So that's our mission here. To assemble many thoughts that will collectively help give you insight into the future of manufacturing management--anticipating the challenges ahead.
Manufacturing will soon be taking on new meaning. We're moving into an information society. As John Naisbitt points out in Megatrends, "We now mass-produce information the way we used to mass-produce cars. In the information society, we have systematized the production of knowledge and amplified our brainpower. To use an industrial metaphor, we now mass-produce knowledge and this knowledge is the driving force of our economy." Managing the factory of the future
Clearly, the manager of the future will be inundated by information. Even overshadowing the volume of data being generated by all those computer data bases in both the office and the factory is the incredible bulk of information available today offering to tell managers how to do their jobs better.
Alvin Toffler's Future Shock started it all back in the '60s. His latest book, Previews and Premises, has an excellent chapter on the future of work. It suggests new levels of involvement between manager and worker.
As usual, he's not optimistic. "Today's crisis is not like any preceding depression. It's not 1933 all over again. It arises from totally different reasons, and if we are to combat it, we need to recognize what's distinctive about it."
What's distinctive for us in manufacturing is that the nature of work has been transformed. "We all know how miserable fractionalized factory work was--and still is. This factory style of work was even transferred into the office. Each person does a tiny repetitive task, without any sense of its relationship to the whole, without any pride of skill or craft, without any opportunity for discretion or creativity. But it is precisely these jobs--these forms of dehumanized work--that are drying up." Don't just automate, humanate
So what should we do? Replies Toffler, "The key to the future of work is the recognition that routine, repetitive, fragmented work is no longer efficient. It is already outmoded in the high-technology nations. Those kinds of jobs will continue to decline, no matter what companies, unions, and governments do.
"Not long ago, I was standing in the assembly area of a Silicon Valley computer company. It was typical of demassified production. The physical surroundings were clean and quiet. The assembly room was bright and cheerful, the workbenches cluttered with plants, family photos, and memorabilia. Workers had small radios and sometimes Walkman stereo units.
"Instead of performing one small task over and over again, these assemblers each performed many complex operations and tests on a very small number of units each day. There was no mechanical assembly line at all.
"In Second Wave (older) industries, you're getting layoffs and wage cuts, deferred benefits, tighter and tighter pressures on the worker. In Third Wave (the newest) industries, the talk is all about employee participation in decision making; about job enlargement and enrichment, instead of fractionalization; about flextime instead of rigid hours, about cafeteria-style fringe benefits that give employees a choice, rather than a fait accompli; about how to encourage creativity rather than blind obedience."
Does this mean a new worker? "The Third Wave worker is more independent, more resourceful, no longer an appendage of the machine. Typically, (he's) a worker with skills or specialized knowledge. And like the artisan before the industrial revolution, who owned a kit of hand tools, the new 'mind-workers' have skills and information that amount to a kit of 'head-tools.' They own the 'means of production' in a way that unskilled factory workers never could.
"They are more interchangeable than assembly-line hands. They are younger and better educated. They detest routine. They want to be left alone by the boss to get the job done their own way. They want a say. They are used to change, ambiguity, flexible organization. They represent a new force, and their numbers are growing." Seven ways to lose your job
Toffler explains that there are now seven distinct kinds of unemployment, and they will require different solutions:
* Structural unemployment as old, traditional industries collapse or relocate in places like Thailand or Mexico.
* Trade-related unemployment as world markets are upset.
* Technological unemployment as workers are displaced by automation and productivity.
* Normal unemployment, purely local or regional, from local overproduction or shifts in consumer preferences.
* Frictional unemployment, the temporary joblessness of people shifting jobs, responding to accelerating rates of change.
* Informational unemployment, as jobs become more complex and less interchangeable, and we fail to match the skill to the task.
* Iatrogenic unemployment, which he defines as unintended unemployment resulting from stupid government policies, often those moves intended to increase employment.
As Toffler explains, "I could list many more streams of unemployment, all of them crisscrossing and overlapping. My point is that this isn't a single problem. There are many interwoven problems, and the complexity is enormous."
And the worst of these seven deadly diseases, he feels, is structural unemployment. Unfortunately, the training that could help put the structurally displaced back into productive society is very complicated. "We don't know how to do it well. And it is likely to be very expensive. Yet, it will be a lot cheaper than simply throwing these workers onto the slag heap and subsidizing their permanent retirement."
This is not simply a matter of robots to the rescue. "To transform successfully, companies or industries have to do a lot of other things as well. They have to restructure themselves organizationally. They have to learn to treat their employees as individuals. They have to customize their products and distribution. They have to contract out more. They have to re-evaluate vertical integration--increasingly, it's a losing strategy. They have to move to smaller units, to more employee participation. There are a whole lot of things that will be needed for survival, not just robots." Automation futures: robots = cars?
Marvin Cetron, president, Forecasting International Inc, Arlington, VA, has an interesting theory about the future of two of the most important automation ingredients: cars and robots. "Take a look at General Motors. When GM got involved with Fujitsu Fanuc in 1979, Fanuc was the eighth largest robot manufacturer in the world. Now GAF Robotics is close to fourth, and they expect by 1990 to be the third largest manufacturer of industrial robots, and that's where the big market is going to be. They hope to be the largest manufacturer of robots in the world by the year 2000.
"This means that the robot industry will become as large as the automobile industry. Most people get scared when we talk about this basic point--that the robot will cost the same amount of money as a car. One robot in 1990 will cost about $5000 (in present dollars), about the same as a small, stripped compact car." Who's in charge, man or machine?
One of the key automation issues today is the design of the machine on the shop floor. Should it use the man's talents or not? Art Shoftak is a professor of sociology, Drexell University, and adjunct sociologist of the AFL-CIO George Meany Center for Labor Studies in Maryland. He told us, "The elimination of dehumanizing occupations will be very beneficial. We have watched automation move in on the dangerous jobs; the extremes of temperature, exposures to harsh processes, radiation, etc. Soon there will be no need for any individual with drive and ability to continue in a job that is boring or repetitious when that job can be automated."
Otto Kern, group vice president, Ex-Cell-O Corp, Troy, MI, is a leading machine-tool supplier and he agrees, "The manufacturing process must get more automated, which means taking the human element out of the process. You still need people involved, but you will be substituting one class of people for another. You will need programmers and different skills, but not necessarily any less people."
Marvin Cetron disagrees. "The trend today has been away from what I learned in the '40s and '50s when I was in engineering school--that the machine is an adjunct to the person, that it works for the person. Now, all of sudden, it's the other way around, the person is part of the machine. And that is wrong] Eventually, I hope this will swing back to re-emphasizing the person, when we get more artificial intelligence built into the machine and people can start controlling more of what goes on."
Quality-of-worklife proponent Irving Bluestone, formerly a UAW leader at GM, also feels that things have gone too far. "The reality is management places little trust in the worker. So little is the worker trusted to produce a quality product that management devises innumerable complicated quality-control systems to oversee the job--the more complex the system, the greater the pride on management's part over its ingenuity in monitoring the worker and the product. Let us face it, management places more trust in the machine than in the worker, and therein lies one reason that over the years, the worker has become more an adjunct of the tool than its master."
"In the future," explains IITRI's Keith McKee, director, Manufacturing Productivity Center, "routine judgment calls will be done by computer. The Japanese philosophy is to introduce technology to reduce human error. We are drifting to the situation where ultimately the only thing man will do is design machines and overview them for the quirks that might arise. Of course, maintenance will be required for a long, long time into the future, as will be the diagnosing of problems and the correcting of errors.
"The Japanese have tended to use more machines in order to keep the man busy, while we have tended to keep the machines busy and let the man sit idle. The Japanese will assign a man more machines than one man can really tend, assuming it is better to have a machine idle than a man idle. While we haven't done a very good job of it, our goal has been to keep the machines busy and use the man as a servant of the machine. That Japanese worker also has the goal of trying to make as many of the repairs to his machines as he can, where if we tried that in some of our plants, that would create a strike in a matter of minutes." New management equations
Some are predicting that automation will have more of an initial effect on the office than in the factory. But Ex-Cell-O's Otto Kern warns, "I was in one of our plants not too long ago that has the most beautiful office-information system, but we still had 30-year-old equipment producing parts. My question for them was, 'What the hell are we actually doing here" Producing parts or producing paper?' Office automation is a fairly simple thing to do. It doesn't matter whether you have a dentist's office, motel, or manufacturing office: it's the same type of automation. But factory automation is an entirely different story]"
"But social patterns will change in the office of the future," warns Walter Hahn, senior specialist in science, technology, and futures research, Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. "There will be fewer reasons to move around the immediate office and building. We will see in office workers the boredom and adverse reactions in health and attendance that we now see in highly automated factories? What novel excuse will be invented to meet that new person on the fifth floor?
"Social technologies lag hard technology by many generations. The lack of adequate social technologies may have even more impact on the nature of work in the 21st century than the consequences of the rapid and ubiquitous information technologies."
