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by Jeff Sterling, Missouri Enterprise Area Business Manager

Jeff Sterling, Area Business Manager for the City of St. Louis and Northeast Missouri, talks about support for startups in Missouri and his perceptions of how many manufacturers seem to misunderstand what Quality truly means for manufacturing.

Q:    What can you tell us about startups and support structures for them in the state of Missouri?
A:    St Louis has an incredible start up community!  Downtown there is T-Rex, and in South St Louis, Central West End area there is IDEA Labs, Tech Shop, 4240 Community which includes the Center for Emerging Technology, and they are in the process of building another facility now!

These companies can benefit from a lot of the services that Missouri Enterprise can provide, Marketing and business programs, website development to name just a few.  But the one that I have been the most successful with is Product Development.  Bob Beckmann, one of our Project Managers, has helped many companies take their concepts and turn them into reality.  

It is great to work with enthusiastic companies that want to see their companies grow.  Many of the companies that have “graduated” from this community and are out on their own and are going strong, but some are close and need our expertise to get them to that next level.

Q:    What are your perceptions of “quality” in manufacturing?
A:    One of the things that I have found interesting since starting at Missouri Enterprise is that many companies don’t seem to understand the depth of meaning in the word “Quality”, how to make sure it’s included in their pricing structures, and what it takes to truly achieve it.  We all expect quality products and services, we all demand it, but when you ask most people they don’t want to pay extra for it.  

Although it is true that Quality should be a part of every manufacturing process, most consumers expect it to be there and don’t realize what it really takes to make a quality product.  Quality Designs, Quality Material, Quality Workmanship- yes, there is a cost associated with that, but when you break down your pricing structure, you can’t just add a cost to the bottom line cost on an invoice showing the customer an upcharge for “Quality Assurance”.

It needs to be incorporated into your overall pricing strategy.  We all know it costs more to make a quality product, but as I said before, people don’t want to pay extra for it.  It’s simply “understood” that you are going to build them a quality part that is going to work no questions asked.  

I guess it is like a lot of things in our lives that we take for granted.  Oxygen is there, we breathe it, but we don’t see it.  Quality must be there, and people inherently expect it, without being charged more for it.  

So, manufacturers simply must incorporate quality into their production strategies, along with their efficiency efforts, or they risk the chance of losing customers or getting a bad reputation.  Quality needs to be at the top of any manufacturer’s production expectations, and it seems to be a systemic part of the way they do business.