Keeping Score

Earlier this year, the Bush administration released its “Manufacturing In America” study about what the government should do to protect and enhance the competitiveness of U. S.

Columns From: 4/2/2004 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Mark Albert

Mark has been writing his Mark: My Word column every month since January, 1981.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration released its “Manufacturing In America” study about what the government should do to protect and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. The report, in its own words, “provides an overview of the domestic and international economic environment facing American manufacturing, highlights the expressed views of manufacturers regarding the challenges they face, and advances policy recommendations to help ensure that government is creating conditions necessary for U.S. manufacturers to maximize their competitiveness.”

At 88 pages, the full report is detailed and comprehensive, but it’s probably too long for most of us to digest. However, a readable and succinct summary can be accessed on the Internet at www.commerce.gov.

Every manager in manufacturing should keep a copy of this four-page summary nearby. It gathers and organizes a lot of good thinking about manufacturing and what ails it. Every time you find yourself saying, “The problem in manufacturing is . . . ,” “What we in manufacturing need is . . . ” or “To help manufacturing, the government ought to. . . ,” take another look at this summary. Chances are, you’ll find your point clearly articulated and appropriately categorized.

For one thing, referring to the study in this way will keep you from oversimplifying the nature of our troubles. For another, it will counter the notion that some cure-all remedy might be at hand. The study certainly makes it clear that the issues are complex, multifaceted and not easily fixed.

There are some gaps. The report does not address the conflict between the interests of large corporations and those of small- to medium-sized enterprises, for example. Reconciling these conflicts is key to a fair and coherent course of action.

But the problem with the report is not what is or isn’t included. Rather, the issue is how the administration will follow up on the study’s recommendations. The words are all here. Where are the actions?

For example, the study calls for renewal of support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program (MEP), the one federal program aimed at helping small manufacturing companies become more efficient and competitive, especially through the adoption of lean manufacturing techniques. Yet the president’s FY2005 budget proposes cutting funds substantially for the MEP.

That’s one more reason to have the report summary in view: It’s a handy way to keep score on President Bush’s commitment to manufacturing in this country.

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