Sunday, July 6, 2008

Manufacturing's big picture

Make or Break: How Manufacturers Can Leap from Decline to Revitalization, a new book in a new series that McGraw-Hill is publishing with strategy+business, was among the first editing projects I lent a hand on at Booz & Company. It was good to get immersed in manufacturing again; I haven't spent much time on the subject since my days as a contributing editor at Industry Week and the book I wrote there, America's Best, which described the state of the art in manufacturing back in the first half of the 1990s.

Since those days of TQM and teams, manufacturing, in the U.S. at least, seems to have been in long, slow decline -- a function that many companies simply outsourced to low-cost countries and subsequently ignored. And although there have been plenty of tightly focused books on Six Sigma and the Toyota production system and outsourcing in recent years, I can't recall any big-picture books the likes of Schoenberger's World-Class Manufacturing, which is now out-of-print. It is as if manufacturing isn't a strategic level, senior management concern even in many product companies.

Anyone who thinks that's odd should read Make or Break (the book's website is here). In it, Booz partners Kaj Grichnik and Conrad Winkler describe the major issues, capabilities, and key decisions that define world-class manufacturing in today's global environment. I know that sounds like cover copy, but after all of the manufacturing books on tools and techniques, getting the big picture is a big deal.

Oh, and here's a link to a short s+b article by the authors that offers some insight into the "make or break" decision at the national level, in case there are any politicians out there who are still interested in a healthy economy.

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