Posts Tagged ‘manufacturing’

Got Education?

September 16, 2019

You’ll have to smarten up to find a productive place in today’s economy.

The old 20th-century way of doing things that my baby boomer generation grew up in has gone the way of the buffalo.

You already know this, right?

I came across an instigating article on Seeking Alpha a few days ago. As I read John N. Mason’s piece about the “New” corporation, it struck me that he had put together some pretty important observations and statistics about this 21st-century economy and where we are headed with it.

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4290762-amazon-needs-workers-new-modern-corporation?

My take on his presentation is that he is, obviously, writing about a 21st-century work environment in which using your brain will be more important than ever before, more important than acquiring the old hands-on skills that enabled folks to get ahead in times past.

Oh, the developing digital work of our present work scenario is still “hands-on.” But it seems the hands will be mostly on keyboards that electronically deliver commands and programs that will run, automatically, the nuts and bolts, the widgets and equipment that will perform most of the tasks that we humans used to do, back in the day.

This whole progression got seriously cranked up about 170 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. There was a time, for instance, when a man could get on a horse, start riding westward, and eventually make it from Boston to San Francisco.

Then along came the railroads and changed all that.

Then along came the automobiles and changed all that even more.

And then there was a time when a person would mail a letter from Boston to San Francisco. The Pony Express or Wells Fargo or somesuch would deliver the letter cross-country, and yes it would get to the west coast, but it took a while.

A long while.

Then along came the trains, to make that delivery happen in just a week or so.

Then came the planes to make the airmail delivery in a day or two.

Now the message, or an order, is delivered with the push of a few buttons on your computer, or a scan on barcode, along the way.

You know that’s a “hands-on” technology that is fundamentally, quicker, easier and better than the old way of many different sets of hands that set themselves to crank up machinery and maintain it and oil it and fuel it and guide it all the way to some faraway delivery point.

As those technology changes revolutionized transportation, so shall the coming tech changes revolutionize manufacturing and wholesaling and retailing and every other industry or business you can think of, including knowledge itself.

So if you want to prosper in this 21st-century, if you want to find a place in the scheme of things, if you want to “get ahead”. . .

Get with the program.

Literally, the programming.

And this is what, in my opinion, John Mason is hitting on when he elucidates the workings of intellectual capital, which is a high-falootin’ way of saying:

Education is, and will be, worth more than ever before. Get one. Learn how to think outside the old box.

Smarts

If not, hey, we’ll always need somebody to clean up the place, flip the burgers, run the cash registers  while everybody else is booting up the world.

Back in the day we used to say money makes the world go around.

Not so any more. Now electrons make our developed world go around. Learn how to direct them, how to make them do whatever has to be done for profit, or for improving the world we inhabit.

Don’t just vegetate as a consumer. . . eating, drinking, watching shows, fake news and social media.

Be a producer. Make things happen for you and for those you love. Get out there and do it, make things happen. Life will be better.

Glass half-Full

Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit

August 22, 2015

ChicScrap1

Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit were sittin in the tavern one Friday evening. It was about going-home time and they were tippin a couple o brewskies while discussin the state of the world.

Ole Dad Gummit was on a roll with his opinions about the way things are and the way they use to be. “The trouble with this world today is folks don’t know how to do anything anymore. Why, back in day when I was still wet behind the ears, we could crank out things on the assembly line like they was goin outa style. Then along came nafta and before anybody knew what the hell was happenin everything we use to make was comin outa China or Mexico or Bangladesh or some such place where people work for next to nothin.”

“That’s just the way of the world,” Daw Gonnit explained. “It’s free enterprise. Companies that manufacture things are always tryin to get the price of their goods down to make ’em more affordable for the average guy– regular people like Joe Sixpack and Joe Blow, John Smith and Jane Doe.

“So companies got to find employees who’ll work for less money. But folks in this country are relatively rich, compared to the rest of the world. Companies wantin to get their costs down relocate their production facilities in other countries where people can afford to work for less money, because they don’t have the big cars and trucks to keep on the road, and they don’t have the big mortgage payments and the refrigerator and the dishwasher and the microwave and the range and the mixmaster and the blender and the washin machine and the dryer and so forth and whatnot that go along with the vehicle and the house and the lawn and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” Gosh Darnit chimed in. He had sat at the table and had been listnin to their spiels. “But that’s nothin new. This has been goin on for hundreds of years. Why, there was a time, back in the 1900s, when most of our clothes came from England, because the limeys were the first ones to figure out how to mass produce textiles and clothing. They made the fabrics and the finished goods in places like Manchester and Lancashire and sent ’em over here on boats so’s we Americans could buy ’em with our up n comin’ dollars.