M S (Rick) Richardson, vice president and general manager, Factory Automation Products, General Electric Co, Charlottesville, VA, adds an important point. "I've been involved in businesses that have taken significant amounts of their engineering out of the minds of their engineers and into computers. After a few years go by, the engineers with all that experience retire or transfer to other positions. One day you wake up and nobody understands what's in that computer. So most of the businessmen I know take great care to keep a cadre of skill and expertise so you could recreate that information at any time. If you don't, you will live to regret it]"
Another basic change necessary in management thinking is pointed out by Marvin Cetron. "What we have to realize as a country is that we can't go the Harvard Business School bottom-line, bottom-line approach. We must agree that that's wrong. With the bottom line foremost, you don't fund research and development, you don't fund education, and you don't fund training, because they all have long-term payoffs. Our competitors overseas are funding these damn things] We have to learn that these things have got to be taken care of] That's why I think that an industrial engineer ahs a better background to manage a plant than a business person coming out of Harvard Business School."
John Naisbitt agrees. "Not one American corporation in ten has truly long-term (six to ten years) compensation plans for its executives, and year-end bonuses are almost universally larger than long-term incentives. As economist Lester Thurow asks, 'What short-term CEO will take a long-run view when it lowers his own income? Only a saint, and there aren't very many saints."
Ex-Cell-O's Kern adds another key change ahead, "Management in the past has paid too much attention to direct-labor costs. But when you look at the end cost of a product, you'll find that direct-labor cost is only 15 to 20 percent. Among the other significant factors that enter in are our high interest rates for the last couple of years. Overhead and material costs must be looked at more closely. And analyzing material costs brings up the question of whether you should use raw material or finished parts and components that include labor." Consultive or participative management?
Otto Kern, like many top management people today, feels that participative management's time has come. "Depending on the type of participative management involved, we certainly will have to get our people more involved. In the past, we have had a tendency to manage by edict, and that's not going to work in the future. We've got to get people interested in their jobs again and we've got to have them participate in the decision. We've got to start using them as a resource."
Irving Bluestone contrasts the changing views of management by citing the autocratic practices of the elder Henry Ford--no women workers allowed; men who smoke or drank, or were divorced were unwelcome; and a spy system reported on workers' personal living and social habits--with the more modern GM statement that "We must increase an employee's satisfaction with his job, heighten his pride in workmanship, and involve him personally in decisions that relate directly to his job."
Bluestone agrees with those who feel that the concept of participation in the decision-making process is fundamental to the democratic way of life, the lifeblood of our society. "The worker as citizen makes decisions on numerous critical issues that affect his family and his community. He chooses political leaders and retains the right to throw them out of office. But in the workplace, he must obey orders."
Marvin Cetron cautions. "This participative management business is for the birds] A quick study was made by the National Science Foundation's productivity group and the Bureau of Standards. They found that the companies that failed in hthis recent recession in 1980-1982 had three very different forms of management: authoritarian, participative, and consultive.
"The highest number of failures was in authoritarian companies where the polisy is 'do this and don't ask me any damned questions]' The next highest failure group was participative, the Japanese model, where everybody votes on what you're going to do. You may well have a good-spirited company, but the productivity figures don't show it, and when everyone is in charge, no one is really in charge. The best group, the consultive group, works fast. Their philosophy is call the people in, talk to them, get their information, and make your own decision."
Explains IITRI's Keith McKee, "Automation is changing the work force. The skilled workers and technicians in the future will be handling million-dollar pieces of equipment regularly. So it will be a different mix of people.
"So if you're serious about participative management, you must include everybody from the janitor up to the company president. You will want to get people involved let them know what's going on, and get their help so that you can introduce new technology and make changes. The problem with getting them involved is usually not the people on the shopfloor, but the people in middle management. Supervisors and managers are being dragged in by the heels and it's changing their world. Some of their responsibility is being given to the worker." No future for the man in the middle?
Warns Marvin Cetron, "The future of middle management is going to be a problem. Soon the guy at the top can look at the computer screen and get all the information that the guys at the bottom have put in. Middle management is going to get crunched, and the organizational pyramid will become short and fat instead of tall and pointy."
John Naisbit agrees. "The computer will smash the pyramid. We created the hierarchical, pyramidal, managerial system because we needed it to keep track of people and things people did. With the computer to keep track, we can restructure our institutions horizontally."
Otto Kern sees much less of a displacment effect. "Our management structures have had too many layers of management, and yes, some of those layers will disappear. But I do not think that the number of people in middle management will shrink significantly. We have to have better communications from the top of the organization down to the bottom, and the more layers, the worse these communications get. "The answer is not simply electronic communications. All these management information systems are fine and dandy, but the end result in my experience is that the computer doesn't produce one single piece of product. It gives you information, but it doesn't really to information, but it dosn't really do anything. You will still need people to accomplish anything."
Adds IITRI's Keith McKee, "There will to be a lot less routine middle management. As the worker assumes more responsibility, you ought to be able to have supervisor control a lot more people because they will be relieved of much detailwork. You will always need someone to review shop-floor inputs and explain them to upper management.
"So you will still need the middle manager, but instead of 10 people reporting to him, you might see 30. Instead of a half dozen strawbosses in charge of each little corner of the shop, you'll see one guy in charge of the whole area."
GE's Richardson basically agrees. "I don't see a lesser role for middle management in the future. They are going to have to be even broader and more effective than in the past, and the people issues come into even sharper focus. The more technology--the more automation, the more new systems you put in place--the bigger job that middle management has in making people understand the constant need to communicate what you're doing, why you're doing it, and what's going to happen to the worker. This role gets bigger, not smaller." Rapping with the workers
Rich Richardson is a good example of the modern executive who keeps in constant touch with his work force on all levels. "I believe that a very high percentage of what a management needs to know is in the minds of the people at every level, and a great part of our task is tog et to those people on a regular basis so they have an avenue to communicate their ideas. They're not always right, but they're always sincere and trying to do the right thing. They want us todo the right thing. Over the years, I've had a lot of luck by getting deep into the organization at every level and giving people an opportunity to tell me what they think I ought to know. Not just me, but the rest of the management.
"With this experience in former assignments, I started the same thing when I came here to Charlottesville--a whole series f what I call 'rap sessions.' We take 25 to 30 people on a once-a-week basis, starting with the exempt and nonexempt people, have lunch with them, spend a couple of hours nad respond to their questions about the business.
"Their questions make very strong inferences to what's going on, and what they think should be happening. This is very, very useful. They have a mountain of detailed information that management needs to know, and they are just waiting desperately for somebody to listen and do something about it.
"Again, they're not always right. Yet you have no difficulty going back to hem later--if they've given you what they thought was a good idea--and saying 'Look, we've evaluated that and it's not really a good idea and here are some good reasons why it isn't.' They usually don't have any problem with that. What's important is that management listened and acted.
"So we're trying to bring that spirit of communiction into Charlottesville, a relatively new operation, that's only been going to 2 1/2 years. So far, the results are pretty good. Downstream from this, we expect to have quality circles, monthly and weekly meetings on the shop floor on a cross-functional basis, all going on in parallel. We're trying for a participatory kind of style.
"Somebody asked me once what kind of a manger I am: autocratic, participative, tight-reined, loose-reined, etc? My answer was 'yes." You've got to be all those things] The workers are not ready for a totally participative situation, and they don't want to be managers. They just want to have a voice]
"And it can't be a passive sort of thing. If you go out and ask somebody what they think you ought to do about something, then you better listen and evaluate it and then close the loop. You've got tog et back to them] Otherwise, you're just blowing smoke." New percs for the masses
Jerome M Rostow is president of Work in American Institute inc. He sees a new reordering of reward priorities. "At the top of the list of critical issues today is pay policies." He sees an increase in pay systems that reward and differentiate groups--beyond basic individual pay scales--to reinforce group cooperation, sustained, effort, and teamwork. Wage and hour pay systems will move to annual salary plans to eliminate class differences and confirm income continuity. Executive-type incentives (stock options, performance bonuses, etc) will move down the corporate ladder to middle management and professional people.
"To assure the validity of these incentives," he feels, "pay policymakers will attempt to assure that your net take-home pay is not eroded by inflation and taxes. Company-sponsored thrift and savings plans will expand to include investment options, education and housing loans, income-sheltering plans, as well as traditional stock-purchase and secondary pension plans." Leveraging the nonexempt GE's Richardson has an idea for boosting worker productivity. "At our Erie locomotive works, we had a small army of nonexempt workers. The only sin those good people ever committed was to do exactly what managemetn asked them to do-- and do it very well.
"There is a significant difference between the nonexempt and professional population. When an exempt professional works an hour at any given task, the chances are very good that you can leverage their output significantly. Fifteen to 20 times, and once in aawhile, maybe 200 times.
"But the nonexempt people who do their prescribed tasks correctly give you only the expected result, never any more. If they did it incorrectly and made an error, you had an adverse consequence. We struggled a lot figuring out how we could leverage the output of the nonexempt work force.
