Manufacturing in the 21st Century
Everyone watched, astonished, as the global price of petroleum plunged by more than half since May 2014. The global price of petroleum and its derivatives – especially fuels and process feedstocks – affects just about all manufacturers, some to a significant degree. The question before manufacturers right now is how to respond. Are today’s lower prices the new normal? Or will petroleum prices rebound toward last summer’s level? Is this a strategic matter? Or a welcome windfall (or transient disaster, depending on your business)?
This change in petroleum prices is neither the first nor the last seismic – scale change to affect manufacturers, especially since the millennium. Since then, tens of thousands of American factories have closed and millions of manufacturing jobs have disappeared as consequences of those changes and manufacturers’ reactions to those changes.
The causes for changes like the global petroleum price meltdown can be found in major disruptions in an expanded global business environment. “Global business environment” means the context within which manufacturers must operate. As context expands, so must the scope of management attention. The expansions in the context within which manufacturers must operate can be loosely categorized as Globalization, Sustainability, Technology and Demographics & Trends.
In short, managers need a significantly more zoomed out  scope of awareness in order to anticipate and adapt to a continuing barrage of changes.
Jera and Pragmatism
Jera Sustainable Development exists as management’s resource for determining and understanding those factors within the 21st century business context that are most likely to cause significant changes for smaller manufacturers. Zoomed out understanding of context allows managers to anticipate and to effectively adapt to change as it develops.
As management’s resource, Jera maintains an attitude of pragmatism, meaning a focus on desired outcomes – especially that of survival and prosperity within the realities of the 21st century. Many important 21st century issues are, unfortunately, emotionally charged, or, worse yet, substantially politicized. Pragmatism means respecting sincerely held positions while emphasizing actions most consistent with desired outcomes. Jera’s view of the Triple Bottom Line  provides a framework for structuring objectives – desired outcomes – that accommodate the zoomed in present and zoom out into the future.
What Jera Does
Weekly Essays: This blog now consists of over 180 essays on topics related to Globalization, Sustainability, Technology and Demographics & Trends, all from the perspective of smaller manufacturers. New essays will continue to be posted weekly, as they have since 2011.
Commentaries: Commentaries are longer, more in depth discussions on timely topics. The first of these will look at the rapidly changing petroleum industry as it affects smaller manufacturers. Look for it sometime in February. An editorial schedule for later commentaries is still under consideration.
A Book: There is a book on 21st century manufacturing currently in the works. More on this as work progresses.
Individual Firms: Jera is available to assist individual firms with specific concerns in their pursuit of sustainability in the 21st century.
Thoughtful comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
… Chuck Harrington
 Zooming Out means smoothly transitioning from a tight focus on a specific to a wide angle perspective, like a zoom lens on a camera. For more on zooming, see Zooming Again!, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2014/08/07/zooming-again/
 For more on Jera’s view of the Triple Bottom Line, see Double Take on the Triple Bottom Line, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/10/04/double-take-on-the-triple-bottom-line/