Industry Competitiveness: Where Do We Stand?


Here's an interesting editorial commenting on the position of the US in the latest Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum that I found particularly interesting.

Industry Competitiveness: Where Do We Stand?

At the very outset of the article, the author is quick to point to increased productivity in US factories through the employment of automation and Lean Manufacturing as the problem for American workers. This started me thinking about the implications of implementing lean considering only short term goals. Are North American laborers facing increasing layoffs and huge cuts to pay and benefits because increases in productivity have striped away their jobs or have we not planned ahead effectively enough to employ these resources to grow the business? It just seems so foolish to not have a plan.

There are some good links to the Global Competitiveness Report and some other sources at the end of the article.

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Luke Van Dongen
Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.


  1. I’m sure the author of that article is finance guy who views the world through numbers only.

    He says “Depending on what seem to be largely personal beliefs or political leanings – with ‘statistics’ existing to back up either side – automation has been a productivity godsend, a major factor in unemployment rates, or a damn good reason to ‘repurpose’ millions of displaced workers. Or, all of the above.”

    Damn good reason? I’m of the Deming and Toyota mindset that it’s GOOD for society when companies create jobs for people.

    A “lights out” factory (as GM and Roger Smith dreamed about) has no intelligence to drive kaizen and problem solving. That “lights out” factory would have displaced a lot of hourly workers and would have, instead, required a huge support staff. Maybe net salaries and pay would have been higher, who knows.

    It just scares me when people are so willing to ignore the role of workers’ brains in a factory.

  2. Perhaps, Mark, it stems from the generations of workers who were told to park their brains at the door. Until the late ’70’s, in my career, workers’ comments and suggestions were not welcome. It was only when we started adopting Statistical Process Controls and we started Quality Circles that we finally understood that we had huge living dta bases that could fuel innovation and improvement.

  3. The comment I was always told, in a GM plant, mid-90’s was “For 30 years, management told me to check my brain at the door, they only wanted me for my back and my arms. So they want me to think now? No thanks.”

    It was a very understandable sentiment and something that was tough for us to try to work through in a UAW environment.

    I blamed management much more than I blamed the union, in those circumstances.


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