Although a small manufacturing plant will not employ as many people or produce as many goods as a huge factory, it may have advantages over the latter in terms of flexibility and the speed with which it can respond to market changes. Small manufacturing firms can employ anywhere from a single person to a staff of 20 or 30.
Wood furniture manufacturing is an important aspect of the economies of many communities that exist in areas featuring hardwood forests. Manufacturing furniture within an area where the trees grow is an example of "value added economics," and is very healthy for local communities because it keeps more of the profits that results from local materials in the local area. Furniture manufacturing employs workers ranging from skilled cabinetmakers to production workers who run machinery. In conjunction with a well-managed forestry plan that does not damage its natural resource base, wood furniture manufacturing can be one element of a strong and sustainable local economy.
Sporting equipment is a healthy market, both because of the popularity of sports and because of the abuse that much sporting equipment takes, causing it to wear out and require replacement. Because of the large variety of sports in existence, each of which requires different equipment, there is a place for specialized small manufacturers who can respond easily to custom orders for small numbers of sporting goods. Sports equipment can involve a wide range of raw materials, ranging from wood and steel to leather, plastic and high-tech materials such as lightweight aluminum and Kevlar.
The enormous auto manufacturing plants in the Midwest, Japan and other locations often subcontract many of their needs to smaller companies. Small manufacturers build necessary parts for cars ranging from radiators to mufflers to tires. Automotive corporations such as General Motors find it economically more viable to subcontract these elements out rather than attempt to build everything in their own factories. A small manufacturer who can land a long-term contract with a large auto company can be virtually guaranteed of a steady income, because the automotive industry is central to the economy and provides a necessary good.
Over the course of the 20th century, there was a vast migration of clothing manufacturing capacity from North America to Asia and other countries where wages are lower. Some small clothing manufacturers still remain in North America, providing high-end and niche products for markets such as climbing shoes and outdoor gear. Domestic producers who focus on high-end products that can be sold at a premium can be successful.
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