Small manufacturers in Australia, Canada, Japan, the European Union and the United States face mounting pressure to be competitive in the 21st century. Some manufacturers have turned to offshore outsourcing to take advantage of lower labor costs. But another answer may be appearing on the horizon -- holonics. Holonics shifts the paradigm, providing manufacturers with an alternative to offshore outsourcing. Holonic manufacturing refers to flexible systems that allow manufacturers to change their manufacturing processes on the fly, without having to reconfigure the entire manufacturing plant or assembly line. According to Jim Barlow, President of Western Reserve Controls, holonic automation is the future of manufacturing. He gives the example of auto manufacturers who he says are leading the way with holonics, driven by the near-future goal of 3-day guaranteed delivery of a car. In order to deliver a car with the consumer's specified features and options in 3 days, it will mean manufacturing very small quantities at local locales. Holonics will be crucial if manufacturers are to meet this goal. Manufacturing large quantities in far-off places like China just doesn't cut it. Barlow says the implications of holonics for manufacturers are significant: competitive advantage is generated for local manufacturers overseas labor cost advantages are contained new industry/technology/services are created local vendors are favored new opportunities are presented for small businesses. Download the Western Reserve Controls presentation here. Holonic manufacturing holds significant promise for small manufacturers. It provides a viable alternative to offshore outsourcing. Japan and Europe are leading the way with holonics, while the United States lags behind. What's it going to take to make holonic manufacturing a reality in the U.S.? Among other things, investment in holonics technology and adoption by the large industry players, both OEMs and automation manufacturers.