This article appeared in the February 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Michigan’s manufacturing sector is again on the rise while the state’s unemployment rate remains at decades-low levels. This combination makes the Great Lakes State an attractive option for established global brands looking to reach North American markets.
In 2014, ROSTA USA was established to provide direct service to the Swiss-company’s U.S. and Mexican customers. The result? Twenty percent growth year-over-year and $3.5 million in sales for 2018 compared to nearly zero just four years earlier.
“There’s an energy that comes from being in Southwest Michigan,” said Ian Osborn, vice president of engineering and operations for ROSTA USA, whose domestic distribution center is based in Benton Harbor. “Companies like ROSTA that expand their business into this state will be amazed by how many small manufacturers there are in this area.”
This isn’t to say challenges don’t arise for new businesses carving out their niche in Michigan. Low unemployment means talent can be scarce and locating it requires manufacturers to go out into the community and show the excitement of industry careers to the next generation.
“We’ve been actively involved in the annual MFG Day events for a few years now,” Osborn mentioned. “We also work closely with local universities on projects that provide students with experience in the industrial arts and help us to locate the talent to join our team.”
Osborn has also found that many of manufacturing’s everyday challenges can be resolved, or at least reduced, through three key strategies — maintaining a team culture that’s proud of what they do, keeping the focus on a happy customer and communication.
“Our culture allows me and the rest of ROSTA’s leadership to be fairly hands-off,” explains Osborn. “They know what to do, they are focused on efficiency and are problem-solvers at heart. There’s a pride that comes from being a manufacturer and our team definitely has that trait.”
On the importance of the happy customer, Osborn continued by saying “our team’s pride for what they do spills over into the way we address customer needs. If there is a disruption or a customer isn’t 100 percent satisfied, it’s all-hands-on-deck to get it right.”
Finally, for any manufacturer, open and honest communication is important. However, when your business crosses the globe, it becomes complex and essential.
“ROSTA is a global company and proper communication between facilities, between our locations in the United States and around the world, determines how far we can go,” said Osborn. “What we do is hard to explain — what manufacturers do can be hard to explain — but we’re an industry integral to the global economy and ROSTA is proud to be a part of it.”