Here is a surprisingly positive article on American manufacturing, including Harley. The article points out that the U.S. is still #1 in the world in manufacturing, as a percentage of global manufacturing, and that the percentage has only dropped from 24.6% in 1982 to 23.8% today. For Harley, in particular, “We have more domestic content than we had 15 years ago,” Mr. Levatich said, “but it is a very fluid situation, very dynamic right now.”
“But maintaining job security while shaving labor content keeps Harley on a difficult treadmill. Production has to rise continuously – and sales, too, of course – as automation reduces the labor required to make each motorcycle. Enough additional motorcycles must be manufactured to absorb workers who are idled by the automation, thus keeping the number of workers constant.”
This also applies to lean manufacturing, not just automation. As kaizen activity frees up workers, the traditional lean model is to re-deploy them to a growth area, rather than laying them off (which would kill their incentive to drive further improvements, seeing co-workers laid off).
The article also mentions the benefits of having American suppliers close by, for design changes and iterations, doing that quickly, etc.
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