A Shortage of Employees or a Shortage of Lean Management?
Here's an interesting story about the shortage of machinists:
While millions of jobs making everything from textiles to steel have moved to new powerhouses likein recent years, precision manufacturing remains a crucial niche in the United States, one that is overworked and chronically understaffed.
And, in a bad sign for the United States and its declining economic might, that shortage of skilled workers is likely to get worse as Baby Boomers retire — with no younger generation of manufacturing workers to take the baton.
“Our workforce is an aging workforce,” said Chief Executive Jeff Kelly, whose father founded Hamill nearly 60 years ago. “There isn't a queue of people lining up to come into the industry.”
I've sort of lost track of this in manufacturing, but I can believe it. The last machining environment I worked in didn't have many young “new” employees. Hospitals face many of the same types of key skill shortages: pharmacists, medical technologists, nurses, and other areas.
Who wants to go into manufacturing, given the reputation it has been given in this country? The prospects for a good career don't seem very good, given the incessant stories about how manufacturing is going overseas and the U.S. will be a “service economy.”
The article talked about strategies companies and organizations are using — increasing pay, offering educational and apprenticeship help… but I didn't hear anything about Lean. How many of these open machinist positions would be filled, only to have them standing around some part of the day due to poor product flow or an old non-Lean “one person – one machine” approach where people stand and watch the automation run?
I heard one hospital president speak, in a Lean conference, about the shortages of skilled employees in healthcare. He had a really provocative thought (and I'm paraphrasing):
Do we have a shortage of skilled employees or a shortage of the proper types of managers?
He was saying we need more managers who focus on eliminating waste (through Lean) so that we can be more efficient rather than just asking for more people and more resources.
This hospital president (after success with Lean throughout his hospital) was CONVINCED that the industry's labor shortages would be solved if everyone was using Lean.
Is the same true in precision machining?