Editorial: IMPO Looks Abroad

IMPO editor Mike Hockett chronicles his experiences visiting manufacturing and logistics facilities abroad.

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Even though the vast majority of our IMPO audience resides within the U.S., we’re always making an effort to stay abreast of what’s happening in manufacturing around the world. Thanks to the Internet, most of the time that means following news and research reports from our Madison, WI office. But sometimes it means going out and seeing foreign industrial facilities first-hand. In October 2016, I visited a handful of logistics facilities around the Netherlands; last September, managing editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier learned about industrial robots at the Robotiq User Conference in Quebec City, Canada; and at the end of April, Blair-Frasier attended a new Combilift plant opening in Ireland, which you can read all about in our upcoming July/August issue.

Along with those examples, our international efforts included a press trip to Thailand this past March, where the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) shuttled myself and more than 70 other editors to the facilities of various manufacturing companies. It's the basis of this issue’s Onsite feature. Besides enduring 40 hours of roundtrip flight time, I was able to see and learn all about Thailand’s ambitious Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project — a major investment into establishing Thailand’s eastern provinces as an economic and manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia by 2021.

To promote what the EEC has to offer, our “Thailand: Taking Off to New Heights” itinerary involved some pretty cool sights. Our visits included an aircraft maintenance hangar, a research & development center of a petrochemical company, a state-of-the-art food production facility and the headquarters of the country’s first biopharmaceutical company. I came away more than impressed. Perhaps it was my own lack of international awareness, but before this trip, I can’t say I ever associated Thailand with advanced manufacturing or maintenance facilities. What we saw and learned informed me that Thailand has formidable such facilities around the country, and plans to greatly enhance that.

Along with the opportunity to see foreign facilities, the other thing that attracted me to going on this press trip was the chance to experience a completely different culture. BOI’s itinerary did a great job of leaving us with enough free time in the evenings to explore our surroundings. Our final stop on the trip was at a family-run organic farm and village that essentially provided a crash course in Thai culture. It helped educate us on some of the differences in local customs versus that in the U.S.

Given what’s happening on the national news stage, it’s hard nowadays to ignore the implications of foreign relations on domestic matters. From discussion of tariffs and trade wars between the U.S. and China, to the Trump Administration’s complicated relationship with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to Brexit and beyond, our press group had plenty to chat about with each other regarding our country’s foreign market activities.

Overall, I’m certainly glad I was able to partake in this Thailand press trip, both for the benefit of IMPO and to expand my personal horizons. If you or someone in your company has an opportunity to do something similar, I strongly encourage it.

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