June 16, 2016

Table of Experts Report: KC Manufacturing Industry Strong, Weathering Changes

The Kansas City manufacturing industry is alive and well with more than 2,000 manufacturing companies located in the Kansas City area. These companies are responsible for an estimated 76,000 jobs, according to the Mid-America Research Council. While manufacturing has shifted focus and attitudes since the downturn, the industry is growing. The change from grand ventures to more reasonably sized expansion seem to have created a healthier environment for both small and large manufacturers.

In a recent "table of experts" panel, Kansas City area manufacturing and business experts discussed the current state of the industry. Mark Parman, Equity Bank president for the Kansas City Market as well as the senior vice president of Equity Bank, said that the financial downturn coupled with rapidly improving technologies has made maintaining margins harder but has led to an increase in efficiency. The reality of the market has led companies to make more calculated decisions. Companies are focusing on markets and expansion that have realistic expectations instead of 100,000 square foot facilities. Many companies are preparing for the long term with the understanding that things can change drastically at the drop of a hat.

One of the biggest challenges companies face is e-commerce
and the shift from selling to wholesalers to selling to end consumers. Competing is challenging for companies that do not have the expertise of selling to end consumers. On top of that, factors like tax regulations and different state regulations demand extensive time and resources—and the burden falls on these companies that are now juggling this with having sell to a larger customer base.

On the other hand, technical advances have improved manufacturing issues such as work conditions and supply chain management. Advancements in automation have reduced the risk involved in manufacturing. Another panelist, Megan Leupold, account executive for Mosaic Life Care Business Solutions, has been working in the industry for 13 years and says that the risk of injury has decreased significantly during her career. Companies no longer have maintain a large supply capacity since most parts can be ordered and received in a day.

Manufacturing has changed drastically since the downturn but it may have pushed companies to be more stable than before. With the large manufacturing footprint in the Kansas City area, the industry is growing at a healthy rate and is adjusting to the recent shift in technical and business capabilities.

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