GE’s Jeff Imelt: Mexico Illustrates Why Manufacturing is Important for Companies and Nations

Commentary by Doug Donahue

As this article illustrates, Jeff Imelt uses the occasion of a recent trip to a GE manufacturing center in Mexico to highlight how we need to shift our thinking about how manufacturing fits into today’s world, calling manufacturing “the new basis for competitiveness for industrial companies and, for that matter, for countries.”

He continues: “…the geographic nature of manufacturing has changed. The notion that one or two countries will manufacture for the rest of the world is old thinking. Many places can compete. We must be aware of the fact that manufacturing competitiveness has become the key source of country competitiveness. There is more innovation in our plants than anywhere in our company.”

That Immelt chooses Mexico specifically to illustrate this point is not just a coincidence. GE’s Mexico plants are some of the most innovative in the world. They are a great example of how Mexican manufacturing has come a long way in the past couple decades, shifting from a place that foreign manufacturers saw only as a location for low-cost production to a strategically important country that offers opportunity for the entry into new markets.

Mexico manufacturing operations were quick to adapt methods like continuous improvement, lean manufacturing, Kaizen techniques and others, implementing effective manufacturing innovation that had been developed elsewhere successfully. This acumen is part of the reason why Mexican manufacturing workers are more productive than their Chinese counterparts, and why companies from all over the world are turning to Mexico in their quest for topline growth.


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