I was part of an international team that was working to consolidate manufacturing into one location for a world wide company. This was a long time ago (like 20+ years ago) but I was reminded of it today in a radio new report. The report was about the children coming across the border and what to do with them. I’ll come back to that at the end of this post.
This music was what I thought of when I remembered the team I served on. It is a Japanese musician names Kitaro. I heard him at one point in the trip I am about to tell about and I thought I would share. It’s a bit New Age and instrumental. Great to listen to.
So, back to the story. There were 6 of us on the team, not counting interpreters. Two from the US, two from Japan and two from Switzerland. Most spoke English pretty well but the interpreters were needed sometimes when it got tough to get the nuances of the language out fo the way.
Each team of course thought they had the solution to the problem. Just let them do the manufacturing for everyone else and shut down all the other locations. That of course was not acceptable to the other members. Imagine that!
What we did to help understand the needs was a world tour of our customers and factories so I got to go to Japan, Europe and to host the team in the US.
We got to go to Japan first for 2 weeks. We visited a factory or customer every day. Lots of travel, lots of meetings and very little sight seeing but it was a great trip.
Next we went to several locations in Europe and ended up in Switzerland to visit the manufacturing location. Then it was our turn to host the team in the US. Now I have to share a little bit of the technical side for this story to make sense. Conveyor speeds are determined by the level of production needed to meet the demand. Each factory we went to in Japan and Europe ran about 10 feet per minute. The demand is lower as the markets are smaller. My partner and I noticed that on our trips and decided to show them something different than they were used to. We picked a manufacturing plant in Michigan that ran a line 3 times that speed and about twice as tall as they had ever seen. It was not an unusual plant for us but we had a chance to share something in a way that would make an impression. It did.
As we entered the facility and went into the paint shop, our team mates just stopped in mid stride. They walked in slowly and stood staring. Mouth open and shocked at the production rate and volume of paint we sprayed each minute. After about 10 minutes of that they said collectively “We had no idea”. No idea that our systems were so much different than theirs. That our production rates were so much higher. They had seen it on paper but that does not soak in until you see it for yourself.
The result was a consolidation of what we could but each location still made the things that they needed in the unique situation for each. It was impossible to do what the bosses wanted but it took several trips, nights in hotels, flights and meeting to relay that information in a way that could be understood.
The radio news I heard today was about what we are trying to do with the huge numbers of kids and others coming across the border. I heard there were schools dedicated to them in California, Texas and Massachusetts. I know it’s a huge problem Georgia and really around the country as a whole. It made me think that its a big problem but we don’t see how big until we are personally confronted with it and it makes it easy to dismiss it even though it’s the truth.
My point is that we have to dig in and pay attention to this and many of the other problems in our country today and it starts with getting connected at a personal level, one that might require a trip or a night in a hotel. A meeting or two so we get more understanding of the size of the problem. Ideology and bumper sticker answers are not going to fix this one.
These problems are not going to fix themselves and I doubt that Washington DC is going to do anything unless we make them. We, The People have to take a stand, get educated and get vocal. It’s one of the reasons I write this blog.
I hope it matters and someone is willing to get involved with me. If you want to get involved, let me know. I have a small book that I’ll give you for free, a book written by someone I respect and I promise, it’s not political. Just something to make you think.
Comment or email me and I’ll get a copy to you.
Thanks for listening,
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