"The answer, not surprisingly, was to get them involved in the new technologies. We started getting them involved in using personal computers, in word processing, in computer technology with respect to process planning, and in a whole lot of hte kinds of activities that are ultimately going to have a significant impact on cost levels in our business." Let's give QC back to the worker
GE's Richardson has another good idea. "Quality-control people, particularly the inspection people, are a whole army of workers that actually make a negative contribution, as far as I'm concerned. Sure they identify errors made upstream and keep bad products from getting in the hands of the customer. But, it would be much better to give that trust and responsibility to the operator.
"In our Grove City operation, where we make diesel engines, we worked hard to put the QC responsibility in the hands of the operator; by training them what was good, what was bad, and how to tell the difference. And we made certain they had the tools available to make those determinations. We even gave them the responsibility to shut the whole plant down if something was out of control and couldn't be brought back into control quickly]
"For this country, that was a rather marked change and dislocation. I don't know yet how that's going to work, but am betting that it will work well. Those workers are now so damn proud and dedicated, once we gave them a chance, that they want to make sure that they win, and that we, the management, win. There's not going to be any need for inspectors in that operation.
"This doesn't mean that there doesn't need to be a lot of quality planning. It's my judgment that you don't need to have an army of inspectors if we give the workers credit for being responsible and involved people. This may not seem surprising to you and me, but it sure is to a lot of people in this country."
Marvin Cetron agrees on this one. "People on the job floor are going to all become quality-control people, knowing whta their machine should do, whether it's doing it properly right now, and able to work with the machine to make it happen." Will we see future growth?
The future is always difficult to predict. What will happen to the overall YS economy? What will be the influence of future presidents and political maneuvers? Will we see a return to the growth years of the '50s and '60s? Who knows? Well, Marvin Cetron, for one, is willing to take a stab at foretelling such basic economic factors an inflation rate (as tough as any). "The inflation rate will be stable and stay at about the 5 to 6 percent level right up to the year 2000."
Is that realistic and does that mean you're an optmist? "I'm basically a realist and when I look at the data I become optimistic. We will live longer because of the medical advances I see coming. We will work shorter work hours, yet have more of everything for everybody. The world's going to be better. People are realizing there's no such thing as a free lunch.
"One of the brightest things in our future is that our kids today are becoming more like their parents than even their own older brothers and sisters are. They are not looking for something for nothing. They now think it's cool to do well in school, that it's chick to make money, that it's not wrong to contribute to the group and work for long-range, delayed goals. They are even starting to dance holding each other instead of jumping around next to each other. They've rediscovered beer with a vengence, and are off the really hard drugs. They're even back to one-on-one relationships in sex.
"I think they're now more conservative. Before, their philosophy was 'Hell, I'm not going to live long, the bomb's going to drop, I may as well have casual sex, hang out with groupies, etc.'"
Otto Kern is one of those who are worried now, but are basically optimistic about our future. "I do not think a country like the US can get along without manufacturing or manufacturing skills. Certainly, basic industries like steel will suffer and change, but they will survive. We need them]
"Things are always changing. The most radical change we've seen int he past 10 to 15 years is the power of the computer. We have this tool available, and we are not using it yet to its fullest extent. Some of the opportunity has run away from us. We have got to learn how to use these things, and not just to create paper."
Rick Richardson is more optimistic. "The answer is to get back to the basic values of the free-enterprise systems: risk takers will be rewarded, there will b e growth and more growth as costs become lower, and that fosters more growth. It's the departure from those values that caused a lot of our problems.
"Just 15 years ago the Japanese were coming over here in a never-ending stream, trying to figure out what we were doing. We don't have to lose to them] They don't have any magic. What they have is a culture that says they must import everything they use, nad they must export to survive. They know they must offer low cost and high value, and they have paid a tremendous amount of attention to all the details to make that happen.
"All we have to do is get a similar sense of national purpose that understands those basic issues. We don't have to roll over. I don't suggest that it will be easy, and if i were running one of our automotive companies, I'd be spending one helluva lot of time working with those problems."
It was 1934. In Washington, DC, President Roosevelt fixed the price of gold at $35/oz, and Congress passed legislation creating the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It was the year of the dust bowl. Throughout the country, we were struggling to recover from the depths of the Great Depression. The New Deal policies gave many a sense of optimism, but their effects were yet to be felt by most. Some industries could now foresee a reutrn to prosperity. Others had not yet found the bottom.
In Chicago, John Dillinger was shot by Federal agents as he emerged from the Biograph Theatre. In Louisiana, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were slain in an ambush. Off the New Jersey coast, the ocean-liner Morro Castle caught fire and 135 lives were lost. In New York, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the 1932 kidnap-murder of the infant Charles A Lindberg Jr.
In Scotland, the world's largest passenger lner, the Queen Mary, was launched. The Graf Zeppelin was making regular trans-Atlantic crossings. A trip by train was made from Los Angeles to New York in a record 56 hr, 55 min.
In Germany, Hitler was named Reichsfuehrer. Got any work?
For a whole generation of American workers, it was an anxious and troubling time. Young people looking for jobs were less concerned with career goals than survival. There were few jobs around.
Plants tried to cope. John Herron recalls how it was at Sundstrand Machine Tool in Rockford, IL. "When things were slow, all the married men worked a full week, and those of us who weren't, worked only three days. Nobody minded. Everyone knew that hte other fellows were supporting families."
Also in Rockford, Don Branning had given up hope of finding a job, so he went to the post office for an application to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. On te way home, he stopped at the Ingersoll Milling Machine Tool Co to see his uncle. "He told me about a new apprentice program and asked if I was interested and of course I was. It paid 22.5[/hr."
Art Nichol's two brothers worked at General Electric, Lynn, MA, when he hired on in an apprentice program. "We worked on 8-hr day, then traveled to MOT for 3 hr of night school, with lots of homework. Things were slow in the industry, but we had the feeling things were definitely getting better."
Many firms were feeling their way slowly on a contract-by-contract basis. Bob Russell worked at Boeing in Seattle. "We were hired on when contracts came in, typically two to three months at a time. We worked seven days a week and got off early at 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The pay ran from 60[ to 85[/hr which was very good at that time. They didn't pay overtime, but there was an old Greek restaurant nearby and, if you worked late, the company bought you your dinner."
Otto Luttrell worked for Caterpillar Tractor in East Peoria, IL. "Things were the toughest in 1932, then they got better. The reason was the tremendous demand for diesel engines, which Cat had just started to mass produce. Economy was everything in those days, and diesel fuel was less than half the price of regular gas." Walking the plant floor
Despite the Depression, many plants were adopting more modern production methods. While line shafts and cone pulleys were still common, most major corporations were purchasing individually motorized machine tools.
Carl Habel of GM's Delco-Remy Div says, "The Anderson, IN, plant was modern by the standards of the day. I started there in 1930. We tried new ways of doing things, as much as we could. The components moved through the generator assembly line on a conveyor belt; these were relatively small components. There were some automatic operations; for example, we spray painted generators while they rotated on the conveyor. Our basic criteria was payback--we tried to recover any investment in one or two years."
Charlie Brundle describes the Chevrolet plant, Flint, MI: "The plant had some very modern ideas for stamping sheet metal. As you walked down the line, you'd see them stamping hoods, front fenders, rear fenders, and then small parts. All the scrap dropped into a conveyor that ran the length of the plant, taking everything to a baler where it was pressed into 2-ft-sq cubes and dropped automatically into railroad cars. At that time I was in plant layout, and we were converting the big presses to air clutches."
Don Branning notes, "Ingersoll was extremely concerned with modernization. Every six months everything in the plant would be washed down. Age stripes were placed on all equipment, and very little of it was over 15 years old. All machines had individual motors."
Some things were not ready yet for mechanization. "We had to move lathe and milling-machine parts on hand carts," John Herron recalls. "This was particularly hard because some of them were very big and heavy. Everyone you met along the way would help you push."
"At Boeing," Bob Russell notes, "We had different methods of assembly for different planes. For our fabric-covered planes, the wings were made separately upstairs in the loft, and brought downstairs to attach to the plane. Mr Boeing was a perfectionist. He felt that there was only one correct way to bend a cotter pin. I've always thought that that spirit is what makes Boeing keep looking for the best way to do things." The beginning of employee benefits
Most industries were establishing better working conditions and safer industrial atmospheres. The three 8-hr shift day was becoming the norm, although working extra hours without compensation was common. Starting times varied widely. Chevy Flint started at 6:30 AM, GE (Lynn) and Caterpillar at 7:00, and Sundstrand at 8:00.
Although the automobile was becoming a more familiar sight, most people lived close enough to their work to walk or take the streetcar. Charlie Brundle made enough money during a big retooling project in 1931 to buy a new 1932 fourdoor Chevrolet sedan for $525. He recalls, "Except for supervisors, there were no parking lots for employees. The supervisors parked inside the plant grounds, but everyone else parked on the street."
Between starting time and lunch, breaks were generally not permitted. You could get fired at Boeing for eating something in the plant if it wasn't lunchtime. Many plants forbade smoking anywhere in the factory, and as a result, many men chewed tobacco. GE Lynn insisted that employees use cardboard spittoons. The auto plants did allow smoking, except for restricted areas.
This was before the employee cafeteria, so most people brought their lunch. The younger unmarried men living in boardinghouses often brought box lunches they bought from streetcorner vendors. Lunch break was usually a half hour, which made it hard to dash out to a restaurant.
