In his April 19 letter ``How to create jobs: Try buying American'' on Page 8, Jerry K. Poston urged us to create jobs by buying American.
I applaud his patriotic stance and wish his suggestion was the silver bullet that would reverse our trend as a declining manufacturing power. Unfortunately, it would mean going without many products we enjoy. For example, it would be difficult to purchase an American-made TV regardless of its nameplate. In fact, most American cars contain assemblies and components made elsewhere. Consumers have a tendency to vote with their wallets, and our desire for pursuing value has created the current situation.
In contrast, Roger Renstrom's story [``It takes work to keep manufacturing'' on Page 6] in that same issue, regarding lean manufacturing, provides some very useful insight for those readers who are not in denial.
We are an impatient people and want instant results and immediate solutions to problems that have taken decades to evolve. Although it may be too late for some, the key to creating manufacturing jobs in this country is to learn how to compete, and the best way is to implement the principles of lean manufacturing, or TQM, or kaizen, or any of the previous titles that embraced the 14 points of Dr. Edwards Deming.
My work takes me into many small manufacturers of excellent products that are threatened by offshore competition. Nearly all of them have the perception that this is a recent issue, but the evidence is clear that we have been under attack since the 1980s. It has taken this long to inflict enough pain and damage to have our awareness jogged into action. Sadly, instead of taking positive actions, we tend to fix blame and complain, hoping that someone else will fix the problem for us.
According to Deming, Juran and other quality gurus, the non-value-added cost in most companies in this country is 20-40 percent of the total. My observations have confirmed that estimate in almost every case. The whole idea of TQM/lean/kaizen is to identify and eliminate that waste.
Ask yourself, would I be able to compete globally if I could reduce my manufacturing costs by 20-40 percent? If not, liquidate now before it's too late! If so, get started because it will take awhile and the clock is ticking.
If you don't know how to begin, get some help from those who have made the journey. Don't expect any shortcuts. This is a strategic event and it will require fundamental changes in the way you do business.
Here are some final quotes to ponder: from the old comic strip Pogo - ``We have met the enemy and he is us!'' And from Deming - ``We can do something about our problems or go on as we have been.'' Perhaps we should be doing something other than sitting around and waiting for our luck to change.
COGS Management Resources