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Are they really? People: our most important asset.

"Education. Education. And Education." Those are the three most important words in manufacturing according to the gospel that Harold Wagner, outgoing chairman of the Association of Manufacturing Technology, has been preaching. "The future position of American manufacturing technology in the global market is being determined, right now, today, in all elementary and secondary schools in the towns represented in this room," he told his peers at the AMT annual meeting in November.

Sound simplistic? It's not! For what he's talking about goes beyond what is happening in the school room--it's a societal attitude that impacts the way we run our industrial and business institutions. It has to do with the system's neglect of vocational education; with the lack of respect skilled tradesmen get in our society; with the 25% of Americans who can't even read a want-ad to find a job (let alone complete an application to win one).

It has to do with the lack of training too many US corporations give their existing workforce and their dismal track record of indoctrinating incoming employees; with the way we bring college graduates into the management ranks without first grounding them in the product and process knowledge of what they are supposed to be managing; with the way corporate people-policies continue to parallel the practices of mushroom farmers: keep them in the dark and feed them lots of manure.

How many times have we heard top management utter: "People are our most valuable asset"? Unfortunately, too often the proclamation is lip service rather than reality.

If you doubt the impact of globalization on metalworking and your business, just thumb through this issue of T&P. The cover story details how Mexico is becoming not only a market opportunity, but a threat to siphon work from the US. Our report on Japan tells how that country is working world manufacturing in an unrelenting manner--the Japanese want all the marbles and are in it for the long pull.

Technology and leading-edge equipment may bring short-term advantage. But it is pretty much available to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Lasting advantage can only come from the way you utilize your human resources. As T&P Japan Study Team member David LaForge of Hercules Corp points out, the Japanese have involved workers in the day-to-day operation, permitting them to feel that they are truly an important part of the company decision-making process--and motivating the workers is the key to productivity.

Sure, companies in the US have learned that lesson. For example, in this issue, Timken's Joe Toot tells how his company's key to globalization is educating its employees, and how communities must produce highly-educated people to feed the industrial workforce. But not enough companies are emulating that philosophy. Is there something US companies can learn from another report in this issue? German-based Grob Systems Inc, in setting up manufacturing facilities in Ohio, is investing $70,000 in each of 24 three-year apprentices. That's 27% of its 90-person workforce.

Harold Wagner is right! "If the schools don't do the job (and the US doesn't come to grips with all the ramifications of such a societal deficiency), the country will lose its ability to compete in the global marketplace--and we already have one foot on a slippery slope."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Modic, Stanley J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:544
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