Another Week, Another News Roundup


The Worker Shortage Issue

A post at the Lean Accountants cites survey results indicating some 91% of manufacturers are having trouble finding qualified workers. Lots going on to resolve this. Businessweek writes about the resurgence of vocational schools. Lots of publicly funded worker training and re-training programs out there, most of them mediocre at best, but the one in Tacoma seems to be doing a pretty good job.

A professor at Iowa State University, however, is having none of it. When local manufacturers cry about a shortage of skilled welders, Dave Swenson is asking what happened to the thousands of welders who were laid off over the last ten years?

For that matter, if US manufacturing is down some five or six million jobs over the last decades, what happened to all of those folks? How come we can’t convince tem to leave their cushy jobs at Walmart to come back to manufacturing?

Fishing With Dynamite

Great article in the Christian Science Monitor asking what they see as an insightful question (while most business folks would view as a rhetorical question): “Do companies go too far to please their shareholders?” It really hammers on the public companies short term management focus.

“They spin off divisions, buy back shares, and cut costs at the expense of research and development. It's like fishing with dynamite, she says: It gets quick results but spoils the pond.”

Why? ”An LPL Financial analysis found that the average holding period of a stock has fallen from eight years in the 1960s to around five days in 2012.”

The Atlantic writes that “President Obama Wants America to Be Like Germany”, asking “What Does That Really Mean?”

They focus on Germany’s worker training approach, which is certainly impressive, but he might want to consider “a huge factor in Germany's manufacturing and export success lies in its vibrant mittelstand -- those small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) that form the backbone of the economy. Germany has a cornucopia of Fortune 500 companies that are manufacturing leaders -- global brand names like BMW, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Volkswagen, Daimler and BASF -- but what really sets Germany apart is its beehive of small and medium-size businesses.”

The German manufacturing engine has chugged along through the recession, for all practical purposes the rock that is holding the EU together, with that backbone of small and medium sized manufacturers which “have been run by the same family for decades, and companies are often handed down from generation to generation.”

The polar opposite of management by fishing with dynamite to reap short term gains.

Where Are The Jobs?

A couple of interesting charts from the economic development folks in Georgia showing where the manufacturing jobs are – who’s growing and who’s not.

The most interesting point I took from them is that, while California is a manufacturer’s nightmare, it (along with Texas) is still the big dog in manufacturing.

Sending Russia Back to the Good Old Days

Communism is probably going to look better all the time in Russia now that they are getting a taste of General Motors style capitalism. The Russian auto maker, GAZ Group, brought in a guy named Bo Andersson, a former GM purchasing exec, to turn things around.

To date he canned 50,000 workers, stopped taking to suppliers (putting them on a make the numbers relationship instead), and has restored profitability by getting government handouts and bailouts. God help the Russkies.

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