1.04.2010

A New Year Brings "Old" News but New Questions

Shortly before the Christmas holiday, Reuters published an article explaining how U.S. manufacturing companies are discovering and adopting lean methods to compete with plants based in China:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1817274520091218?type=marketsNews

To many of the long-time proponents and advocates of lean initiatives, this article’s headline most likely elicits a sigh and a “So, what else is new? We’ve known that for years!” response. In addition, most would agree that truly incorporating lean methodology transcends a mere “fix” because it should ultimately result in a cultural transformation.

One aspect of outsourced manufacturing that is hardly addressed is the future sustainability and profitably of these specific plants located in China. U.S. manufacturing companies might be outsourcing work and jobs to China, but are any lean principles being outsourced as well? The benefits of outsourcing currently rest solely on very low labor costs – but how long can this situation last? If low labor costs drive the profitably, are these companies not on the road to evolving into the wasteful mass-production facilities like many U.S. plants of the 20th century?

I always enjoy reading about an organization’s adoption of lean principles and the results gained, but, unfortunately, most of these initiatives in the U.S. are reactive responses to a downturn or crisis. Methods and techniques are implemented and initial results can be compelling, but often these initiatives plateau with measurable decreases in waste and never reach the level of a companywide transformation. In China, it appears these plants are perfect greenfields for lean culture, but will the leaders of these companies take heed? Should they? Please share your perspective.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleague Ralph Bernstein for the outstanding work he’s done writing and steering this blog for more than three years. His entries were not only insightful, but quite thought-provoking and entertaining. I wish him the best in his pursuits.

3 comments:

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aminos lahragui said...



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