"Chevy Flint had a store in the plant at one time that sold gloves, tobacco, sandwiches, candy, and pop," reports Charlie Brundle. "We also had entertainment in the plant during lunch periods. A band made up of some of the plant people played everyday in the die room.
Despite the depression of the Depression, people still managed to have a little fun on the job. Art Nichols remembers, "One of the fellows had made a beautiful wooden toolbox, all polished wood and brass fittings. He came back from lunch one day to find two 1/2" secrews bored through the top of the box. He was so upset, he almost cried. He wouldn't touch the box, just stood there looking at it. Finally, he was coaxed into raising the top and the screws popped off. They had been cut off and glued to the top with some sawdust around them]"
The few women in the shop in those days were real women. When Carl Habel started work at the Delco-Remy plant, a female co-worker explained, "We only talk about two things here; making love and making automobiles, and we haven't talked about making automobiles in quite a while." Lessons from the past
These good folks that I interviewed here went on to serve American industry through very long and useful work lives. The real lesson for us today is that without exception, they all expressed positive feelings about the jobs they did and the companies they served. Let's hope that the young workers of today will have similar feelings 50 years hence.
I would like to express my thanks to the gentlemen named in this article for contributing these recollections. I also thank Ed Ditto of GM, Tom Ross and Ken Swanson of Caterpillar Tractor, and Bill Callahan of White-Sundstrand for their help, with a special thanks to Fred Ditto, without whom this article would not have been possible. The job view from DOL
Our prime source of information on jobs present, past, and future is the massive computer banks in the Dept of Labor in Washington. Ron Kutscher is associate commissioner for the Office of Economic Growth, Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Dept of Labor. It's his job to make projections of employment, based on employment and unemployment data gathered by other offices in DOL's BLS.
So we asked Kutscher about the future of manufacturing employment. "There are two major confusions," he explained. "Over the past couple of decades, manufacturing employment increased in absolute terms, but its share of total employment has been declining steadily, indicating very little growth. When you superimpose the recent short-term recessionary cycles and look at total employment, you see very little change from 1979 through 1982, yet some very pronounced offsets did take place. Manufacturing lost 3 million jobs while the service industries gained a like amount.
"When you look at the future, you will find that manufacturing employment can be expected to have fairly significant growth because at least part of this will be a recovery from the recent back-to-back recessions. We predict that by 1990, manufacturing will recover from the present 19 million to 22.2 million, which is only slightly higher than the 21.4 million we had in 1979. Two thirds of this growth will be recovery of what was lost."
When you look at some of their specific job projections for 1995, you see things like the following: * Machinists up 26 percent from 220,000 to 278,000. * Tool and die makers up 21 percent from 152,000 to 184,000. * Machine-tool operators up 22 percent from 914,000 to 1,114,000. * Welders and flamecutters up 21 percent from 490,000 to 595,000. * Computer-data-entry operators down 11 percent from 320,000 to 286,000. * Computer programmers up 77 percent from 266,000 to 471,000. * Industrial engineers up 42 percent from 160,000 to 227,000. One who disagrees
Marvin Cetron sees a much different future. "The projections by the Dept of Labor that total employment in manufacturing will remain a stable 22 million jobs is bull] In agriculture, we both see a decrease from 4 percent to 3 percent in the gross numbers of farmers from now to the year 2000. This means 15 percent of our farmers will lose their farms, while the others increase their productivity 35 to 40 percent with agribusinesses and laws of scale. Because there aren't that many farmers, people don't get all shook up about this forecast.
"But in manufacturing, people will get shook up because that's where the big looses will take place. Unlike the DOL, we predict manufacturing employment will go from the present 26 percent of the labor force down to something between 8 and 11 percent by the year 2000.
"This is scary stuff] Both the unions and manufacturing corporations are worried. With one robot working around the clock replacing six workers--and I've seen this in the Fujitsu Fanuc plant in Japan--you know you've got a real problem, whether you want to admit it or not.
"It's like a women saying, 'I know I've got a lump on my breast, but if I don't go to the doctor, he's not going to tell me I've got cancer.' She can't do that] She has to go to the diagnostician, and he will say, 'Hey, you've got a real problem here, and you've got three choices: radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery.' She has to face up to it and take the medicine. But at least she knows she has a problem.
"But in manufacturing, I don't think a lot of people had admitted there's a problem, until just last year. (My company and I have been saying this for at least nine years.) Suddenly they're realizing that, 'My God, the patient is sick]' That patient is the steel industry, the automobile industry, textiles, railroads, rubber etc.
"In the smokestack area in particular, 1.2 million of these workers just aren't going to be working anymore in these basic industries. There will be 800,000 of these replaced by robotics, computer-aided design and manufacturing, flexible manufacturing, and automation. The microchip will do this.
"Half of the remainder--400,000--will not come back because of dumping. The nationalized industries overseas are underwritten by their governments just to keep them working. Specifically, there's the nuclear plants being sold by the French all over the world at less than it really costs them. In steel; Britain, Korea, and Nigeria are using continuous-manufacturing economies that strongly contrast with our industry that still has well over 65 percent using the old noncontinuous processes. In Japan, 75 percent are continuous. We can't compete with countries like Korea and Sri Lanka with their low wage rates. They are even going to put the Hong Kong tailor out of business]" One who agrees
Keith McKee if IITRI is one person who agrees with the DOL projections that the total number of people in manufacturing will remain stable throughout this decade. "We must remember that there are two tiers in US manufacturing. About 20 percent of the people work for the first tier of the big companies like GE, Westinghouse, GM, IBM etc, who are really introducing the technology. The rest work for companies that have yet to see an NC machine.
"Thus, the likelihood of major change in this second tier is very small in the rest of this decade. I hope some occurs--it must for the sake of our nation--but it certainly will not have the full impact that it does in the first tier.
"The other factor negating automation displacement theories is that the analogy with agriculture that we see so often is not accurate. Sure, if you talk about direct labor, manufacturing could shrink to levels seen now in agriculture. But a manufacturing operation includes a lot of people doing other things than making parts on the shop floor.
"Look more closely at those ag numbers--that 3 percent that 'feeds the world.' We forget that there are lots of people working in fertilizer plants, food processing, farm-machinery manufacture etc. When this is added on, you really have something like 20 percent of the labor force doing something related to food. The same is true for manufacturing." Productivity and growth
Keith McKee knows more about productivity than almost anybody. "Let's look at labor productivity. This is the number that was increasing 3 percent annually seemingly forever until it failed about 10 years ago. If output had remained constant, this would mean that every year you would have needed 3 percent less workers.
"Because output has matched productivity increases so closely, the manufacturing labor force has stayed constant. I think the futurists grossly overstate the effects of automation. They tend to say extreme things to get our attention. While the percentage of people in manufacturing did drop from 26 percent in 1962 to about 20 percent now, actual total employment numbers stayed almost constant at 21 + million.
"I'm convinced that if the US is to stay internationally competitive, labor productivity must increase 5 percent annually. Assuming it did (which is probably too optimistic), and for the worst-case situation, that output stayed constant, we would still wind up with 16 million people working in 1990. This is worse than 21 million, of course, but hardly the dislocation the futurists are proclaiming.
"To get their numbers of 8 percent left in manufacturing, we would have to see a 12 percent/year labor productivity boost. That would be something that even the Japanese in their heyday couldn't do. It's hard to see even the 5 percent improvement I feel is necessary, since the rate has been close to zero for the last few years." Automotive jobs in the future
As Marvin Cetron points out, "The basic robot ideas came from us, from Unimation and Cincinnati Milacron. The Japanese took licenses from them and got heavily into robotics before we did. The reason was pretty obvious. Between 1985 and 1990, they will have 20 percent of their working population retiring at 80 percent of their base pay.
"So what do we do with all our people, if each robot replaces six workers? The answer takes some explaining, but it is simply that robots will make more jobs, just as computers did and as plant automation has done.
"But we must start preparing our people for some of the new jobs that will be created: designing robots, manufacturing robots, setting them up and installing them, servicing them, selling and marketing them, and exporting robots throughout the world. Then there is the need for spare parts. It goes on and on. But there will not be people sitting around waiting for the robot to make a mistake and so they can correct it, there's no payoff in that]
"Let's look at the robot automation situation again. The robot is coming in, working around the clock, and replacing six auto workers. You certainly can't go out and fire those six workers, the union would close you down in a minute. You also can't afford to keep all six and stay in business. So what do you do?
"Well, we worked on this with our National Science Foundation study. What you should do is transfer the two youngest workers and keep the four older workers--and most union workers are old, the average age is 50 years. You keep those four on board, have them work a 20-hr workweek, pay them for 40 hr, and you still get a 50 percent increase in productivity because four workers are now doing the job of six. Eventually, through attrition, you will keep only the one worker you actually need.
