Manufacturing futures

Manufacturing on the rise again, some of my concerns..

emergecoach

My heart is in manufacturing, my Dad, worked for many years as a Foreman at British Leyland at Longbridge, home of “red robbo” and the night shift sleeping through the night. Despite all the negative press I was fascinated by “making stuff” and I can still remember one Saturday morning dad took me to work and I worked on the assembly line. Imagine that now, I was not signed in, no health and safety induction, just the gaffers lad and he handed me over to two guys who he could trust to look after me for a few hours.
That was enough to convince me to seek my career in manufacturing and the start of love and loathing of my status as an engineer.

Firstly my friends thought I was mad to go and work in a factory, it was smelly and you only went there if you did not…

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Manufacturing futures

My heart is in manufacturing, my Dad, worked for many years as a Foreman at British Leyland at Longbridge, home of “red robbo” and the night shift sleeping through the night. Despite all the negative press I was fascinated by “making stuff” and I can still remember one Saturday morning dad took me to work and I worked on the assembly line. Imagine that now, I was not signed in, no health and safety induction, just the gaffers lad and he handed me over to two guys who he could trust to look after me for a few hours.
That was enough to convince me to seek my career in manufacturing and the start of love and loathing of my status as an engineer.

Firstly my friends thought I was mad to go and work in a factory, it was smelly and you only went there if you did not do well at school. I was in fact one of last proper apprentices. No YTS for me, a proper 5 year apprenticeship, signing my self over to Chubb Locks who through a set of “indentures” agreed to train and give me a craft. All good, they looked after me, nurtured me, and told me they wanted me to go and do a degree which I duly did. After 7 years of financial support and a job in holidays and sandwich placements I decided I needed to move on.
Whilst I got fantastic support, they were what was wrong with UK manufacturing at that time. Low investment, poor facilities, poor and ineffective management. I tried to do things differently and I had my supporters but also those who reminded me of my place!

I did the milk road, and amongst a series of job offers I chose Boots. Head office in Nottingham and lured by a ratio of 3 women to every man I decided that was the place to be. (Incidentally, i met my wife on my first day, as we were the first four graduates to arrive!!).
Here my frustrations with being an engineer continued. Job gradings worked against engineers, and my peers in marketing, finance and other disciplines started to acquire higher grades and cars as we were left behind with the promise of exciting and challenging work but not the reward or status in the organisation. My frustration was not helped by people asking me if I fixed my own car! Just cause I have a degree in engineering don’t assume I am interested in cars, I wasn’t then and not now – big chip on my shoulder about that one!

A few more years in senior engineering before I decided, rightly, that my personality and strengths lay in other areas, and people, change and supply chain re engineering beckoned.

So despite my frustrations and up until 10 years ago spending all my time in manufacturing I am really pleased to see the growth of manufacturing again in the UK, and the fact that some of our manufacturing that was shipped abroad is coming back again to these shores. As someone who was involved in off shoring I was a reluctant participant and despite my assertion that it was more than just looking at manufacturing costs, I lost the arguments in my various companies.

So manufacturing is coming back. We have bright and shiny factories popping up rather than the dark satanic mills I experienced and we have a growing interest in engineering amongst school children. Both my boys are curious which is great.
However I am worried as to whether we can sustain the progress.

We have lost maybe 3 generations of skilled apprentices and engineering graduates have found other careers.
But what worries me most, as frustrated me through my career is the engineers status in society. We need to value the work of engineers at all levels, and in particular recognise graduate engineers as much as lawyers, doctors and other professionals. They are in other countries, and we need to pay them accordingly.
We also need to invest in leadership and management, not only to nurture the future as I experienced, but also to collaborate, innovate and keep pushing the manufacturing boundaries. I am afraid I still see some old style management practices in the sector, and if we are to attract and retain the key people we need to up their competence in the people stuff to equal their engineering talents.
Finally, whilst not advocating a manufacturing strategy, I do feel that Government needs to create the environment and climate that nurtures and encourages long term investment in this value adding sector as well as raising the profile and value of engineers in society. Maybe some of the high profile infrastructure projects will help in this area too.

So it’s great to see the growth in manufacturing again. I’m committed to add my voice to see it grow again, and I hope that we work really hard to grow it, and get the recognition in society that is merits and deserves.

I’ve got many things crossed….

When I were young!

Doug Shaw started this ball rolling for me with his blog on Employee Engagement and the thought that the term was not well known and a buzz phrase amongst HR and a body of consultants.
Doug put forward the view from some research that maybe being trusted, valued and respected was far more fundamental.
Doug made the point that making work better is important, a view that I completely endorse.

