This, and other documents that I’ll be blogging about, are part of Don Ephlin’s UAW office papers that are archived at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit. Thanks to them for their assistance.
My guest for Episode #264 is a friend from here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, Tyrone Butler. He is LSS Managing Partner at his company, Butler Active Business Solutions LLC. He has a background in the Air Force, he pre-dated me at Dell Computer in the 1990s, and he’s being doing a lot of work all over the world with Lean, Six Sigma, and other methodologies for improving software and project delivery, like ITIL.
I have been going through some old papers recently and I found two sheets of paper with hand-written thoughts or “truisms” that I had scribbled down in early 2002. The word truism, it turns out, doesn’t mean “true” so much as it means “a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting.” Oops.
I’ve seen this going around social media the past few days, an article with shocking pictures of all of the cars and trucks that have been built, only to sit in huge inventory yards around the world: “Where the World’s Unsold Cars Go To Die.”
Following up on yesterday’s post that talked about “the old GM” putting cost ahead of quality, I sometimes I get flashbacks to my days working for General Motors.
I’ve been in healthcare for 8.5 years now, but at the start of my career, I was an entry-level industrial engineer at the GM Powertrain Livonia Engine plant from June 1995 to May 1997. This plant was in my hometown, Livonia, Michigan and was located exactly 1.3 miles from the house where I grew up. The factory opened in 1971, two years before I was born. The factory closed in 2010 due to the GM bankruptcy and sits empty today as part of the “rust belt” (here is a picture I took fairly recent of the plant and the old sign that used to say GM Powertrain):
Please indulge me with this story that I’m going to tell. I often think about this story, usually when hearing somebody talk about a situation where they are not being allowed to make quality the first priority in their workplace. I recently cringed when I heard GM CEO Mary Barra remind employees that the customer comes first. In my experience, most of the front-line employees knew this – it was leadership who needed to be reminded.
Sadly, people often complain about not being able to make quality the first priority in healthcare. Well, I complained about it when I worked in manufacturing. I have to write the story to get it off my chest (Warning, it’s loooong).
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing in an NFL playoff matchup tonight against the New Orleans Saints. I’d admired Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and his somewhat unlikely rise through the coaching ranks. He’s well known from his successful stint at the University of Oregon, but before that he was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, a school in the lower “FCS” tier that managed to upset my beloved Northwestern Wildcats in 2006 (please hold your jokes about NU being “lower tier”).
When the Eagles hired Kelly, many thought that he would directly transplant his wild, fast-paced offensive game to the NFL. That strategy has failed for other college coaches who made the leap to the NFL. That, with the poor track record of other college coaches in the NFL, the odds might have been against Kelly. But, he’s in the playoffs… and he’s sort of like a “Lean leader.”
I’m not sure Google has much of a market for a $299 media player (with the AppleTV and Roku players being under $100), but it’s noteworthy that the new Google Nexus Q is made in the USA (see picture at left of the bottom of the device, click for a larger view).
See this CNET article: Google shows Apple: We made ours in the U.S.A.: Google is making stuff in the U.S. Will Apple follow suit? Also see this TechCrunch article on this topic.
Regular readers know I started my career at General Motors from 1995 to 1997. After graduate school at MIT, I took a job at Dell, Inc. in 1999. At the time, Dell was at the peak of its reputation in the business world and they were inundated with requests for tours. As a staff member, I was one of the volunteers who would give tours to visitors. I led tours for Wall Street investment bank leaders, former Rep. J.C. Watts from Oklahoma, and a group of GM leaders and UAW representatives.
Unfortunately, most of the manufacturing visitors were, I think, looking for some sort of secret sauce they could copy to become “the Dell of their market.”
There has been a lot of buzz over last Sunday’s New York Times article “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.” It’s good to see issues of manufacturing competitiveness talked about in the media and among my Facebook friends who usually aren’t talking about factories. So why aren’t iPhones assembled here in the U.S.? Apple used to build Macs in California. I used to work for Dell when they built PCs in Texas. Now, Apple products are made by Foxconn in China and the Dell factory in Texas is now closed. My iMac, my Kindle Fire, and my iPhone – all made in China – in some conditions we would never tolerate here.
As I blogged about recently, Steve Jobs blamed the lack of U.S. production on a lack of skilled technical workers and supervisors and he said to President Obama, “those jobs aren’t coming back.” I questioned whether that is true, considering the U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs due to the China trade deficit and there have got to be plenty of experienced people looking for work.
The NY Times article points out that producing in China isn’t just about low wages. It seems to me that it’s about the unfair advantages of a country where workers aren’t free. I’m all for companies making profits, but I wish those profits didn’t have to be made on the back of people suffering under the tyranny of a repressive, totalitarian, “Communist” government.
This week, I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of articles about working conditions at the Foxconn facilities in China. These stories are primarily focused on Apple, but nearly any computer, gadget, or mobile device is made there, ranging from iPhones to Android tablets to my Kindle Fire.
I have a longer blog post teed up that I might post tomorrow – a combination of some analysis with a bit of emotion, which I’m trying to temper.
The items that I’ve read (and you might want to read or listen too) include:
I’ve recently had an email exchange with a retiree who is volunteering in a non-profit hospice care facility. I’m sharing this thoughts with his permission. It sounds like there’s often nothing for the volunteers to do and the leaders aren’t very keen in listening to ideas that the correspondent or their fellow volunteers have for making their work easier or more interesting. A “kaizen culture,” it is not, apparently. The complaints in the email are recurring themes, not just one bad day.
Mark’s note: You may recognize the author of this guest post, Andrew Castle, as a previous contributor and frequent commenter on my blog. I was offered a press pass to a lean event in the UK, an invite I was able to pass along to Andrew. Here is his report, the second part of four posts that are running here in August. Read Part 1 here.
To Centralise or De-centralise
This was, to my mind, the most interesting topic of the IQPC two-day event. The fundamental issue that a number of organizations were struggling with or attempting to resolve was whether their organizations improvement resource should be centralized corporately or de-centralised to individual sites / countries/ directorates and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
This article caught my eye since I grew up outside of Detroit and my mom is still a teacher in the city. I haven’t been back in a while, but I’ve driven past the post-industrial wasteland parts of town — the abandoned factories with broken windows. You can see a lot of this on the haunting “Ruins of Detroit” website (example photo shown here).
This recent article about Airbus talks about facing a challenge of declining airplane orders.
Airbus said Friday that it booked orders for just 16 planes in March, compared with 54 orders in March 2008 and 37 orders the previous year. The company has said it may capture only between 300 and 400 new orders this year, down from 777 orders minus cancellations last year.
This piece about Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos made me think about visiting the “Gemba” (the Japanese term that means “the actual place” — the place where work is done).
I really like Quint Studer’s books, not just for healthcare, but as general leadership books (you can find his books on Amazon)
As a former Dell employee (1999-2000), I was surprised and maybe a bit angry when they announced, earlier this year, that they were shutting down a factory I had helped open in 2000.
I’m angry. I try not to blog when I’m angry, so I’ll try to watch my words carefully. Probably won’t succeed.