"What do you do with those two younger workers? You train them and put them in a different kind of business; servicing robots, selling robots, or whatever, but working in different areas, areas where you didn't have a product line before. Now you have two businesses: automobiles and robots, building up one while the other is winding down. This is how it must be done." Playing on the team
Rick Richardson of GE makes an important point on teamwork. "A lot of people that I've encountered in the past 25 years get confused about what they perceive as an equality issue. I think most of American industry, certainly General Electric, stands for equal opportunity, but not equality. I've often said 'If you want equality, take off for Russia and good luck to you]' There will always be a differentiation between their risk and reward system and ours.
"Playing on a team is not a natural phenomenon in this country. By definition, it infers sacrifice. To optimize the team results, somebody on that team will have to give something up. On the other hand, we've worked with a lot of individuals and forged a lot of teams, and those concepts can be demonstrated and taught. It all boils down to knowing the difference between a good job and a bad job. Once our good people understand that teamwork is the name of the game, and that the sacrifice they make that may impinge on their individual measurements is not only understood but recognized as a necessity--and will be rewarded--they don't have any long-term problems with that." The new workweek
Marvin Cetron's severe prognosis for the shrinking of the manufacturing work force also means a shakeup in the workweek. "When we talk about only 8 to 11 percent of the working population left in manufacturing, we're also talking about going to a 20-hr workweek. This will mean job sharing, and job shifting.
"For example, my wife has been a kindergarten teacher for a number of years. This year they asked her, 'How would you like to teach part-time, and have some other teacher use your room?' She asked why. 'Well, we're going to pay you 75 percent of your salary, you'll only work 6 hr instead of 8 hr, and the other woman will be using the same brick and mortar.' That's how job sharing works; people are doing it now. It's simply a more efficient use of facilities.
"Let's look at the situation where two people are sharing a job. What happens by the year 2000? It's important to get this in a context with society. By the year 2000, we are going from 45 percent of households in 1980 where both adults are working, to 65 percent in 1990, and by 2000, it's 75 percent. At the same time, you have people going from a 40-hr workweek in 1980 to a 32-hr workweek in 1990, and to a 20-hr workweek in 2000. The family still puts in 40 hr, but it's half husband and half wife. And that's quite a change in life-style.
"Yet there has been no indication yet of the workweek dropping below 40 hr. That's because we haven't adapted robotics as fast as we will. Once we get 3 percent of the population below 40 hr (and we're getting close now), this trend will accelerate very rapidly.
"This has already happened in Japan, and they were very upset about it. All of a sudden, a large number of robots came in. It happens quickly] Once you get that robot installed, it happens that day]
"Once a significant segment of the work force is working 32-hr weeks, the demand from the rest will make this thing snowball. And, by the way, this will mean more for everybody--not less--because we'll be producing more with less people, thanks to our boosts in productivity--our machines are producing more."
On shorter workweeks, GE's Richardson disagrees strongly. "Boy, I hope we don't become a nation with 3-day workweeks] I think most people really want to work 40 hr. In my own case and with the people who work for me, you can't make them cut their workweek to 40 hr] A 'normal' workweek is 50 to 60 hr--five half days a week, 6 to 6. I don't see any sacrife in the kind of work we're doing. Hell, you've got the whole weekend to do whatever you want] "I've noticed that the younger people just coming out of school are more closely aligned to the 40-hr week, yet after three or four years of job involvement, they become no different than the rest of us, and you can't drive them out of here."
Adds Ex-Cell-O's Otto Kern, "Reduction in the workweek is very strong in Europe; German unions in particular are making a strong effort to reduce it to 32 hr. I don't see any strong indication that that is wanted here. Where's the demand? I don't think people really want to work any less.
"The theory is that this would mean more people working and help solve the unemployment problem. I don't think so. What happens is that your costs simply go up. You must compete today in the world economy. If the Japanese work 50 hr/wk and we only work 20 hr/wk, we would have a serious problem."
According to the Associated Press in November, "The jury is still out on whether the French plan (to cut work hours to make more jobs) has had an impact on unemployment. The government says the plan has saved or created 70,000 jobs. Business studies put the figure at 15,000 to 30,000. Some firms, like the automaker Peugeot, blame huge losses on increased labor costs."
Explains Jerome Rostow of Work in American Institute, "The reduced workweek, four 10-hr days instead of five 8-hr days, appeals to some workers (less commuting, more leisure, more moonlighting etc) and some employers (more productivity, less absenteeism, increased employee job satisfaction etc). Yet present indications are that this trend is not spreading. It has had no net effect on the length of the workweek, and seems to have little effect on the number of jobs.
"Staggered work hours, for example, is simply a community-wide approach to reduce the problems of rush-hour commuting. More important is the rapid increase in part-time jobs, and the concept of flextime that offers a work adaptation with a minimum of risk and effort, and a maximum of flexibility and adaptability of management to the labor market.
"In the face of high unemployment, the week of four 8-hr days does not seem likely to become very common in the US within this decade, despite its popularity elsewhere. But it has more promise for small segments of the work force than the 4-day 10-hr week which is less practical for most workers and has less effect on the number of jobs." Working at home doesn't really work
Our sister publication, Designfax, recently conducted a survey of their design-engineer audience on the subject of working at home. Of the respondents, 45.8 percent said they would prefer working at home, 47.3 percent preferred to go to the office, and 6.8 percent are working at home now. In their comments, many said they'd like to have the option, some admitted there are too many distractions at home, and one warned managers to select only the disciplined and responsible.
Marvin Cetron sees potential for service oriented people to work at home. "We predict that the service industry will go from 68 percent now to 88 percent of the labor force. Half of these jobs will be information related, people being paid to collect data, analyze data, put it in perspective, recall it, synthesize it, and market it. That's a lot of people]
"And half of these will be working at home. But they won't work entirely at home, they will have some common hours. For example, they will go to the workplace on Mondays and Fridays from 2 o'clock to 10, or Tuesdays and Thursdays, or some early in the morning, or some late at night, whatever. This way, they will have the opportunity to share ideas, pat each other on the back etc (which John Naisbitt in Megatrends calls high tech, high touch).
"Even in the schooling business--where it could all be done at home with computers--you can't really do it that way. Kids have got to go Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for kindergarten through third grade, while fourth through sixth go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can't survive in a vacuum. Its got to be more of a game of mental Ping-Pong. You can't play it all by yourself."
John Naisbitt agrees. "My own sense of it is that not very many of us will be willing to work at home. People want to be with people; people want to go to the office. Even enthusiastic prophets of the electronic cottage estimate that by 1990, only 10 million of us will be telecommuting." Welfare versus work
Drexell's Art Shoftak feels strongly about the work ethic. "There are really very, very few people who are not reachable for retraining. There is a cost/benefit analysis being performed here by the current administration with a rather mean-spirited tact. Everything we know about self-esteem in this Calvinist nation indicates that adulthood is defined as a place on the payroll.
"People want to work] Those myths about three-generation welfare families or people who are disinclined to do anything, by and large, are exposed by research as really rather flimsy. There aren't rally any supportive data. These are opinions based on what everybody knows.'
"The Republicans at all levels of government are in the process of changing the rules that act as disincentives to people on welfare. In addition, they've held down welfare increases so that welfare payments continue to fall further and further behind the cost of living. This is a very conscious effort and some of it seems very cruel. Yet, some of it is probably warranted.
"Those are substantial prods. The turnover on welfare is becoming very impressive. The long-timers are disappearing, many of them simply dying off of old age, reflecting the fact that they arrived here in the '40s and were never well cared for and are now in their dotage.
"Young people are not staying on welfare. The average Aid for Dependent Children mother is on welfare for about three years, and then off and into the labor force. At any case, welfare is no longer the nagging, major social problem it appeared to be in the '60s. It is no longer a leading domestic issue." Women move into the shop
"There is no longer such a thing as a male or female job," Marvin Cetron believes. "High technology is a great equalizer. We have machines now that you can talk to. You first read 6000 words into them, then use these words in context, and the machine can recognize them thereafter with a 92 percent accuracy (the other 8 percent is your own fault for slurring words or not speaking distinctly). It will correct your spelling and grammar. These machines are in use now in NSA, the CIA, and some private companies I can't mention. They will be used by 1990 by most of the top 300 firms in the country. They will eliminate one third of all secretaries, stenographers, clerks, and typists.
"Where will these people go? Well, the factory doesn't need the big, brawny guy anymore, but rather the person who's good with the word processor to conrol the robots. So the pink-collar worker will become a blue-collar worker controlling the steel-collar worker. Japan is in the middle of this already and reporting that the best work they work get, as is Sweden, is from females.
"Yet, this is not the case with the professional woman, that's the surprising part. The best woman worker is the PTA housewife with good attention to detail. She dots every i and crosses every t. In contrast, the professional woman is too much like the professional man; aggressive, abrasive, pushy, and running around acting like the guy who's her role model. The young woman of today--who's waiting for the guy on the white horse to come along and carry her off--is one person away from welfare. The first thing she better do is get herself trained for a job, because if she doesn't she will find herself in big trouble.
"I hate to admit this, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty repetitive jobs, a woman does a better job. Women take more abuse--they shouldn't, but they tend to. This will mean a big change in the work force in the future. The blurring of sexual roles in the factory, in the office, and at home will greatly change society."
