Manufacturing Today is a Whole Different Ballgame
If you look at advanced manufacturing processes today, they actually require a much higher level of skill and sophistication in your workforce than I think many of us realize.
Willy Shih’s expertise is in manufacturing and product development, and he has written or co-authored more than 125 cases and teaching materials in industries ranging from semiconductors, information technology, consumer electronics, aerospace, transportation equipment, manufacturing processes and tools, and intellectual property. His paper, “Restoring American Competitiveness,” co-authored with Gary Pisano, won the 2009 McKinsey Award. His recent book, “Producing Prosperity – Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance,” co-authored with Gary Pisano, has called attention to the link between manufacturing and innovation. He is also the author of “Back Bay Battery,” a best-selling innovation simulation.
A lot of us think of manufacturing as putting tops on bottoms, assembling widgets. We tend not to think about it as knowledge work. While it is true that a lot of manufacturing, especially things like the sewing of garments or the assembly of electronics products is very routine and very modular, if you look at advanced manufacturing processes today, they actually require a much higher level of skill and sophistication in your workforce than I think many of us realize. Let’s look at the manufacturer of genomics based drugs, protein based drugs.
The scale up of making a few milligrams in the lab to producing a one year supply for the world’s population is a very difficult problem. That requires sophistication in your workforce. It’s the commercialization of those types of drugs, the scale up, the production. Those require sophisticated scientific understanding.
A lot of other types of production work require the use of advanced tools. If you go into a factory today you’ll see workers who have to use computer skills. You’ll see people who do scientific experiments on production lines to improve the performance of their processes. That type of work is really knowledge work. It’s not our conventional view of what goes on inside a factory.
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