“After a while, we yankees figured out how to do it, and so we set up our own plants in New England and started crankin out similar goods (maybe not as high-quality) that were cheaper because Americans worked for less money than the highly skilled limeys did, plus we didn’t have to pay the transportation costs of floatin’ them pants and shirts and dresses and so forth and whatnot across the big pond.”

Then Dag Nabbit, who had ambled in, threw in his two cents worth. “I catch your drift, Gosh. But then after awhile, there were upstart mills down south, in places like the Carolinas where folks were workin for less than the New Englanders, and so a lot of that textile and clothing work went down south.”

“Yea,” Daw Gonnit agreed. “And nowadays, with so much manufacturing goin’ to Mexico and the like, it’s just more of the same pattern as before. Owners and bosses chasin’ after lower labor costs. It just all keeps goin’ south.”

“Or east,” Gosh Darnit pointed out, “. . .even across the Pacific ocean. like the Japs did with cars while Detroit was snoozin and countin their assets. After awhile the big boys in Michigan couldn’t get their innovative assets in gear any more, so the Japs and Koreans started crankin out lean n mean little econo wheels after the Arabs ran the oil prices up with their embargo and folks was waitin in line to fillup their tanks and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” quipped Dag Nabbit. Things that had been changin at freeway speed were  changing all of a sudden at the speed of light. Then, as if that weren’t mystifyin’ enough, Gates and Jobs started crankin the silicon dreams out on the west coast and before you know it everybody was lookin at the world through new windows and takin a byte outa the good life. Between Redmond and and Cupertino electronic techie prosperity was leapin like blue blazes. But then Steve and the guys started farmin out the manufacturin work to the Chinese and the Sings and Bangalores and so forth and whatnot.”

“You fellas got that right,” said Dag Nabbit. “Most of the American manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, and so now service industries are taking over in American employment venues. Now folks are doin haircuts and pedicures and uber and pizza delivery and so forth and what not.”

“Flippin’ burgers, pitchin’ fries, waitin’ tables, detailin’ cars, sweepin’ floors, with the car-wash blues, recyclin’, mass transit, interior designin’, website designin’, programmin’, unstoppin toilets, flippin’ real estate, things like that,” said Old Dad Gummit.

“. . .not to mention lawyerin’ and doctorin’ and bankin’ and financial consultin’ and day-tradin’ and mortgage brokin’ and so forth and whatnot. The service industries are not all on the low end, y’know.” quipped Dag Nabbit.

“True dat,” agreed Old Dad Gummit, nodding his head slowly as if pondering on the essence things. He was thinking of what Sun Yat-sen had said about looking into the nature of things. “The world has sho’nuff changed since I was a Nehi,” he mused.

“Yeah, but you know what?” queried Gosh Darnit. “When you get right down to it, every person needs their shot at makin’ it in this world. . . makin’ somethin! whether its goods or services, high multiplier or low multiplier, whether they’re in America or Greece, or Asia or South America or Africa, in Shenzhen or Pleiku or the Outback of wherever place on earth. Everybody wants to get a piece of the action; everybody wants a slice of the pie.”

Dad Gummit looked strangely content, as if he was about to slip into another realm. “Everybody gets born with their own little window on the world, and desirin’ to get a byte outa the big App,” saith he, thoughtfully.

Daw Gonnit mused, “You so right, boss. Everybody git to take a shot at life, even though they’re born into times and maybe circumstances different from what their mom n pop were born into. And I guess they got to work with whatever they got–whatever they’re born into, wherever they be borne into it, whether they’re in Peoria or Seoul or Bangalore or Timbuktu or wherever.”

“But sometimes I catch a glimpse of the big picture, and I think it’s all on a long, downhill slide into hell,” Gosh Darnit opined. “. . .what with the perpetual wars, and terrorists and riots and police shootings and oppressions and so forth and whatnot. . .”

Ole Dad Gummit straightened hisself up; he looked around the establishment as if he wanted to say something profound, which he did: “As long as God Dammit don’t show up, I think we’ll be all right.” He drained the last of his IPA, then looked at Daw Gonnit in the eye.

“Maybe that’s what’s needed,” said the younger man.