Otto Kern of Ex-Cell-O agrees. "Women will have a place in the well-organized, automated factory. They can write software as well as a man."
In 1981, the Commerce Department reports, 6 million wives earned more than their husbands (12 percent of American couples). One fourth of these had completed four or more years of college, one third were the sole provider, and 62 percent had more years of schooling than their husbands. Automation + growth = more jobs
Can automation yield growth? Rick Richardson thinks so. "I read about the concern of the hourly work forces about automation displacement and our going to shorter workweeks to preserve jobs, but my view is that the answer is to get the country going again so that we can have a reasonable expectation of the growth that ought to come as a natural consequence of this great system we've got. Then, all those issues disappear.
"After World War II, for example, there was a great hue and cry when we went to the first uses of automation. It was going to spell the doom of the American worker. Right after that came the first of the computer age that was going to doom the white-collar worker. Yet all of those things fostered the greatest growth in our history. We didn't displace workers, there was great growth in employment--we needed more of them than ever before] There are more white-collar workers today than any time in our history. It's the same story if you go all the way back to the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution." Unions struggle to survive
These are troubled times for the union movement in the United States. They are losing membership and political clout. As Marvin Cetron points out, "I think it's no longer a question that our unions are changing and that they have some big troubles ahead. We're predicting that this country's going from 22 percent unionized workers in 1980 down to 17 percent in 1990, and down to less than 11 percent by the year 2000. This will mean that the black community and the Hispanic community will each have more political clout then than the unions.
"White-collar people won't save the unions; they don't join unions. They haven't in the past, and this won't change in the future. Plus, the fact that the percentage of people left in manufacturing will be dropping, adds to the problem for unions."
Keith McKee of IITRI's Manufacturing Productivity Center agrees somewhat. "I don't see how the unions are going to have the impact that they have had in the past, now that a lot of the reasons for unions are being eliminated. Unions are trying to change their spots.
"The old reasons for unions will disappear if we really have participate management and worker involvement--the quality of work-life movement we hear so much about. It's awfully hard to convince a worker who has a nice place to work and people to talk to that he's being badly mistreated.
"Certainly some of the skilled labor of today will become totally unemployed forever. You won't need many machinists when you have automated machines. Now you need electronic technicians and engineers. So the unions are now starting to work on attracting the younger technical guy.
"If, some time in the future, there are enough of those type people in a company who feel that they have been bottled up, there will be a new unionizing movement. Yet, in the past, the unions have not had much success with salaried and professional people. So that's their new challenge.
"What happens, for example, to the robot technician who feels challenged in the work today, but after six or eight years his job hasn't changed at all, and he gets bumped by a 22-year-old guy coming out of school because that guy's cheaper? Then maybe there will be pressure to unionize. If management goes back to playing the games that they have in the past, they will risk antagonizing and strengthening the unions' resolve. The big question is will management really change its spots?" The need for unions
William Winpisinger, president, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, is an outspoken proponent of unionism. "Harsh and unfair economic realities exist all around us. Unless some genuinely major changes are made in our socioeconomic policy, these shameful disparities will continue to exist wwell into the 21st century. I foresee poverty, a loophole tax system that favors the few truly wealthy, subsidies for giant corporations, and wage controls for nearly everyone else, except for a few chief executive officers and independent professionals.
"At the end of World War II, the 200 biggest manufacturing firms held 45 percent of the US industrial assets. Today, that figure is 60 percent. In 1960, 450 firms controlled one half of the nation's total manufacturing assets. Now they have 70 percent. Today, fewer than 1 percent of American manufacturers control 88 percent of all industrial assets and receive more than 90 percent of the net profits of all industrial firms in the country."
Thus, he sees unions as the only hope. "The reality today is that economic power means political power. The only effective counterbalance to the corporate state's power will be a dynamic and progressive democratic socialist movement."
Irving Bluestone, former UAW leader at GM, has said, "Full employment is a national issue that requires a national solution. Collective bargaining alone cannot find a universal solution, yet the societal failure to create jobs compels collective bargaining to attempt to fill the vacuum."
Marvin Cetron, who sees big changes in unions ahead, nevertheless sees them continuing to play an important role in industrial society. "The unions used to be a major force, and for good cause because management was abusing labor. There was a real reason for having a strong labor union. Now, it's one of the four reasons that companies will not go back to some of the somkestack areas in the country. If the unionization rate is too high, they don't want to take a chance.
"In the long run, the union are learning that they have got to work with the various automated techniques if they want to go on existing. The need for unions is still there, but we haven't really heard their side of the argument yet. There is also a need for the guy responsible for putting up all the bucks to have the right to override the union.
"We must also learn a very basic fact of life from the experiences of the airline industry, the air controllers, the Greyhound strike, and from Chrysler: If you ask the union to take a cutback in salary, you must then give them a percentage of the profits when they come later on. That's simply good management. If management doesn't understand this, they're going to be in for a rough time. And if the unions don't understand the need for cutbacks because we're so out of line with the rest of the world, they also will be in for a rough time ahead. Yes, these are not easy times. It's particularly tough for the oldtimers both within management and the union.
"Unions have always been strong in Europe, but Europe is not making it today. The unions are not strong in Japan, and Japan is making it. We have a commitment to work together in this country to produce that which is best for everybody. What unions have to learn is that we can't do this by keeping salaries way too high to be competitive. Management must say to the employee, 'If you want to be competitive and keep your job, we'll pay you a competitive salary, and we'll pay you a percentage of the profits before we pay off dividends.' That's where we must get to; that's what's required in this country today in labor/management relations."
Marvin Cetron is also outspoken on what the government should be doing. He feels that the government's role in resolving the differences between unions and management is to be the honest broker. "They should bring people together and say, 'Look, we are going to give you the honest facts. Here are the numbers on profit anf profitability, etc, based on SEC data.'
"If they don't do this, they're providing no role. If they are not honest, they will be ignored." Do unions want to manage?
Do unions really want to manage? Otto Kern doesn't think so. "When you talk about participative management, you will find that the people down the line--the workers--are reluctant to take on new responsibility. After all, that's what management is for. So I don't think the union really wants to manage either. It certainly doesn't appear that they do. We do see signs that they are becoming more flexible, though."
Union leader Irving Bluestone generally agrees. "Union attitudes remain mixed. Unions in the US traditionally have moved in the direction of improving wages, benefits, and working conditions. As a general rule, unions have left managing the enterprise to management. Their role has been more to react to managerial decisions that were objectionable to workers, than to promote decisions that were positive."
Drexell University's Art Shoftak, a union consultant, explains why. "The fact that possibly a third of the blue-collar work force at present is not really interested in participative-management responsibilities is reasonable. Certainly there's a history for suspicion, for reluctance, or the wondering of whether any new management tactic is trendy or gimmicky. There's simply a lot of bitterness in the union today.
"That 38 percent that some surveys show are disinterested in participating in decision-making must nonetheless appreciate that their career chances in this rapidly changing labor force are going to be significantly diminished by that attitude.
"As push comes to shove, I would expect that a little of that attitude will change. Remember, when you detect that attitude, it's in an anonymous pencil-and-paper or telephone interview where braggadocio is cheap. Saying 'Hell, no,' to the question 'Do you want to participate in decision-making?' is easy to do. But the same guy would see the point much more clearly if we said to him. 'We want your whole-hearted participation in a productivity improvement campaign, or frankly we're going to replace your entire unit with an advanced automation system in the next 18 months.'
"The steelworkers have had participative quality work circles for three years now. These were promoted by the International Union and I backed them also. Now they feel betrayed. They made concessions on productivity and work rules, and they felt that they were being forward-looking (under their late and much missed president). They now feel that this didn't get them anything except 20-percent layoffs at US Steel one week before Christmas." Young versus old
As Irving Bluestone notes, the makeup of unions is shifting, "The nature of the work force is changing as white males lose their majority to women, minorities gain strength, and the old continue to increase their edge in political clout over the young."
Adds Art Shoftak of Drexell, "The question is whether the new worker is going to be interested in what the union has to offer. There is a big diversity between the old and new employee in unions today. This is a very hard problem. Part of the deal cutting today is giving it in the neck to a young worker while trying to protect the steady, older, regular dues payer.
"I worry a lot about the two-tier settlements. This is a very short-term solution. It makes possible major technological displacement: the large-scale introduction of advanced automation systems without resistance is made possible by offering job security to the regulars. The fortunate thing about two-tier is that it has arrived on the job scene coincident with the smallest job-seeking cadre of young males that we've had in 30 or 40 years. There's a trough in the population profile, and guys between 16 and 24 will be a smaller percentage of the population every year for the next 10 years.
"So that's very lucky for the nation as a whole. This coupled with natural attrition--death, retiremen, burnout--leaves openings. As President Reagan loves to remind us, there are millions of jobs going begging in the want ads. So, if the young themselves will just prove geographically flexible--and this doesn't mean only the Sunbelt, but following jobs wherever they are, Alaska, for example--we may pull this off for awhile." Unions being suppressed?
