Quality Magazine

From the Editor: The Value of Manufacturing

January 28, 2010


In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford discusses sustainability at his company.  When asked how sustainability and innovation in clean energy can boost competitiveness in U.S. manufacturing, Ford responds, in part, by saying that manufacturing first needs to be valued in this country.

“We’ve lost an appreciation for manufacturing,” says Ford. “It’s seen as dirty, smoke stack America, yesterday’s news and it doesn’t fit in the new information age. But in virtually every other country where Ford does business, there is an appreciation for the industrial base, and many countries will do almost anything they can to protect and enhance it. We have not, traditionally-certainly, over the last 10 years-shown that same willingness in the U.S.”

Ford goes on to say that it is impossible to find a strong global economic power that does not have a strong industrial base and that the definition of industrial must shift its focus from “smoke stack industries” to the application of new technology to modernize those old industries and an investment in new technologies, such as alternative energy.

Ford continues, “We can’t, as a nation, continue to be oblivious to the fact that our industrial base needs some help. And so the world has changed, and America needs to understand that it is changing without us.”

Acknowledging that the United States has a competitive strength in a well-trained workforce, Ford says that we “need to continue to retrain our employees so that they become even more technologically proficient as manufacturing itself changes to become more high tech.”

Ford also suggests collaboration is key in turning around the perception of U.S. manufacturing. “And I think government and business have to form partnerships, which is not something that has traditionally happened in this country. We have enormous societal issues as we tackle things, like global warming and fuel independence, that are not going to get solved unless there is collaboration,” he says.

Do you agree with Ford’s assessment of the manufacturing industry today? Is manufacturing valued in the United States? Will collaboration between government and business help tackle societal issues and bring value back to manufacturing? Share your thoughts at campbellg@bnpmedia.com or with other Quality readers on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1876808.

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