Scare Crows

The cynic gives with eyes averted, and doubts when he hopes, because most of all he fears disappointment–that is loss of control.

I think I made it clear, when I presented to you the sprouting change, that danger threatened the sprout from every side. I intimated the militant ranks of people who would not take a risk to save their jobs by changing the way they do business.

I did not remark on the policy of Acme to employ temporary workers, to retain the option of cutting payroll at a moment’s notice. Of course there is no free lunch, so this costs the company in quality of employees (temps have a lower average job competence, since they are perpetually new on the job). One of those extraneous details of Lean production states that employees must have a vested interest in their job, an interest which they can protect and even benefit by participating in Lean transformation, or the transformation will never transpire. But that’s an aside–enough with the principles, on with real life!

Yes, the same plant manager who has pledged to make the planners build only what the customers want came out with a requirement that we reduce–all but eliminate, really–our temp worker force, because absorbtion (money spent that did not translate into product sold) is out of control. I suspect this dictate came from higher up than our plant manager, but I don’t know if it did.

About one-half of our key workforce in the shipping, receiving, and storing work area is provided by temps. We have been trying unsuccessfully to balance their time so that internal customers (assembly lines) and external customers (other Acme facilities) are fully serviced, as well as end customers buying spare parts.

We as a factory have also been trying to understand and control the purchasing that has resulted in massive inventories at the same time as idle production. In other words, we are buying parts that we are not putting into built tools–that is absorbtion. The effort to rationalize purchasing, when graphed, shows almost a flat line: no change.

It escapes me how it then became even an entertainable notion that we in our area need to reduce our workforce. We cannot meet our current actual customer demand, while we are buying all kinds of product that nobody presently needs.

It was a tense week, and a lesson in never giving up. The rhetoric sounded quite firm: you must choose which pound of flesh to forfeit, or I will choose for you. But P. B. stood his ground, gathered his data, and insisted that everyone was needed. The deadline has passed. Our people remain.

But terms were given, and our parley not formally acknowledged, so we are still subject to decimation without notice.