How Manufacturers Can Avoid Extinction by Using Competitive Intelligence



Knowledge is power, and it’s truer today than ever before. Simply consider our rapidly-evolving manufacturing environment. Revolutionary new technologies in 3D printing have emerged—shortening the amount of time it takes to develop new products. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has brought more intelligence to manufacturing operations and is enabling manufacturers to improve production processes at an impressive pace. A CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) now can track system maintenance, inspection and breakdowns, eliminating or reducing the effects of costly disruptions.

How closely do you monitor what’s happening within your market segment and manufacturing overall?
If you aren’t already utilizing regularly-scheduled market and competitive intelligence to keep a watchful eye on your competition and the industry as a whole, it’s time to start. Otherwise, you risk being rendered obsolete. Gone are the days where manufacturers can sit back and see how things played out in the market. Welcome to the new world of manufacturing where competitive intelligence reigns supreme.

Competitive Intelligence: An Introduction
According to Investopedia, competitive intelligence is the process of collecting and analyzing data about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses in a legal and ethical manner to enhance business decision-making processes. Competitive intelligence activities can be grouped into two main types:

  1. Tactical – shorter-term and seeks to provide input on issues including market share and increasing revenue.
  2. Strategic – focuses on longer-term issues such as key risks and opportunities facing the enterprise.

It Stems from Market Research
Market research is an organized effort and systematic approach to collect and interpret data about business and industry environments, customers and competitors for the purposes of decision-making. Competitive intelligence uses many of the same proven techniques as market research but deploys them to answer highly targeted and specific questions.

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive
A lower tier automotive supplier recently came to us to help them understand why they were losing ground for their carbon steel parts. Turns out that their competitor grabbed the company’s market share by transitioning to lighter weight materials to help them reduce weight to meet the upcoming CAFE standards. This situation could have been avoided if someone were assigned the task of monitoring what is happening in the industry.

There are several key things you can do (even without hiring additional staff) to ensure you are facing competitive threats head on. Someone in your organization needs to regularly spend a few hours each week scanning the market.

For starters, have a member of your team be on the lookout for the following:

  • Industry trends – Are new materials being used? What kind of new processes or emerging technologies are being developed?
  • Changes and updates to your competitors’ websites and social media sites – What are main themes? What are they highlighting?
  • Industry tradeshows – Who’s attending? Who’s exhibiting? What new and potentially disruptive products are being introduced?
  • Regulatory and compliance standards that impact your business – Are there deadlines to meet? Will you have to make any adjustments to current processes?

Need More Extensive Assistance?
The Research Services team at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center offers unmatched, industry-specific competitive intelligence. We gather information from industry reports, news and industry trade press, company profiles, government statistics and other reputable resources to create an accurate portrait of the competitive landscape and help companies thrive by:

  • Understanding market dynamics
  • Creating a snapshot of the marketplace
  • Identifying potential direct and indirect competitors
  • Anticipating competitors’ moves
  • Monitoring technology advances
  • Reducing risk in business decisions
  • … and more!

Industry insight can make or break whether your business is a step ahead of the competition—or lagging behind. Contact me at for more information.


Shelly Stobierski, Director of Research Services
Shelly Stobierski is the Director of Research Services for the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center). She has more than 15 years of market research experience, with a primary focus on automotive-related manufacturing businesses. Shelly has extensive skills in survey research (phone, internet, focus groups) and in the use of proprietary industry databases. She holds a BA in English from Wayne State University and is certified as an Economic Gardening Market Research Professional by the Edward Lowe Foundation. To read her full bio, click here.


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Data & Trends, growth, Sales & Marketing