Lean manufacturing companies work using the principle of PULL. Others work on PUSH. Unfortunately, we have more PUSH companies than PULL. The principle of PULL makes companies better and healthier.
The government has tried to push for quality and competitiveness through its schemes, such as the cluster programme. Irrespective of how it is reported, these programmes have missed the essence of lean and at best have become attempts to reduce defects and give instructions on a few lean tools. Tools, when used properly, may provide change, but that does not guarantee continuity of improvements, consistency and impact on the balance sheet. Most claimants to lean are not lean. However, if lean is culturally embedded properly, excellence will walk to its door step and so will customers, markets, share and profits.
The cows are yet to come home on whether technologies in the digital space such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT, 3D printing, etc. will reduce or increase jobs! We need to pay attention to the growth of jobs. Imagine if all cars are driven autonomous, what will happen to millions of drivers around the world? If batteries or hydrogen cells replace IC engines, what will happen to all those workers in auto component industries and those upstream to them? When automation replaces jobs of any kind, the question that needs to be answered is what’s the next job opportunity for those displaced? While the argument will rage that there will be creation of new jobs that will replace the old ones, these new jobs will demand entirely new levels of learning, skills and competence.
Can those losing jobs rise to new expectations? Look at the tech industry vacancies. They are finding it hard to recruit college grads for new tech areas. So, these are going to be two different domains altogether – the domain where jobs are lost and the domain where jobs are created with a huge knowledge gap.
To overcome this potential social problem, there needs to be more ‘Job Creating Innovations’ and at different levels of education and opportunities led by innovators, manufacturing organisations and investors who invest in job creating innovations rather than in efficiency innovations. Investors and investment companies must consider to invest from profits made by their investments in efficiency innovation businesses into job-creating innovations so that growth and stability in jobs and economy can be maintained. There is much of sustaining innovation happening through substitute products, but such innovations only replace the old, they don’t add to overall jobs and economy. I hope the industry champions will selflessly lead the solutions.
This is a guest editorial feature by Sanjeev Baitmangalkar, Strategy & Lean Management Consultant, Stratmann Consulting