It's hard to believe another year has gone by. And while many of us get a little nostalgic around the holidays, this is not the time to become complacent, especially if you're involved in manufacturing. Yes, it's true that our industry as we knew just 10 yr ago is radically different. However, the changes have led to greater productivity and improved quality. All we need to do is open our eyes to the world of technology to see how much more is being accomplished in a shorter timespan and with fewer people.
Yet, we still have our fair share of self-proclaimed manufacturing gurus and prestigious consulting firms telling us that the decay of the American work ethic coupled with the failure to set up production facilities in countries like China and India will lead to manufacturing extinction in the U.S.
For example, I recently read an article in the Washington Post concerning a report issued by the Boston Consulting Group. This report predicts that companies failing to move facilities offshore will be caught in a vicious cycle of uncompetitive costs, lost business, underutilized capacity, and irreversible destruction of value.
This influential consulting firm, which counts among its clients many of the biggest corporations in the U.S., admonishes these firms for being reluctant to outsource production to low-cost countries.
This is bad enough, but what I find even more irritating is information in the report concerning confidential discussions with the firm's client companies, which convey low opinions of American employees compared with labor available abroad. In particular, it finds factory workers in low-cost countries to be much cheaper and quicker to achieve quality levels that are equivalent to or even higher than the best plants in the West. The report also claims that midlevel managers in low-cost countries tend to be more motivated than midlevel managers in the West. And because of this, major corporations are setting up research and development centers in both China and India to leverage the substantial pools of engineering talent based there.
In my opinion, American manufacturers and workers deserve more than this. I have to wonder how many of these consultants ever worked in a manufacturing facility. If it weren't for U.S. manufacturers' willingness to invest in technology and a dedicated pool of American workers who, time after time, took the high road of hard work and long hours, this country would not have achieved the greatness it enjoys today.
So, as we enter into this holiday season, we can't become complacent with our achievements. We need to show our backyard critics as well as the rest of the world that U.S. manufacturing is far from being extinct.