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US competitiveness: it's a matter of attitude.

Why can't the US compete? That's the question we posed to readers last March. Does it have to do with Americans being lazier than their international counterparts? Or is it because the US resists adopting the metric system? Does it have to do with technology?

More than 400 of you responded. the consensus: it has more to do with attitudes than with anything listed above. Six out of ten respondents feel the problem is rooted in the fact that neither government officials, unions, or the general workforce fully appreciates the gravity of the situation. Forty-one percent of the reader-respondents even feels management does not grasp the consequences of the United States' inability to compete internationally. In fact, three out of four readers surveyed feel that "US management is too parochial in its business thinking to effectively compete internationally." just as many indicted American firms with being too slow in adopting new manufacturing technologies or even in installing newer, more productive equipment.

In gaging competitiveness, more than half of the respondents discount the United States' love affair with the inch system or the idea that American workers are lazier than their Japanese counterparts. But six out of ten readers who responded to my March editorial did feel that American workers are less diligent in their work performance than the Japanese. That problem may center on union work rules. Eight out of ten respondents charged such restrictive work rules are a "key deterrent to productivity gains necessary to remain internationally competitive." Conversely, only 30% felt that union wages tended to raise prices to uncompetitive levels on the world market.

"American workers are definitely not lazier than their Japanese counterparts. Some of Japan's most productive plants are in the US," writes Gary Pope, a design engineering manager in the Chicago area. Another reader claims that "American workers are not the problem. Their management is." Joseph Graham, director of manufacturing at Audubon Engineering & Manufacturing in Audubon, MN, feels the "Average American worker lives outside his/her job, leaving the responsibility of world-class competitiveness to anyone else. Managers in America have their work cut out for them. For America to get back in the race, it will take strong commitment from management to continually educate their workers."

Part of that commitment from management has to include more employee training, several respondents claimed. "Training is not on a par with Japanese and European workers," writes Dick Becker of Broomfield, CO. Almost 70% of the respondents agree that the training US workers get is below the level of that invested in their international counterparts. He adds that part of the attitudinal problem in the US is that manufacturing careers are considered inferior to office or professional jobs, unlike the situation in other countries where such jobs command respect.

Many respondents echoed the words of Steve Weber, a program manager with Precision Castparts Corp, Portland, OR, refening to the short-term mentality that prevails in too much of Corporate America: "We lack the patience--translate that to instant gratification--required by management and stockholders to make the right decisions... Until we change that mind-set we are going to continue to fail."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Modic, Stanley J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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