We often deride the short-sighted companies that think of manufacturing workers as simply pairs of hands, and then use traditional accounting methods to justify laying off those workers just to rehire different ones in a different country for a few bucks an hour less. No value is given to what exists above the shoulders… the knowledge, creativity, and experience that generate ideas for improvements. These companies are consigned to spend their existence chasing low labor costs around the globe instead of leveraging the genius of their employees to become fundamentally more competitive by creating more value for their customers.
In a head-scratching turn of events, a different short-sighted management model has reared its ugly head. One where ostensibly intelligence, knowledge, and creativity are highly valued but so narrowly applied that the true potential value is completely lost.
Lockheed Martin notified employees Wednesday that it expects to lay off about 650 Fort Worth plant workers in the first half of 2008, mostly engineers and other technical personnel now working on the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program.
Those are some bright puppies, probably among the smartest guys and gals around. Not only that, but Lockheed has invested some big bucks in security clearances and your tax dollars have paid Lockheed to use them to develop one of the highest tech machines in existence.
The job cutbacks are a sign that progress is being made in the development of the F-35, which is about two years behind its original schedule.
Yep, that’s "progress." So what happens when those brains are no longer needed for that particular program? Why, you wack them of course! And then when you are lucky enough to win another contract you frantically run around trying to hire a new bunch of engineers, have them sit around while security clearances are processed, and teach them your policies, procedures, and development methods. I bet that could put you… about two years behind schedule.
I wonder… yes, I thought so. Lockheed has touted the lean manufacturing efforts at its Fort Worth facility.
To build the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Lockheed Martin engineers just about threw out everything they’ve learned in the past about designing and building fighters.
Well that’s sort of by definition isn’t it? If you layoff the old design crew and then rehire a new group of engineers with each new project, you pretty much throw out everything you’ve learned.
It’s designed for rapid assembly using modular construction. Many of the large sections, such as the wing carry-through box, are produced by suppliers and then assembled into the plane at the Fort Worth facility.
That sounds suspiciously like the "lean supply chain" that Boeing uses on the 787 Dreamliner. We know how well that’s working.
Lean manufacturing initiatives (learned with the F-16, F/A-18 E/F, F/A-22 and the Eurofighter) are reducing the plane’s cost by helping engineers design assembly operations that eliminate waste before construction begins. Other keys to quality for the plane are tight management over each plane version, mistake-proofing for assembly operations, and the use of cellular processes for speed, quality, and waste elimination. Beyond the fundamentals of eliminating waste and reducing costs, lean initiatives for Lockheed Martin were also driven by customer value, since this plane might be sold to other countries worldwide.
Ok, that does sound good. Perhaps the manufacturing side of things will be fairly lean and value-driven. But the design aspects demonstrate a lack of understanding of the "respect for people" second pillar of lean. And that pillar is often the determinant of company success.
Yes, the value of brains is more than just… the brains.