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Help us help you communicate

We have long ago tired of hearing about the slow rate of productivity improvement in US manufacturing. Surely everyone has gotten the word by now, and we're well on our way to doing things right. After all, we have all this newly-developed technology to throw at the problem. Just put high tech on the shop floor, and our productivity woes will be solved. Won't they?

No, it's not that simple according to what many of you are telling us in response to the survey that accompanied the first installment of our Survive-85 series in April. We are now tabulating the quantitative portions of the survey, and Gene Sprow will present a complete report in our September issue.

Your candid responses caught our attention. What you're telling us is that the technology is there, but management initiative to install and use it isn't. Moreover, in many cases, management isn't listening to the best problemsolving source they have--the people on the shop floor. You have faced the problems for so long, but have become frustrated with management's indifference or unwillingness to take action.

Back in the '60s, we talked about productivity in terms of automating labor out of manufacturing. The emphasis was on the mechanics of worker/machine efficiency. This approach often ignored effective use of resources, had little regard for innovation, believed product quality could be instilled by edict, and felt that quality of work life was a socialist plot. All focus was, and to a great extent is, on the short term.

Fierce foreign competition and a tremendous loss of markets knocked the US out of its leading manufacturing position. Some of the fallout has been a flood of how-to books--written by consultants, academicians, and even managers--all with prescriptions for management's faults. Most point out the need to first recognize problems, then plan long-range solutions.

If we read your survey responses correctly, though, you are observing a management mindset that prevents innovative problem solving, which is being aggravated by an organizational hierarchy that doesn't allow effective communication of ideas. American upper management still preaches, "I think, you do.'

Meanwhile, your foreign competition's top brass emphasizes, "I plan, but you think because I won't tell you what to do.' Responsibility for making things work is handled on the shop floor.

You, our readers, are in the manufacturing business. We are in the communications business. More of you should communicate with us. Send us your thoughts about what's needed to put US industry back in world-class shape. We can help you be heard.

If you want a copy of the Survive-85 premise "The challenge of saving our jobs and industries,' which includes the survey, circle E18.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:how to improve productivity in US manufacturing
Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1985
Words:449
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