Catching up on the news

Having a good excuse for failure …

In case you missed it, Toyota is closing its operations in Australia, following the lead of Ford and GM (that’s who they mean when they say Holden). Some 2,500 employees are out of a job – close to twenty times that figure when suppliers are added in. “This is devastating news for all of our employees who have dedicated their lives to the company during the past 50 years,” says Max Yasuda who is in charge of Toyota there. A bit of an understatement, I’d say.

And to their credit the big kahuna – Akio Toyoda – went to Australia to tell the workers personally about the huge abandonment of Toyota’s lifetime employment philosophy.

He [Yasuda] blamed the decision on low tariffs, new Free Trade Agreements, the high Australian dollar and above average labour costs.” All true I suppose; but no matter how valid the reasons are, as the saying goes …. Having an explanation for failure – even a very good explanation – is not the same thing as success.

So much for forecasting

Last fall the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that temperatures would be above normal from November through January across much of the Lower 48 states.” That according to an article in BusinessWeek. Anyone living anywhere in the United States north or east of the Grand Canyon knows just how silly that prediction turned out to be. The snow piled up in my yard in Illinois is likely to still be there when next winter starts.

So if these guys with literally billions of dollars in technology dedicated to forecasting can be so wrong, just how is it that so many manufacturers still think they can forecast by SKU by week and be correct enough to feed some MRP engine, instead of driving their business by demand pull?

Lies, damn lies and statistics

That is how Mark Twain once described three categories of falsehood. An article in BusinessWeek titled A Florida Factory Death Reminds Us Why Regulations Exist falls somewhere toward the vilest end of the Twain scale. Not much of a surprise that BusinessWeek would publish an article defending the asurd excesses of US government regulations, but they could have been a tad more honest about it than to feature a manufacturing operation when they write, “Workplace deaths are tragically common: 4,383 workers were killed on the job in the U.S. in 2012, the latest year for which OSHA has data, or about 12 a day. The government’s findings last week add a concrete example to abstract debates about the appropriate level of regulation in free markets.”

In fact, only 314 of those deaths occurred in manufacturing businesses – a paltry 7%. And 66 of the manufacturing deaths were either homicides or traffic accidents. For that matter, 767 of the total work place fatalities were the result of violence – more than three times as many non-violence, non- driving manufacturing deaths.

The article fails to explain how its basic premise – that more OSHA regulation and paper work is a good thing – will prevent some wacko from getting liquored up and gunning down his ex-wife at work. Implying that some absurdly mismanaged Florida manufacturer is representative of manufacturing in total - and that manufacturing is some cesspool of worker death – and therefore government regulation is necessary – is quite clearly in that “damn lies’/statistics realm.

The circle is complete

Chinese manufacturer Lenovo has bought what remains of once mighty Motorola’s cell phone business. The synergy: “Lenovo officials say they can bring low-cost manufacturing, lean operations and a broader product line to the table …”

So the vaunted creators of Six Sigma, and once among the world’s greatest manufacturing powerhouses, have been so consumed by Wall Street that they are now the design wing of a Chinese manufacturer.

Last but not least …

Not news but certainly a philosophy for those pondering a lean transformation to ponder ….Do something

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