martes, mayo 01, 2007

GM vs Toyota en recursos humanos

Dentro de la profunda discusión en la industria estadounidense acerca de su pérdida de posiciones frente a otros competidores, un comentario de Mark Graban balanceando un artículo de Frank Langfitt en NPR (National Public Radio) sobre la prevalencia de Toyota sobre GM. Langfitt pone el acento en los costos de los recursos humanos, superiores para GM especialmente en salud, aún comparando contra las plantas americanas de Toyota.
Lo esencial de la respuesta de Graban es que GM sigue sin ver lo que diferencia a Toyota de GM (y otras competidoras): el gerenciamiento. Graban afirma que no alcanza con imitar algunas técnicas, sin comprender la esencia del manejo de procesos que implica Lean Manufacturing.
Dice Langfitt:

Indeed, the company has designed many vehicles that consumers just didn't want to buy. That damaged GM's image and cost thousands of workers their jobs.
"Some of the plants that have the reputation for being the best in terms of quality of the work force, teamwork, all the things that management asks, are the ones that were selected to be closed," Liker said.
Although GM workers are good, they are also very expensive; and that has put the company at a disadvantage.
Under their union contract, GM assembly workers make about $2 more per hour than Toyota's workers do.
And health care — especially for retirees — is staggering. For instance, GM spends more than $1,600 in health care per vehicle in North America while Toyota, with few retirees in the U.S., spends under $300 per vehicle.
GM can't pass health care costs onto customers, so it sells some cars at a big loss.

La visión de Langfitt es que se recortarán beneficios en salud en la industria norteamericana:

GM has cut health care costs. But when contract negotiations begin this summer with the United Auto Workers, McAlinden expects GM to ask for more concessions from its hourly workers.
"Right now the Big Three [GM, Ford, Chrysler] owe $118 billion in future retiree health liabilities for which they've set aside practically very little money. That's far more than the companies are worth," he said. "So on paper the companies are completely and utterly bankrupt."
McAlinden said if Toyota does become No. 1 this year, it will set a new standard for wages and benefits in the U.S. auto industry that will be considerably lower.

Graban responde:
To me, it's definitely not the workers' fault. Management designs vehicles and has responsibility for making sure these cars meet the needs of the workers. Having a super efficient factory that builds cars that don't sell isn't very Lean at all, even if the factory used Kanban and 5S. Lean isn't just a set of factory tools, it's an overall management system that includes product development and other aspects of the enterprise.
I think the article/audio story mostly gets in right, pointing out the systemic problems and management errors of GM. But, NPR should have titled their story "Reasons for GM Slide Aren't the Workforce." You won't get very far with Lean if you're dumping on or blaming your employees.

(...) Of course workers aren't to blame. The difference between Toyota and GM is a difference in management systems, not a difference in workers. Look at the success of NUMMI, where Toyota is running a plant with the same workers GM was failing with, before 1983 (well, most of the 1983 workers are retired now, I'm sure). Toyota didn't hire EVERYONE back, but they were able to succeed with the UAW and its workforce.

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