UPDATE: In case some of you don’t know my history of writing about how Ford and mass production companies typically don’t respect blue collar workers…. the word “Dummies” in the title refers to what Ford management appears to think of the workers. I know first hand, from working at GM in the past, that the workers aren’t dummies. As Toyota would say, the workers deserve respect… more than they’ve gotten from Ford.
More than half of the blue collar employees at Ford are accepting voluntary buyouts. How sad. Sure, Ford is overstaffed because they aren’t selling enough vehicles, but they aren’t overstaffed by 38,000 people. Much of the cost savings from these type of cost savings plans comes from hiring cheaper workers to replace those who are leaving. From the Chicago Tribune:
“… the mass exodus of UAW workers will save money because temporary workers can fill in at plants that are scheduled to close at lower cost than permanent workers. Temporary workers are paid $18.50 an hour without benefits, compared with $27 an hour for permanent UAW workers who also receive generous benefits.”
It’s a shame that Ford can’t work harder to reduce waste instead of just relying on cheaper labor to save them. In the traditional mass production thinking, “Workers” are interchangeable cogs — robots to be switched in and out at will. God forbid that they have experience, knowledge, or some special skill. We want to bring in cheaper workers and want to assume they can do the same work, with the same quality, and the same results. That kind of thinking is very insulting, it doesn’t show “respect for people.”
From the article:
“Manufacturing expert Ron Harbour said the buyouts would have posed more problems for Ford a decade ago. Over the past 10 years, he said, Detroit’s automakers have come a long way toward adopting standardized procedures for every job on the assembly line.
‘The processes and the quality systems are better than they were 10 years before. Today, not only do you have much better training programs and the facilities to do that training, but also you have a much better organized workplace. There is basically a recipe for how it’s done,’ Harbour said, adding that Ford has made strides. ‘Is Ford mature at this? By no means. Have they made huge steps? Definitely.'”
Having good standard work, an organized workplace (through 5S), and training programs are all good lean concepts. They are NOT intended to make workers completely interchangeable, as Ford is trying to do. It’s not “lean” to say “we’re going to completely systematize the work so we can bring in any temp worker off the street to do the job.”
If this was lean, Toyota would use nothing but temporary workers. They would do like Henry Ford used to do — workers didn’t have permanent jobs, they lined up at the door every day and managers selected who would work that day.
Toyota invests in their people. What about that can’t the mass producers figure out?? Why in the hell do most companies still treat most “workers” as people who aren’t capable of thinking or contributing to continuous improvement? Why do non-lean companies still think that workers are overpaid dummies who should be replaced at a whim by someone cheaper who can merely follow the recipe?
A person with no experience might be able to follow a recipe. But they won’t be able to immediately make suggestions. But, it doesn’t matter if management just sees them as a “cost” and isn’t willing to listen to them, yet alone invest in them.
The contrasts between Ford and Toyota coudn’t be any more clear. No wonder Toyota is thriving and Ford seems doomed. This is the lean thinking that the new CEO is bringing from Boeing?
Keep in mind that as Mark Fields says the following, in an email to all employees, he is jetting around in a private jet each weekend.
“At the same time, even as we reduce our costs and capacity and make tough-but-necessary decisions throughout our business…”
This all makes me very mad. I’m glad I’m out of the auto industry. Good luck to those of you who are still there.
Update: Wall Street loves the Ford moves, no surprise there.
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