Historically, the manufacturing workforce was often composed of family members who had worked for generations at the same plant. The sharing of manufacturing knowledge occurred at the supper table. In addition, skilled workers rose through the ranks and held management positions thereby expanding the knowledge beyond the family. In this way, manufacturing knowledge continued to grow through the sharing of ideas.
As competition increased and methodologies changed, the required skill set changed. Remaining competitive meant hiring managers with college generated business skills and little or no hands-on manufacturing experience. These highly educated and poorly experienced leaders began encouraging the older manufacturing generation to retire, or simply downsized them altogether (Polzin 2007, p. 38). This meant a continued loss of historical and hands on knowledge over the last 50 years. In 1950, the United States manufacturing industry was about 35% of total employment. In 2004, this number dropped to only 13%, and in 2010, the number was only 5.95% (Fisher, 2004). These changes made learning from the past difficult at best.
With this critical talent experience base now gone, organizations no longer have the wisdom of capturing or documenting the experience and knowledge from seasoned experts (Polzin, 2007). When the generation of experts left, the intellectual knowledge did as well. Our global economy depends on manufacturing, which implies the need of selecting an endurable means to sustain growth of the manufacturing industry.
Solutions will come from understanding the tested wisdom of those who have retained the hands-on knowledge and seasoned enough to share this skillset with managers with college generated business skills. This manager will need to swallow some pride and begin to learn how to once again capture the manufacturing greatness that once personified the United States manufacturing industry. Never too late to recapture this skill set, simply decide to do so, and then do it!
Fisher, E. (2004). Why are we losing manufacturing jobs? Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Economic Commentary, July, 6.
Polzin, M. J. (2007). The disposable American: Layoffs and their consequences/communities and workforce development. Labor Studies Journal, 31(4), 93-95.
by AMERICAN WRITER Dr. Pietro Savo Tradition Books Publication © 2012
Manufacturing Research Practitioner ™ by Dr. Pietro Savo
Dr. Pietro Savo E-Mail Link firstname.lastname@example.org
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