Here’s the link to Doug’s blog:

http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/engagement/employee-engagement-there-has-to-be-a-better-way/

I would like to come at the subject of engagement from another start point. It is about making work better, as a production engineer by education and where I spent my early career my focus has always been on making work better, namely producing more stuff when it’s wanted, of the right quality and at right price. In producing stuff, people are a variable to be managed. That might sound rather hard and heartless but that’s the reality in pure system terms.
What I learnt early on, was that we could manage our processes, we could reengineer them to make them lean, and measure to death all the materials and inputs that went into the production process. It was however people that decided whether the work got done, and how well it got done, and what you found on the packing lines, and in production departments where they got better results it was because they felt valued, respected and trusted despite all the systems that tried to prevent delegated authority.
This happened not because of big initiatives but because some managers felt there was a better way, and in spite of the systems around them, they started doing things differently. Looking for things that people were doing right instead of wrong, asking their opinions, taking them to meet suppliers of materials as they were the people who worked the line every day and could see the problems clearly, and most of all they started staying thank you!

So my point, there is a better way. As we used to say JFDI, treat people as you want to be treated and it’s amazing what they will do for you. My Dad taught me that after years at British Leyland!
I love the intent of Employee Engagement and the work that has been down to raise the case, but let’s keep it simple, and we might just get what we are looking for?

this blog is live from Worcester Swimming pool 🙂

Beauty – and a bit of live blogging :-)

emergecoach

image

So here goes, I am diving in with another blog and testing out WordPress by doing it live on the iPad. Testing my own limiting beliefs about my blogging.

To continue the metaphor I am once again sat by the side of a swimming pool.
I know that I go on about my boys sporting achievements. My intent is not to brag but because it has become a huge part of my life, my relationship with my boys and I am just really proud of them. I also find a lot of meaning in what they do.

By way of background and context my wife and I share the load of sitting by the side of a swimming pool six days a week. Luke our youngest son is 11 and a swimmer who has high potential. He is a member of two swimming clubs to get the pool time he…

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Beauty – and a bit of live blogging :-)

image

So here goes, I am diving in with another blog and testing out WordPress by doing it live on the iPad. Testing my own limiting beliefs about my blogging.

To continue the metaphor I am once again sat by the side of a swimming pool.
I know that I go on about my boys sporting achievements. My intent is not to brag but because it has become a huge part of my life, my relationship with my boys and I am just really proud of them. I also find a lot of meaning in what they do.

By way of background and context my wife and I share the load of sitting by the side of a swimming pool six days a week. Luke our youngest son is 11 and a swimmer who has high potential. He is a member of two swimming clubs to get the pool time he needs to fulfil that potential.

So as I sit here tonight I find myself reflecting on what factors lead to success. Who knows, we may have a journey to make with Luke, but right now in this moment as I watch beauty comes to mind.

Luke has beauty in spades, he has fabulous technique, he has this absolutely gorgeous little flick of his hands as he does backstroke. It’s Dan Pink’s mastery in evidence, a real focus on doing it right and paying attention to the detail in order to be the best he can be.

I am also reminded of flow as I watch him and the metaphor seems appropriate. The great swimmers create a bow wave, they move the water around themselves by their position in the water and how they move their body as they apply their technique. Luke manages to do that, there is no splashing, he really does glide through the water. When he does not swim well he comments that the water did not feel right moving around him. Amazing really that an 11 year old can think in that way! I claim no credit!

So what might we learn from Luke. It’s certainly not all about pure sheer brute force and effort. Luke beats his peers using less strokes (and loses to those who have learnt to up their stroke rate or are just more mature and stronger for their age), he thinks deeply about his technique, he seeks feedback after every race, and he has both realistic and stretch goals (Midland and National championships). That’s all down to him, so clearly stacks of drive, even if he’s a lazy ar_e at home!

So on reflection, what about me. Would others describe me in the same terms?
In some instances I would hope so, I am confident in my abilities, and I know when I have had great dialogue or facilitated well, but I also know when I’m going through the motions or it just does not flow. I need to become more beautiful, there is more development needed. I also recognise that my goals are not always clear and that’s something I am working on. Also, whilst being very reflective and tough on myself I should seek feedback a little more often.

Luke has given me a cause for reflection tonight, and I wonder what you might learn from Luke. What might beauty look like for you?

(Ps thanks Sukh, kilter got me thinking!!)

New and Shiny

I am not new to blogging. I have tried (reminded of Yoda-there is no try!) to write blogs on a frequent basis but they just did not happen with any frequency. However much I tried, the subject or the words did not come.

A whole range of issues I think have prevented my writing. A lack of confidence, loads of other distractions, some apathy, and actually I think the real reason, I was out of “kilter” and lost my “flow”. Business has been tough for the past few years and there was no room for anything else other than getting through and keeping my head above water.

I am sensing, ever the optimist, that things are turning and I am certainly getting busier and with that comes a renewed energy. So in line with my personality traits, liking “new and shiny” and stimulated by seeking new things I am switching to WordPress to publish my blogs.

So here goes, I am diving in, some new kit, lets see if I stay afloat…..