Super Bowl Commercial: American Factories? You Can’t Do That! Really?
I'm a bit of a counter-culturalist when it comes to the hype about Super Bowl commercials being entertainment and being something we “have to watch” or “have to discuss at the water cooler.” Bah, I don't pay attention to most of them.
I got a bit behind on the game when I paused the DVR to record the video and write this blog post about the coin toss snafu. So, given a choice between catching up by skipping parts of the game, I was skipping most of the commercials (which I did without the express written consent of the office of the commissioner of the National Football League, so I might be in trouble). One commercial did catch my eye – one by the company WeatherTech.
Here is the video of the commercial:
For those who can't see the video, there's a series of bankers, consultants, and HR types who keep saying “You can't do that.”
Build factories in America? You can't do that.
Use American raw materials? You can't do that.
Hire American workers? You can't do that.
You can't do that. You shouldn't do that. You're crazy. The conventional wisdom says to chase cheap labor, building everything in the cheapest country possible and then pack up and move someplace else when wages go up.
I read the book Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor about ten years ago about RCA's efforts to chase cheap labor from state to state across America and eventually into Mexico (probably going eventually to China like most electronics). The more recent trend is people advocating moving from country to country… Jack Welch (that “turkey“) once famously said a company should put a factory on a barge that could be towed from place to place chasing cheap labor.
The downsides of chasing cheap labor include:
- Long, slow supply chains (high inventory cost, risk of obsolescence, and slow response to the market)
- Risks over intellectual property theft
- Slow development cycles if the factory isn't near product development and engineering
- Quality might be worse
- Environment costs
- Supporting political regimes that you don't agree with
Thankfully, more and more companies are looking beyond cheap labor to “reshore” back into the U.S., including GE with their appliances (those are big and expensive to ship from Asia) – hear/read more from NPR
For years, GE outsourced manufacturing of the water heater to a company in China. In 2009, GE did the math and, considering rising wages overseas as well as climbing transportation costs, decided to bring production back to the U.S..
WeatherTech has a page with the “How'd We Do That?” story and I'm sharing the “Why'd We Do That?” video below:
The CEO David MacNeil says “the trend of exporting American jobs must be stopped” and he sees products in stores “built 7,000 miles away” and blames “short-sighted management and buyers at large national chains” for this. MacNeil says his philosophy is that “If my neighbor doesn't have a job, soon I won't have a job.”
I don't know how much “Lean Manufacturing” is part of their approach at MacNeil… I couldn't find anything on their website or via Google. Lean is a huge part of the strategy at VIBCO and Marlin Steel, as it is at many others.
It might sound like protectionism to keep jobs here in the US… but it's just good business if you can figure out how to be competitive here.
Back to the “you can't do that” theme — what are the things people would say that about in healthcare?
- Zero hospital acquired infections? You can't do that!
- Zero waiting room time in the clinics? You can't do that!
- Get “door to balloon” times down to an average of 40 minutes? You can't do that!
- A culture where all hospital staff are respected by all and work together on improvement? You can't do that!
- React to reimbursement cuts and financial pressures by NOT laying off employees? You can't do that!
- Prevent all patient falls and pressure ulcers? You can't do that!
- Change the way leaders at all levels manage? You can't do that!
Thankfully healthcare has some leaders like Paul O'Neill and others who don't accept “You can't do that!” as answer… and there are many leaders like that at ThedaCare and in the Healthcare Value Network.
We *can* do it if we don't give up and if we change the way we lead…