built film lines:

This is merely anecdotal evidence, but I work for one of the US companies on the list. In the list there is certainly a foreboding implication that there will be a lot more competition coming from China. The film lines recently built there are wide, high-speed lines that produce a lot of product that needs converting, and I doubt that much will be coming to the US in an intermediate form. This implies that all the product production and its associated packaging will likely be from within China for their domestic or export purposes. Perhaps the reason you are not seeing many firsthand responses of jobs lost to China is that it’s past that point, and now the jobs—and perhaps whole industries—aren’t even here in the first place. We are now to the point of exporting our capital via all the vendors that source from China.—Anonymous

If the pictures these readers paint are accurate, the future appears less than rosy. Many of you must feel challenged by these accounts, but I refuse to believe there’s nothing you can do. Business, like politics, is similar to a game. This isn’t meant in any trivial sense of the word because people’s livelihoods, with maybe a few optional comforts, are at stake. Still, businesses compete much the same way as board games are won or lost. The ones who repeatedly win know the rules backward and forward. They’re simply better players who have trained themselves to understand and use the rules to their best advantage.

So here’s some advice: Learn and understand the machinations at work in this evolving global business world that make it spin either in or out of your control. Come this April 18 to CMM at Chicago’s McCormick Place. A conference session I’m moderating from 8:30 a.m. to noon, titled "Navigating the Challenges of a Global Marketplace," will address Trends in the Packaging Industry with insight from Colin McLelland, VP of Ernst & Young Corporate Finance; International Trade Issues presented by the US Dept. of Commerce; Competing In/Against a Global Market with Paul Frost of PJ Assoc.; Supply Chain Management/ERP Solutions + Recognizing Additional Revenue Opportunties with Packaging Personified; and CE Marking with Robert Morgan, director of Technology Intl.

Learn how to start gaining ground!

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