Lots of strange and interesting news this week … thought I'd share some of it for those who have been too busy working for a living to spend hours surfing the net for it.
In the Relevance Lost category …
The Nobel Prize for economics was awarded, and met by the world with a resounding yawn. Two Americans and a Brit were given the prize for their advanced thinking on unemployment. Now giving the world's most prestigious economics award to a handful of mainstream economists strikes me as akin to giving an engineering award to the guys who designed the Titanic for their success in making lifeboats that didn't sink. What made it such a non-event, however, is that the theories they won the prize for revolved around their breakthrough thinking into the causes of perpetual unemployment. Seems as though the Swedes who hand out the prize were awestruck by these guys figuring out that there are unemployed people and open jobs at the same time because (1) the unemployed people don't always know about all of the jobs open in the United States at any given time; and (2) those jobs might not be anywhere near where they live; and (3) they might not be qualified for the jobs. If the Swedes really wanted to know that, they could have saved the million dollars in prize money and asked any one of a hundred guys in any bowling alley in Topeka, Kansas who would have told them the same thing for the price of a beer.
From One Extreme To Another
The gamut of American business was never more apparent than the news of this week. The whole world was thrilled to see the Chilean miners come out of the ground safe and sound. They did so thanks to a big drilling rig called a T-130 made by a Pennsylvania company called Schramm, with the business end – the massive drill bits – made by another Pennsylvania outfit called Center Rock. Schramm is a committed lean company … should come as no big surprise to anyone that a company committed to customers and steeped in lean thinking made America proud to be a part of such a great story.
Not much more embarrassing than the entire American tomato industry. The entire membership of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange sounds like a bunch of folks who would have been an abomination back in the worst of the sweatshop days. "Since 1997, the Justice Department has prosecuted seven operations that allegedly abused hundreds of workers in Florida and elsewhere. All seven prosecutions ended with plea agreements or convictions and prison time." It is hard to figure out how the same country can spawn inspiration folks like the boys at Schramm, and guys like Reggie Brown – the Tomoto people's spokesman who sounds like a throwback to the 1950's countering allegations of abusive management with scare talk about how all American business should rally behind his employers lest they come under attack too. I don't think the Schramm folks – or the leaders of any lean company - aretoo worried about the DOJ or anyone else coming after them for such absurd abuses of people.
A Glimmer of Hope
Mary Andringa from Vermeer Corp in Pella, Iowa has been named chair of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Vermeer is about as lean as a manufacturer can be. Th Toyota folks who want to get back to their core principles would do well to visit Vermeer for a refresher. There must be something in the water in Pella – the company named after the town is equally impressive. Leading NAM, however, may be too much to ask. It has long been neutered by big companies more committed to China and the pursuit of cheap labor than to manufacturing excellence, and the big lobbying group is just as often the enemy of committed, domestic manufacturing as it is a proponent. If anyone can right the NAM ship, however, Mary can.
Good News for Us
In spite of the truth of PT Barnum's tenet that a sucker is born every minute, the big time operators at places like Deloitte Touche and the like are running out of clients to trash, so they are taking the show on the road. God help the poor Indian and Chinese manufacturers who have been blissfully thinking that manufacturing is about making stuff when these guys arrive.
Grandma Was Right
My grandmother used to tell me that "fools' names and fools' faces often appear in public places". Any doubt concerning her wisdom can be dispelled by watching this interview on New Zealand television, or by reading this article in the New Zealand Business Review.
Have a great weekend!