“Could be,” crooned Dad Gummit.  He smiled, stood up. “Catch you boys on the flipflop.” And with that cloture, he strode out like a cricket among the embers.

Glass Chimera

Mr. Anderson’s Idea

October 13, 2012

In the USA, our biggest hurdle that obstructs a path toward innovative prosperity is this: we don’t manufacture nearly as many “things” as we once did. Everyone knows that in the globalized economy, any widget or value-added “thing” that can be made less expensively in a developing nation will be bought by distributors and sold on the world market before our American-made stuff is bought. This is because we yankees are comparatively rich and affluent and well-paid, and by the time our manufactured products roll off the end of the line, they are too costly to compete in world markets.

Beginning a hundred and fifty or so years ago, we were cranking up a highly energized production economy that was unprecedented in the history of the world. The British, who had actually invented the industrial revolution, were a few steps ahead of us. But they did not have the benefit of a vast, undeveloped continent, and so we passed them in volume and productivity.

So, for a solid hundred and twenty years or, we Americans were going like gangbusters supplying the world with fancy new mechanized goods. We were setting the standards and benchmarks for new industrial development on such a massive scale that we thought the rest of the world would never catch up.

Well guess what. The rest of the world has now caught up. And furthermore, their newfound economies of scale, and their lean and hungry looks, have enabled the developing nations to surpass us in efficiency and in sales.

Therefore the great American industrial machine is no longer cranking out goods, widgets and whoopfizz things to supply the whole world. The world is supplying itself according to the old dictates of supply, demand, and efficiency. And we are just one bully on that manufacturing hill instead of being, as we once were, the king of the hill.

So what do we do now?

Chris Anderson has spotlighted for us an innovative technological strategy by which we may find a new path of development. Furthermore, it is squarely in the tradition innovative entrepreneurship that made this country great. And he has written a book about it:

http://www.amazon.com/Makers-The-New-Industrial-Revolution/dp/0307720950

Because I have been wondering about this problem for a few years now, I was astounded this morning at the timely profundity of his first chapter. It just seems to me that he has hit on exactly what needs to happen next in our quest for a strategy to revitalize  diminishing American manufacture capacities. So here are, without further ado, several quotes:

“America and most of the rest of the West is in the midst of a job crisis… …manufacturing, the big employer of the twentieth century(and the path to the middle class for entire generations), is no longer creating net new jobs in the West. Although factory output is still rising in such countries as the United States and Germany, factory jobs as a percentage of the overall workforce are at all-time lows. This is due partly to automation and partly to global competition driving out smaller factories.”

 

But guess what. There is hope for “smaller factories,” and small companies, because of the democratizing effects of the internet web. The developing internet infrastructure  of our age is functionally the same as the railroads web that our great-great grandparents built from coast to coast. Their double-tracked steel web ultimately enabled our unprecedented, expansive prosperity, the end of which we now observe in languid perplexity.

My thought is that we’ve got to find a profitably productive way out of this deadend track, and it won’t be accomplished in selling MBSs and CDOs and CDSs in HFT to each other while trying to buy the dips and sell the peaks. No, it ill not. And I think Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine is onto something, a light at the end of the tunnel, as it were, a beam of light shining through the dark clouds of post-industrial obsolescence and capitalist decadence.

Continuing quotes from Mr. Anderson’s Makers: The New Industrial Revolution:

“Automation is here to stay–it’s the only way large-scale manufacturing can work in rich countries…But what can change is the role of the smaller companies. Just as startups are the driver of innovation in the technology world, and the underground is the driver of new culture, so, too, can the energy and creativity of entrepreneurs and individual innovators reinvent manufacturing, and create jobs along the way.”

Now just how, exactly, will this magic bullet of creative entrepreneuship be shot forth?

Are you skeptical of Mr. Anderson’s fresh optimism? I was too, as I have generally been for a few years now, ever since about September of ’08, until I started reading about his idea. And, as we say in the publishing business, you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is! Ha

But hey, I’ll give you a hint of what the new approach to design/manufacturing on a massive micro-scale is all about. It has to do with design, and 3-D printing, and the electronic transportability thereof.

3-D printing, at your fingertips, no less! You may laugh. I daresay there were a few laughing at the likes of Edison and Bell and Ford, back in, oh, 1880 or so. And there were a few, no doubt, who laughed at Jobs and Gates and Bezos long about 1980.

Nevertheless, all skeptics aside, there will be some among us who laugh all the way to the bank. Will you be one of them?

Glass half-Full