Bringing Manufacturing Back Home
CNN has an interesting video about the reshoring wave that is breaking. This, of course, is a two edged sword for domestic manufacturers. I have been preaching for years that manufacturing would be more effective and competitive if done here, rather than in the People’s Republic. Lots of companies are starting to see the basic logic behind that … which, of course, means that your competitors who used to be in China are going to be more formidable having learned their lessons.
A Stupid Theory Suggeting That Stupid Organizations Are Smart
Incredibly, an article published in the Journal of Management Studies (summed up here on FOX News) suggests that it can be a good thing to have employees behave like sheep. “We see functional stupidity as the absence of critical reflection. It is a state of unity and consensus that makes employees in an organization avoid questioning decisions, structures and visions,” said Mats Alvesson, professor of organization studies at the Lund University School of Economics and Management in Sweden. “Paradoxically, this sometimes helps to raise productivity in an organization.” They acknowledge that ”It is stupid because risks and problems may arise when people do not pose critical questions about what they and the organization are doing.” That alone should have caused them to jettison their theory. Unfortunately, too many managers actually operate under this – ‘don’t ask questions, just shut up and do as you’re told’ – approach.
An interesting article in Textile World quantifying the resurgence of textile manufacturing in the United States. “Do the math, and all this adds up to a $70 billion to $71 billion textile and apparel industry — not bad for a sector that many analysts were writing off as a lost cause as recently as four to five years ago. “ Not bad at all. The real lesson is that this trend sets the academic and economist worlds on their ears with all of the claptrap over recent decades about relatively low skilled, labor intensive manufacturing. Obviously there is a lot more to it than labor cost.
As the charts to the left show, textile imports have been declining and the balance of trade in textiles has been going the right way for a couple of years now. This is something you would never know if you only read and listen to the mainstream.
As the folks at Textile World write, this is due to ”Improved industry strategies and planning: These would have to include increased management emphasis in such areas as sourcing, inventory control, use of more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment, new and upgraded consumer products, more ecologically friendly offerings, and more Made-in-USA labels.”
Old – Very Old – News
Cool video of Henry Ford’s assembly lines. This from 1936 when they were in the River Rouge plant and had it all going.
Sustaining Lean Requires Different Management
Article in Smart Business describes the two steps forward – one step back lean efforts at Vita-Mix in Cleveland. “Vita-Mix first attempted to implement a lean manufacturing methodology in 2006, only to find that when business activities ramped up, it was unable to sustain the initiative.” This is a pretty common condition.
Vita-Mix and everyone in this boat really ought to ask themselves why they were doing all of the non-lean stuff in the first place, and the answer will inevitable be, ‘because our accounting system, metrics, organizational structure, supply chain and quality systems led us to believe the non-lean things were good ideas’. Then they should ask themselves just how it is that they expect their lean efforts to sustain when surrounded by all of those management processes that support the old non-lean practices. Maybe they should think about making fundamental changes in management before they do any more rearranging of the furniture on the shop floor.
Seems everyone has to learn the hard way that changing business results means that, first and foremost, management has to change – gut-wrenching, tough change. You can’t keep managing the way you always have and expect a few Toyota tricks on the factory floor to propel the company to new heights. You get what you manage.