Are unions being suppressed? Art Shoftak thinks not, and that any such attempts in the future will not be successful. "The attempts to reduce the union role or membership is extremely shortsighted. Any management that's worth its salt understands that the union is remarkably contributory to a smooth-running workplace. Unions handle all those Murphy-law failures that are inevitable. Unions keep the work process going, they oppose wildcat strikes, they cool out personality problems, and are generally a very pro-productivity element if you meet them halfway.
"This notion that union rules are in the way of personal advancement may have been true in the '60s, and somewhat in the '70s, but is not true in the '80s. The unions are scared, they are in retreat, and they're willing to deal. It would be smart of management to follow Lee Iococca's example, or Ford Motor Co's example, and not press their present advantage. Instead, they must deal responsibility with the unions, and the unions will show flexibility."
Irving Bluestone warns, "The American people must understand that the most vocal antilabor forces in the country are intent upon weakening or destroying unionism. Should they succeed, they will clear the path for unfettered authoritarianism at the workplace; they will have weakened the sensitive fiber of our democractic heritage. Simply put, we need free, independent, strong unions to maintain a strong democracy." Violence in the future?
Will we see the labor violence of the '30s all over again? Shoftak thinks not. "I don't believe that the labor conflicts of the future will become violent and return this country to the turmoil we saw in the '30s. I hear talk of it very rarely, infrequently both in the liberal and the radical press.
"When you look at the bitter strikes like the one in Butte, MT, where they have just about broken the steel union, you see sporadic sabotage. You saw sporadic violence in the Greyhound strike. Sure there are bitter feelings, but those feelings have been tamed. The violence you see is the exception to the basic rule that there's no winning with violence.
"So I don't see violence as part of the American national character any longer. There will be occasional outbursts from people like the broadcaster in the movie "Network" who just couldn't take it any longer. But I don't see this as a serious threat to our society." Training for the future
As we have seen, training for the future is the key issue if we are to cope with our future. We must train the young, upgrade the employed, and retrain the older displaced worker. The sooner we develop effective training systems, the sooner we can compete effectively on the world market.
So the key is literacy: technical literacy, manufacturing literacy, process literacy, and by all means, computer literacy. Marvin Cetron feels we should start young. "Kids must have computer literacy, this will become a basic as drivers' education is now. This doesn't mean learning how to program, or even knowing how the machine operates. You don't have to know how to tune up a car to be able to drive it. Computer literacy means knowing how to work with the computer, and knowing when to call someone to fix it when it is not working properly.
"Here's what I mean by computer literacy. It's the day-care center I visited recently where the kids' only requirements were that they be able to walk and be toilet trained. They didn't even have the coordination to write yet, but they could converse with the computer. They didn't have the attention span to remember their full names. One kid's name was Edward, so he just punches in 'Ed,' and the computer says, 'Good morning, Edward, how are you today?' and two faces light up on the screen, a happy face saying 'FINE' and a frowning face saying 'BAD.' He punches in 'BAD,' and the computer says, 'Gee, I'm sorry to hear that, Edward, why don't you type for me, and maybe you'll feel better.' And it leads him on into a new learning experience.
"To me, this is amazing] These kids are two and three years old. The computer keyboards are wrapped in Saranwrap, not because they spit up on them, but just to keep the peanut butter and jelly out. We have kids entering kindergarten today that think 'run' is spelled 'RUN, carriage return.' Soon it will be only us 40- and 50-year olds with the computer hangups]" PLATO goes to school
The computer is clearly the key for the kind of one-on-one training we need today. As Cetron sees it, "Control data's PLATO system is the best training system around today. It's used for robotics, computer-aided design, emergency paramedics, CAT-scan reading, pharmaceuticals, etc. It trains people at their own speed, privately, with immediate positive or negative feedback, and not in a classroom situation with a bunch of young kids running rigs around us older people who are naturally reluctant to leap into the computer generation.
"The teacher can still go through the Socratarian method and present the rationale. Then the student gets 6 to 12 min/hr with the computer to do the repetitive work. This tells you immediately what you've done wrong and right. It gives teachers an immediate readout, allowing them to home in quickly on the two or three things you're doing wrong and square you away. This is a tremendous advantage]"
So what should we do to spur computer training? "Take some of the computers being used for training and put them in the schools. Use them for eight hours, from 4 o'clock to midnight. Then from 8 AM to 4 PM, you train the kids in school in vocational programs. Then, from midnight to 8 in the morning, you say, 'Hey, Mr Employer, if you're going to have to fire that guy in a year or two, send him here to be retrained, and you pick up the $60/month for the computer.'
"This way, you're using the computer round-the-clock and everybody benefits. It's just like the world's oldest profession: you've got the product, you can sell the product, and you still have the product] Computers can used the same way, but we just aren't thinking in an innovative way." Two other training ideas
Cetron has two other training ideas--not directly related to manufacturing, but they could use industrial support. "We've got 46 percent of the black youth in the inner city unemployed today, and we've got big trouble. They are living in public housing with broken windows, broken water pipes, no heating, no electricity, etc.
"Why don't we let them be trained to be housing rehabilitation technicians, learn how to fix a switch, take care of plumbing, etc. This idea was rejected by the unions because they felt these people would take jobs away from $37/hr plumbers. Hell, the plumber's never going to go into the damn area]
"Why not train these kids to work for the poor little guy with the little shop in the inner city that can't afford to call a $37/hr plumber, or a mason, or an electrician? That's what we all want. We want to get these kids back to being productive] That's what's needed in the Job-Training Partnership Act, for example. But we're not getting support from either the government or the union.
"Also, there's no reason we have to have 87 percent of our people going back to jail a second time--the us recidivism rate. Why does Sweden have less than 12 percent?
"Well, first, the punishments there are more severe, but once you go to jail, they train you for a job. They are manufacturing prefab housing units inside Swedish jails now. They're teaching people to use computers in jails so that they can later go to work as crooked travel agents, for example.
"So I tried to find out why that can't happen here, and the truth is the unions will not let anybody in our prisons make anything ohter than license plates for the federal government. Why not let them learn something so that when they come out they won't go right back in and be a drain on society? Also, in Sweden, the money they make is saved--it's significant--and they get out of prison with a few dollars to do something." GE's Erie training example
Rick Richardson of GE was at their Erie locomotive works during the big changeover to flexible automation that we have all heard so much about. He now heads GE's Charlottesville Factory Automation Products group, and cannot speak for how things are going now at erie one year later, but he was instrumental in making Erie a great example of how to meet the training challenge head on.
As he explains, "One of the big factors helping us was the market renaissance in the domestic railroad business. While we wanted to reduce the direct-labor content in the locomotive by 25 percent or more, there was enough future growth to absorb that labor dislocation.
"When you think about it, this tells us all how this training issue is going to be resolved on a national basis. If there's going to be real growth in the economy of 4 percent/year or greater--if we get our national act back together--we have the potential of being a whole lot more productive with either stable employment or even growth in employment. Thus, the issues would become those of dislocations in the work force, not displacement.
"What we did in Erie, is what anyone who introduces a of-the-art manufacturing technology should do. You must meet this tremendous need for retraining both direct and indirect workers in those technologies. Our Erie experience was that we had very good luck in taking hourly people and training them to operate some very sophisticated equipment.
"For example, we had a very large plate-burning operation and wanted to optimize the utilization of material through CALMA computerized nesting techniques. The question came up initially about who we were going to get to operate the new system? The conventional view among a number of our people was that this would require exempt people because after all, this was a computer.
"But I said, 'Wait a minute. That's crazy. Why don't we use the hourly people who are doing that out on the floor now?' These were the grizzled old tobacco-chewing kind of guys that shaved once a week and wore old clothes. Our people said, 'My God] You can't do that]' and I replied, 'Who knows you can't? Nobody's tried]'
"So we took three or four of those guys off the floor, trained them, and I wish you could listen to those guys today tell you know that system operates. They know it from A to Z. They're very efficient. They're dressed up in shirts and ties, and proud as hell fo what theyhre doing] The quality of their life has been enhanced. This demonstrated to all of us that that work force has a tremendous amount of latent capability just waiting for somebody to give them a chance.
"We did the same thing with NC pipe benders, controlling robots, and so on throughout the whole transformation. It was that recognition, coupled with the fact that the technology was changing so fast that we needed to continue to retrain engineers and technologists.
"We were starting with an engineering cadre that was electromechanical by training and background. We had to convert them all to digital, as we introduced about seven major computers into the Erie plant. We were also introducing a tremendous amount of new technology into he product itself.
"Thos ethree things led us to decide to build a 40,000-sq-ft training center, dedicated to not only communicating with all of the work force, but to train and retrain hourly, nonexempt, exempt, and customer people. The training periods vary from a single week to one night or whole day a week for a year.--continual, or quck in andout. It's tailored to the individual." Boon or bomb? Take your PIC
The government's record in training programs is not as good as industry's. Their latest effort has both its supporters and detractors. Art Shoftak likes it and explains why. "The Private Industrial Council (PIC) approach of our government now takes taxpayer dollars and uses them as a lure to get private industry to do immediate hands-on job training. I like the hands-on approach. I've never been persuaded that once-removed job training was all that necessary.
