Mark Graban interviewed me this past week for his first Podcast. We talk about my discovery of Quick and Easy Kaizen, how it was the heart of the Toyota system - getting all employees involved in continuous improvement. The puzzle to me is why every company doesn't add this most valuable process to their management lexicon. We say that "People are our most valuable asset." but we do very little to develop that asset to its fullest.
China does represent a shorterm labor savings but in the long term we are giving away our companies to them. This week I was watching parts of the Tour de France bicycle race on television and saw one of the leaders on a Giant bike.
At one time over fifteen years ago, Schwin was probably America's leading bicycle company. They went to Taiwan to manufacture their bikes to take advantage of the low labor cost. The company in Taiwan was Giant. Initially, Schwin wanted to reduce their assembly costs but Giant convinced them to also save money on engineering and every other phase of manufacturing and design. After ten years or so when the initial contract was over, Giant told Schwin, "We don't need you anymore. We know how to make great bikes, you taught us how." All we have to do is learn how to market the bikes. "Shortly, thereafter Schwin went bankrupt and sold their "name," to another American company.
Unfortunately, we are great in short term thinking. Toyota recognizes the threat from China but they are building more and more automobiles in America. If they can do it why can't other American companies do it? To me the only difference in Toyota and American manufacturers is that Toyota develops their people and the best way to develop people is from their own creative ideas.
Please do listen to the podcast at http://kanban.blogspot.com/2006/07/leanblog-podcast-1-norman-bodek.html
And give me some feedback,