Today’s critical question: How are you managing?

It is the perfect storm of manufacturing challenges: a rush to reduce operating costs in an attempt to counter skyrocketing energy prices at a time of increasing global demand for both raw materials and finished goods. It costs more to make everything we want, and we want more of it, and there are more of us who want it.
By Bob Vavra, Editor July 15, 2008

It is the perfect storm of manufacturing challenges: a rush to reduce operating costs in an attempt to counter skyrocketing energy prices at a time of increasing global demand for both raw materials and finished goods. It costs more to make everything we want, and we want more of it, and there are more of us who want it. And even as we want more, there are less of us making it.

It would be great if there were simple answers. If it was as easy as increasing oil production or closing our borders or making the rest of the world play by our rules, we could have this whole issue solved by lunch and still have time to get home to the family for dinner.

That’s not going to happen. There isn’t a magic bullet. There isn’t a single solution. It’s not going to be easy.

This is where your skills as a manager of people and processes must come to the fore. With all the technology in the marketplace that will show you how hot or fast or synchronized a piece of equipment is operating, it is the skill of the manager that turns that data into action %%MDASSML%% and into change.

Make no mistake %%MDASSML%% we need to change. Plant maintenance is taking a back seat, and productivity is being imperiled in the process. Corners are being cut in the name of cost reduction, and that leaves us a little less safe than we were before. And jobs are being lost %%MDASSML%% not just through attrition, but through a real loss of capacity.

And the rest of the world isn’t faring much better. That shouldn’t be a comfort to us. We still lead the world in manufacturing, but that leadership is not conferred on us. We work hard enough. We need to work smarter, to not just muscle our way out of this recession, but to create a new path and a new way of doing things.

Plant Engineering’s role in that process is as a kind of advance scout for the trends and techniques, the products and the possibilities of what can be achieved in manufacturing. We need to know what you need, what you want to know and what would help you achieve change. We’re here to help.

I also know our job is easier than yours. You face pressures to reduce costs, yet you see the human face of manufacturing every day. Your workers give you their best each day, and they hope there are many days still ahead. Yet they know %%MDASSML%% and you know %%MDASSML%% there are no guarantees in this new manufacturing world.

It’s time to manage the problems, not just react to them. It’s time to see if we can do better than just “good enough.” Above all, it’s time to empower and inspire our workers to meet the pressures and crises and challenges and doubts. It’s time to lead.

The solutions are there. Implementing those solutions is what leadership is all about.

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