"We learned in World War II taht on-the-job training seems to be the most powerful form of job training. By using taxpayer dollars carefully monitored and overseen by Congress, you spread out the cost in a socialistic fashion.
"The PIC program replaced CETA. All across America, local industry is being reached by PIC; every major city has one going. This Republican construction is something that a number of us are fascinated by and watching very closely to see if it can do the job.
"The model that most of us endorse is the West German job-training model. This is job training at a first-class level, rather than coach-seat. Their stipend and 21st-century facilities attach high status to the program, and you don't have to slink around and pretend that you're not a loser. In West Germany, you're improving your productive capability--a wholly different ethos attaches to job training. They've made it normative, rather than punitive and embarassing.
"PICs have clout, a lot of taxpayer dollars to bribe employers into the program. The industries hurting the most--those with the least amount of money to invest in training--can potentially be helped the most. It's the carrot-and-stick approach and it could work]
"But it must be watched very closely to assure that it's not simply exploitation. Since the people in PIC training get paid less, they should not be doing scut work. We want to be sure that they are learning something and not just doing gopher work."
Marvin Cetron doesn't like the PIC program. "We must be sure that job-training-partnership funds are there to underwrite the costs of training for the new jobs that are actually required. The Comprehensive Education and Training Act (CETA) program was a bomb] It went to the unions and the political hacks to run, and 60 percent of the money they got was used for administration and only 40 percent for training.
"What's even worse, only 3 percent of the people got jobs] They trained peole for jobs that didn't exist: Linotype operators, when we now have 11,000 people behind optical-character readers and the last Linotype machine was built in 1963; and manual elevator opertors, when we haven't builg a manual elevator since 1961]
"So I went to these people and said, 'Why did you do this?' And they replied, 'Well, we're not going to train people for jobs that exist because then they would take jobs away from people who are working.'
"So what they were doing was taking a person who lost a job, who feels so down and out that it may have taken him years to get up the confidence to go back for retraining, and then they train him for something that doesn't exist. That's unconscionable]
"So then we had the attempt by this administration to establish the Job Partnership Act to train people for the new jobs, using 70 percent of the funding for training, 15 percent for administration, and 15 percent to edcuate the illiterate up to levels sufficient for training. In addition, the money would go to private companies, so that when they train people and then have to fire them later, that's an embarrassment.
"But what happened? The political hacks got together with the union leaders and formed their own PIC again, a private-industry council, with a private company. Now they're getting the money and wasting it again like they did in 1976 when they went around painting fireplugs red, white, and blue. That's crazy]
"Sure, people like Shoftak are impressed with PIC because the unions and pols are back in business again, wasting money. They're not giving the money to industry to take people in and train. Theyhre just playing the game of 'Get the money],' and they're doing the exact same stuff they did before and it's wrong]" Trainable or not?
Marvin Cetron points out a very serious basic educational problem. "The kids coming out of our schools are not adequately trained to work in the factories. There are 17 million of our population who are functionally illiterate, and 40 million who can't draw an inference, can't make an analogy, don't know how to analyze what ghey're doing, don't know a percentage, a ratio, or have the ability to understand. We have got to better educate our people. Fast] This is a major problem for us all.
Art Shoftak of Drexell adds, "We cannot go on believing that the lower classes are uneducable or lack the drive to improve themselves. We must exercise more patience and care in addressing them individually. If the West German retraining program had the same philosophy, it wouldn't be the first-class program that it is.
"Schools will sometimes blamce the victim of lousy schooling, arguing that a kid is uneducable, yet someone comes along and creates a Boys' Town way out in the Nebraska or whatever, and salvages a lot of these 'uneducable' kids. Instead of attacking the schools that said these kids were uneducable, we simply congratulate the Boys' Town people.
"Do our displaced workers have the mental abilities for the skills of tomorrow? The service industries are an incredible polyglot of skill requisites. We anticipate through the '80s and '90s a vast increase in personal services, etc, and a lot of that involves personableness. It involves the ability to take the pressure of working behind the counter at McDonald's. It involves assisting in nursing homes.
"We are learning now that there may be as many as seven different kinds of intelligence, and the idea of a one-dimensional intelligence is now in increasing disrepute. This means that if you can't add up numbers as fast as I can, you may still be able to size up situations faster than I can, since that is a different form of intelligence.
"The computer will be an excellent tool for dividing things much smaller so that we can address the individual's abilities on a one-on-one basis with individualized training. Also, in terms of classifying workers and job placement, new insights into intelligence measuring is an exciting development for the '80s." MANAGEMENT/MANPOWER What about the job shop?
Massive job training programs are fine for our leading industries, but what for our leading industries, but what about the little guy? Ex-Cell-O's Otto Kern admits, "The role for the small job shop will be somewhat less in the future. It's not because we will need their skills any less, but because those skills just won't exist anymore. The mechanically oriented guy who can work on a manual lathe is not going to exist. When you look at machine-tool design, we're forced into putting more technology into the machine tool because those skills simply are not going to be available.
"When you look at the industrial base in this country today, there are a whole lot of tehse small shops around, but there will be less of them in the future, I feel. You will see CNC-controlled machines moving into the small shop, and they're already there in a lot of them now. There will be different people running these machines and running these shops 10 years from now.
"The demand for tooling and those who supply it will not change much, though, in this decade. If you need tooling, a big cumbersome organization will never be able to cope with tooling requirements as well as the small shop, so tht still will survive."
Keith McKee of IITRI adds, "Some of the bigger companies have accepted their training responsibility, but most smaller companies aren't big enough to even have training programs. A company with only 180 people, for example, cannot conveniently train their people in-house. The autoworkers' union has clauses in their contracts for retraining, and companies like GE and IBM have significant training programs.
"The others hire the technical people they need from tech schools and local colleges and throw out the people without the skills they now need. Some regions of the country will solve this problem by industry and education working together, and others won't. Yet, even those communities with very good training systems are only training the new people coming into the labor force, and not really retraining the people from industry."
Remmele Engineering Inc, St Paul, MN, is a company dedicated to precision machining and training their own machinists. For a job shop they're large (over 300 employees), but as a company, they're small. One key to their success over the past decade is their formal training program. (See Tooling & Production, April, 1980, pg 84.)
As marketing VP Bert Casper told us, "It's a grave mistake for a small company to assume that they cannot afford to set up a formal training program. They can't afford not to] Everyone is doing some form of training all the time, why not formalize and structure it? That doesn't really cost any more.
"We had a formal training program when we were doing only $3 million in sales/year a decade ago. Now we have a separate facility and a full-time training leader. What's important is that we're making real parts in that training center as part of the initial comprehensive one-year training program. Then, our trainees move into the shop for four- or five-year apprenticeship programs, working with our lead men, foremen, and machinists on a continual basis. We have 50 apprentices at the moment, altogether.
"Most companies simply don't take the time and trouble to organize their training into a formal program. As a result, the trainee doesn't get proper credit for his training--nobody's keeping track--and the company doesn't get any credit from governmental programs."
One of the dangers is that if you get too good at training, your investment will walk right out the door. Not so at Remmele, reports Casper. "Despite al the other machine shops in the Twin-City area, theonly time we lose people is when they go off to start their own shops. We keep them by offering fair wages, good working conditions, a profit-sharing program, and a good retirement plan. We simply treat them as nice as we know how." MANAGEMENT/MANPOWER Motivating the older worker
McKee sees the older worker as the big challenge. "I don't see a technician shortfall. We're graduating so many robot technicians, for example, that we'll soon have two for each robot. This is not so bad because these people could also run other equipment. All in all, I think these 20-year-olds are being well trained. We're doing a good job here.
"The big problem is the steelworkers who haven't worked for years and may never work again. Whose responsibility is it to get the 45-year-old guy who was once making $15/hr to show some initiative, getout and retrain himself, upgrade his skills, all so that he can run an NC machine and make only $7/hr?
"The steel company is not motivated to do this; they just want him to go away and quit bugging them. The community can't force these people to go get trained. It's really a difficult problem.
"We're talking today about how people will be able to work until they're 70, so there's a lot of years for the 50-year-old to get back dividends on his training investment. Yet, very, very few factory people have ever gone to school at night, unlike engineering people who certainly have. The problem is motivating these blue-collar people.
"Those industries that have paid 50 percent more for the same skills than the rest of industry--a weldor who earns $12/hr in the auto industry and only half that at a local steel fabricator--have created real trauma for the displaced worker. There are a lot of people in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago, who really haven't faced up to the fact that they are going to have to do something else if they even want to work again. Too many are just sitting around now waiting for the next business cycle to pick them up again as it has in the past. It's just not going to happen] They will have to bite the bullet]
"This is a major national problem, and there don't seem to be meaningful answers yet. I'm not sure who really cares. I sort of care and you sort of care, but I'm not sure that even the people being impacted know that they should be caring. One of the hardest things in the world is to admit that things have changed, that the world is different than it was even a few yeas ago, and that you will have to change with it."
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|Title Annotation:||Insight 2034|
|Publication:||Tooling & Production|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1984|
|Next Article:||Realities of the future.|