Are You Reaching An Equilibrium?

At a recent supply chain conference, a speaker posed the following question:  What is the future of the steel supply chain in the U.S.?  Due to a down economy and global supply pressures, this market is facing significant business turmoil and is at a crossroads to determine what and where its future will be.

The next speaker up (me) was expected to provide a similar message to this audience when discussing the current state of the metalcasting industry. But my message wasn’t filled with the gloom and doom of the previous presentation. While I referenced the crossroads metalcasting faced in 2008-10 when the general consensus was that the U.S. market was in a steep decline, my message was to look at U.S. metalcasting today, as it may be the envy of all other metalcasting markets across the globe.

Sure, U.S. production in several non-automotive markets is down significantly right now. Some segments of metalcasting production are operating at 50-60% capacity while others are operating at 85-90%. But the reality is that an equilibrium is beginning to be achieved in the casting supply chain. Everything is not looking to be offshored (as it seemed 10 years ago) nor is everything being sourced domestically—a proper balance is being reached to ensure business success.

Look at some of the recent headlines:

  • Sahkti Breaks Ground on a $31.8 Million Casting Expansion in Michigan
  • Georg Fischer and Linamar Agree to Build a Metalcasting Facility in Southeast U.S.
  • Kamtek to Invest $80 million in New Diecasting Facility in Alabama
  • Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Purchases Precision Castparts for $37 Billion


These headlines show investment and renewed global interest in the U.S metalcasting supply chain. Yes, some of your firms still have corporate decrees to source globally. These probably will continue no matter the level of information and education you receive about the merits of regionalized sourcing or the capabilities of North American metalcasters.

The key is for you to just keep considering all potential sources for your engineered metal components and realize that the North American metalcasting market is one of the strongest in the world with the greatest diversity of capabilities.  It is the market most capable of supplying every size, shape and material of casting desired.

The future growth opportunities for engineered metal castings is limitless as new materials and manufacturing technologies are introduced all the time. Search out a partner who can offer you that optimal supply chain relationship.

Novel Solutions: Leadership Wreck

You should expect that a book titled “Leadership BS” isn’t exactly onboard with much of the advice you find in the business management section of the bookstore. One of the fundamental criticisms offered by Jeffrey Pfeffer charges that the so-called “leadership industry” is overrun by self-anointed experts. Without any barriers to entry, what distinguishes a quack from a luminary?

That question should warrant a healthy dose of skepticism. But Pfeffer, being a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, has the qualifications to ask. In “Leadership BS,” he brings evidence and data from social science research and offers practical solutions in questioning many commonly accepted “truths.” Take the lip service paid to the desired traits of modesty, relatability and honesty in leaders. Most businesses emphasize such characteristics, Pfeffer argues, while many people who reach an organization’s upper echelons are anything but. Immodesty and narcissism certainly can be useful traits in certain situations. But a business needs to be honest and not incentivize behavior it claims to discourage.

Besides the problems in much of the advice from other experts, “Leadership BS” has plenty to say about businesses themselves—and how many companies are inept in developing people for leadership roles. Too often failures in leadership, which can pollute the entire workplace, result from one person’s mistakes or imperfections. Pfeffer argues that businesses should be structured so the system is stronger than the individual. Leaders are important, of course, but they shouldn’t be too important.

Another of Pfeffer’s criticisms applied to both the leadership industry and leaders themselves. Frankly, in both instances, individuals are rarely held accountable for their actions. Pfeffer argues that books and seminars can spread advice, but how do you measure positive results? The experts don’t have to face their audience after a certain point. Similarly, “Leadership BS” argues corporate leaders aren’t as accountable as they should be, citing numerous instances of golden paracutes when in the wake of disasterous performance.

“Leadership BS” attacks large concepts, but the critique remains on point and the suggested fixes are practical. You will look at your business and the leaders in it differently after reading this work. It’s also a relatively light read, considering the nuance to its message, so the benefits of “Leadership BS” aren’t buried in bulky footnotes or dry textbook copy.

Delivering the contrarian’s message can be a tricky proposition, but Pfeffer is successful in his critique of popular opinion in the business world. His points merit consideration, whether or not you agree, and the purpose of this book is to make you think.  

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