SportsCenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing

A few weeks ago, there was a discussion on one of the Linked In groups.  The question to start the discussion was “How do we make manufacturing sexy again?”  This question really struck a nerve with me.  I starting thinking, “Why does manufacturing need to be sexy?”  Then I realized there is a lot of similarity between sports and manufacturing in the U.S.  OK, so I am being a little dramatic about the affect SportsCenter has on manufacturing but there is a great parallel between the two.

We are a culture that suffers from the “SportsCenter Syndrome”. We crave the new and the sexy and forget all about the fundamentals and the foundation. Manufacturing is not sexy.  It is a fundamental. Everyone wants to get caught up in the flashy new idea and talk about innovation like watching the high flying dunks and long three pointers on SportsCenter. Meanwhile, the companies that are sustaining growth and manufacturing here in the U.S. are companies that continue to set good screens, make the extra pass, play defense and do all the basic fundamental things to manufacture a product. Even in sports, the teams that can’t execute the fundamentals don’t end up winning championships or sustain long term success (see Cleveland Cavaliers).

As a society we are becoming enamored with the flashy and sexy new thing.  We forget about manufacturing and the foundation it built for our country.  Manufacturing combined with innovation was how the U.S. became a super power.  During WWII, we created new and innovative weaponry, vehicles, and supplies that were built here in the U.S.  It helped us when the war.  When the war was over, everyone came home and we put the resources we had to building infrastructure to our country.  The interstates, suburbs, cars, etc…  There was  balance between manufacturing and the innovation that was coming about.  Without a good blockout and rebound, the star can’t receive the pass for a break away dunk.

I say we don’t try to make manufacturing sexy, we realize it is fundamental and it is time to get back to the fundamentals.

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Posted on June 18, 2010, in Manufacturing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You found my discussion “How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy Again” on LinkedIn and I sincerely appreciate your insights.

    The reason why I came up with this discussion is because nobody can deny that this catchy phrase obviously draws attention to the industry and that’s what manufacturing in North America needs.
    Definition of SEXY in the Dictionary:
    generally attractive or interesting: appealing
    ~ a sexy stock, a sexy car, sexy ideas

    Same old, same old, over and over again ….., and I don’t notice too much thought about how we can attract our youth to this industry.
    Everybody says they don’t have interest but I don’t think that’s a fair statement.
    Where is the marketing for manufacturing?
    How do we inform our students in school?
    How many plant tours are offered?
    How well are apprentice ship programs promoted?
    How do we build and maintain a knowledge workforce? (because this and building a quality product is the only advantage we have to low cost countries).
    How well is it explained that manufacturing creates wealth for the society?
    How do we make people aware to look for good manufactured in America? Of course we can only do that if we offer high quality products. Do we? Yes, we are getting better but are we striving for excellence?

    Our young people today are different, they look for purpose and meaning, they want to live their creativity, and they don’t put up anymore with dictatorial management styles and neither should they.

    You will hear a lot more about me and this topic (I write a book about it) because I feel that it is not only our obligation to do everything it takes to keep manufacturing here but also to create public interest and awareness. It’s just a different way of looking at it.

    PS> This is as sexy as manufacturing could become…. but to create new things we need to have a different mindset, a different attitude, different skill sets and the willingness to learn and to grow. 🙂
    http://www.flixxy.com/high-tech-car-factory.htm

    • Karin –

      Thanks for your comments. I agree with all your points about getting more and more young people to see what manufacturing does for our country and how it can help bring out their creativity. Too many of the traditional mindsets squash the creativity. One of my favorite quotes is “Creativity over capital.” I look forward to your book.

  2. Congrats on your recent post being Freshly Pressed and it led me to your blog, which I enjoy very much…and is very timely for me personally. I recently reached my limit on trying to effect meaningful change in the manufacturing industry and have gone in a different career direction entirely…self-biz writing/editing/research. I still have my APICS certifications in CPIM and CSCP but they have been of little use in the “real world” of Northeast US manufacturing. Of course, it may be as simple as I chose the wrong firms to work for along the way. Two of them did close to relocate outside the US and I chose not to join them in those relocations…since their demise was preventable. However, after a decade or so of trying to get upper management to understand the need for meaningful change in order to stay competitive in their marketplaces via various needed lean, JIT, inventory and supply chain tweaks…and they turning a deaf ear…I have essentially given up on the idea US manufacturing – at least in this neck of the woods – will ever return to its golden, or even silver eras. The world is moving to fast and those in charge – at least in my experience and the experience of those I talk to – are finding the same…at least in this sector of the country. Having blogs on both sports and non-sports topics, I am sure the lines of my writing will still be blurry at times. In that spirit, I enjoyed the use of sports to make your point in this instance. Good read. I plan to return!

    • Sorry to hear about your experiences of companies moving offshore. I worked for a company that moved everything to Mexico 10 years ago and it was not fun losing my job because of that. I do believe the U.S. needs to get back to manufacturing basics. White collar jobs will not be able to support this country nor will inventing. Inventing is part of the puzzle. Once it is invented then it has to be manufactured locally.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it.

  1. Pingback: Manufacturing Can be Competitive in the U.S. « Beyond Lean

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