When I write anything about Bush, Obama, Congress or the EPA a great wailing begins from some readers that they are not interested in politics - urging me to stick to lean. For those who struggle to see the nexus between Washington, DC and lean manufacturing, or between environmentalism and lean, try this one on for size:
Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio is pushing something called the IMPACT Act– Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology. It will, among other things, more than triple the funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships – the MEPs - but redirect their efforts from lean manufacturing to focusing on helping "manufacturers access clean energy markets and adopt innovative, energy-efficient manufacturing technologies". The good Senator is shooting to give the MEPs an additional $300 million a year for this effort – a pretty nice increase over the $120 million the Senator and his cronies gave them for their core mission – lean manufacturing.
For those who may have been living in a cave and are unaware, the MEPs are the meagerly funded – embarrassingly under-funded – backbone of lean manufacturing in the United States. They are the front line out there in all fifty states teaching the fundamentals of lean to thousands of manufacturers. The Bush administration tried to kill them off completely – twice. The Obama administration has kept them alive – with less money than was budgeted for new office furniture for the Department of Homeland Security.
And now the Democrats in Washington finally want to fund the MEPs – because the only use for factories they can see is "to put our existing manufacturing sector to work, and to scale up to meet the new demand created by the cap and trade program, is to have a dedicated source of funding for investments in component manufacturing,” according to Mr. Phil Angelides. And how, you ask, is Phil Angelides? He is the chairman of an organization called Apollo Alliance – the lobby that actually wrote the bill for the good Senator. His claim to fame is that he was California State Treasurer from 1999 to 2007. You all know how well the treasury of the State of California fared on his watch. The Apollo Alliance is a collection of labor unions, radical environmentalists and liberal Democrats. And they are writing legislation to kill the MEPs and break the back of lean manufacturing.
So we get Cap and Trade to raise manufacturing costs by an estimated 20%, and our manufacturing base redirected to support it by 'producing clean energy technologies', instead of what their customers want.
If this goes through, your local MEP won't have the funds to teach your people the ins and outs of kanban or kaizen, but they will be fully staffed to provide the technical support you need to manufacture wind turbine blades. Is that connection between the environmental full court press from Washington and lean manufacturing direct enough?