viernes, noviembre 27, 2009

Crónica americana: Detroit hoy

Mark Graban, el 21 de noviembre, reproduce la nota que Bob Herbert escribiera el día anterior para The New York Times, sobre la ciudad de Detroit y el estado de la industria automotríz norteamericana. Graban, especialista en Lean Manufacturing, está entre aquellos estadounidenses que reflexionan críticamente sobre la declinación de su país, aún antes de que estallara en toda su magnitud la crisis bancaria. Así como en otros momentos ha criticado la baja calidad del gerenciamiento de la industria del automóvil americana frente a la japonesa (fundamentalmente a través de la comparación contra Toyota), Graban ha pasado a un cuestionamiento de mayor alcance, defendiendo la necesidad de restaurar la industria, abandonada en pos de instrumentos de enriquecimiento más sofisticados, pero más volátiles y no generadores de riqueza para el conjunto de la sociedad. Estos argumentos son bajados a tierra a través de la descripción del caso de Detroit. Dice Graban, presentando la nota de Herbert:
This article caught my eye since I grew up outside of Detroit and my mom is still a teacher in the city. I haven't been back in a while, but I've driven past the post-industrial wasteland parts of town -- the abandoned factories with broken windows. [...]

Bob Herbert from the Times went and visited and saw the same things. He reaches some conclusions that those of us in the Lean blogosphere (including Evolving Excellence) have been saying for years -- we have to continue manufacturing products in the United States. That is where economic growth and wealth are built in an economy (...). Services are important, but that economic activity is often a matter of moving around money that's already been created.

Post-industrialization sounds trendy and "right" (you know, factory jobs must somehow be inherently dirty and demeaning) but post-industrial in Detroit means NO jobs, not a bunch of cushy professional jobs. Plus, if you want to avoid management behavior that's demeaning to workers, there's a lot of progress that needs to be made in hospitals, but that's a different story.

[...] The MIT Leaders for Manufacturing Program was created in the late 1980's to educate students and to draw leaders into the manufacturing sector, while supporting research and publications on the topic of American competitiveness. The program is now called "Leaders for Global Operations," which says a lot in terms of the mood nowadays. Manufacturing isn't cool. Global is appealing. The program could have been originally called "MIT Leaders for American Manufacturing Program" but nobody is just an "American manufacturer" anymore.

[...] I'm not a protectionist. I think global trade, done responsibly with a level playing field, is on the whole good for everyone. But the mad rush to blindly move EVERYTHING overseas, gutting America's factories has been foolish, I believe.

[...] Thankfully, we have cases of companies moving manufacturing back to the U.S. And you have entrepreneurs like Eve Yen, who I interviewed here for my podcast and is also featured in IndustryWeek. We need more Eve Yens, in big companies and in entrepreneurial settings. "Can do" over a rush to outsource. Lean and other creative methods can be used to counter the high labor costs here - being close to customers and producing high quality with short lead times can often be a winning strategy.

Y qué dice Herbert:

In many ways, it’s like a ghost town. It’s eerily quiet. Driving around in the middle of the afternoon, in a city that once was among the most productive on the planet, you see very little traffic, minimal commercial activity, hardly any pedestrians.

What you’ll see are endless acres of urban ruin, block after block and mile after mile of empty and rotting office buildings, storefronts, hotels, apartment buildings and private homes. It’s a scene of devastation and disintegration that stuns the mind, a major American city that still is home to 900,0000 people but which looks at times like a cross between postwar Berlin and the ruin of an ancient civilization.

Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives. And it was the architect of the quintessentially American idea of putting people to work and paying them a decent wage. It’s frightening to think seriously about what we’ve allowed to happen to this city and what is now happening to the middle class and the American economy as a whole.

[...] Detroit and its environs are suffering the agonies of the economic damned because of policies, crafted at the highest national and corporate levels, that resulted in the implosion of crucially important components of America’s manufacturing base. Those decisions have had a profound effect on the fortunes not just of Detroit, or even Michigan, but the entire U.S. economy.

We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”
[...] Americans, whether they live in big cities, suburban towns or rural areas, need jobs, and when those jobs are eliminated (for whatever reasons — technological advances, globalization) without being replaced, the national economy is guaranteed at some point to hit a wall.
[...] We’re at a period no less significant to the U.S. than Mr. Chapman’s early years at Ford. We need a revitalized industrial policy, including the creation of whole new industries, if American families are to prosper in the coming decades. If there is any sense of urgency about this in the hearts and minds of our corporate and government leaders, I’ve missed it.

Cualquier argentino puede escuchar ecos familiares en las palabras de Bob Herbert...

Las fotografías, tomadas de Hiroshima vs Detroit - 64 years later

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