To the right is the cover of the latest Intel human resources manual – at least it is the manual Andy Grove is writing. When the folks at Intel were given all of those high fallutin’ Best Places To Work awards, they must have been looking only at the engineers – oops – I mean Envisioneers. Factory workers , thanks to Mr. Grove, have been turned into Zombies.
In one of the most ridiculous manufacturing schemes I have ever read about, Intel explains their "Copy Exactly" strategy of optimizing manufacturing. An Intel Plant Manager describes Copy Exactly: "It’s not just [that] there’s a specification or a recipe or a program you put into a machine," he says. "It also is what the human being does and how they interact with the machine."
This is the McDonald’s of manufacturing. It is making McChips – straight from Ray Kroc’s instruction manual. All that remains is for Intel to toss out their "Leap Ahead" slogan and adopt Quality, Service, Value and Friendliness. And they ought to scrap the "Our success depends on talented employees around the world who are passionate about technology. Are you ready to make the most of your mind?" nonsense on their web site while they are overhauling things.
Kroc (that’s him smiling to the left), of course, created Hamburger University, where every detail involved in slapping a piece of meat between two pieces of bread is honed to an art form before it is rolled out for teenagers around the world to duplicate.
Andy Grove and his #2 man, Craig Barrett, must have done a lot of power lunching at McDonald’s to have cooked up Copy Exactly. Only they are not trying to get teenagers under control. Their philosophy is applied to adults.
"Intel Corp., the world’s biggest chip maker, is unique in the way it rolls out new manufacturing methods, perfecting it in a laboratory and then painstakingly duplicating it at factories around the world."
"Under Copy Exactly, researchers spend more than four years perfecting a new manufacturing technique in one of Intel’s development factories in Hillsboro, Ore. Once they are satisfied with the results, they work to meticulously import every last detail to half a dozen or so chip factories around the world."
This scheme is the polar opposite of engaging and involving employees. It stands continuous improvement on its ear. Engineers working in remote laboratories decide everything down to what color gloves the workers will wear to the paint scheme on the walls. Ostensibly it is to be sure they control every variable.
So how’s it working? Andy Grove and Intel neither know nor do they care. (The thoughtful gent to the right is Mr. Grove, the man in charge of the whole scheme.) Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group, says the technique is "rooted in Intel’s corporate culture and there’s no scientific evidence that it gives the company an edge". Translated, this means, "We don’t know if it does any good and we don’t care how degrading it is to our employees to be told to shut off their brains and sleepwalk through their jobs like Zombies, it is just the kind of guys we are.’ Some culture you guys got cookin’ there at Intel.
Intel proudly boasts that they have achieved "pretty good" status as manufacturers. I would think that the journey from ‘pretty good’ to even ‘very good’ will be like climbing Mount Everest in high heels so long as they have disengaged the minds of the entire production workforce. Going all the way to ‘excellent’ or ‘world class’ is out of the question.
"All Intel cares about is that a chip comes out and is electronically the same as every other chip coming out." – Intel philosophy
"It’s the job of Hamburger University to ensure that those results get replicated each day in every country where McDonald’s operates" – McDonald’s philosophy
Can I get fries with those chips, Andy?