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woman entering our workforce is more apt to say, ‘I’m here and I’m willing to learn and grow.’” Johnson suggests that men are becoming more receptive to women in the manufacturing environment and are beginning to understand that in order for a company to be successful learning has to be a continuous, lifelong process—for everyone. “As more women become exposed to manufacturing, they are seeing the tremendous career opportunities that exist and they are entering the workforce with stronger skill sets than in the past. Women bring a completely different perspective to the workforce, they are helping us to see the issues and challenges outside of the traditional box, and how to balance work and family responsibilities.” Karla Aaron is president of Hialeah Metal Spinning, Inc., of Hialeah, Florida, a precision metal forming manufacturer. She has seen many younger women entering the manufacturing field, and notes that their expectations are different. “Younger women entering our workforce have family responsibilities, and are in relationships where there are shared family activities,” she says. “When these women come to meetings, they want information now and they want it fast.” Because family responsibilities are still disproportionately managed by women, long meetings are replaced with action-items and measurable metric accomplishments. “This is causing a shift in perception,” says Aaron, “a shift in the willingness to make meeting formats a bit different, make some accommodations, and make some timelines different.” One consequence of this is to allow younger males to take on more family responsibilities, making it easier for everyone to balance work and home life. At Click Bond, Inc., a manufacturer of proprietary aerospace fasteners in Carson City, Nevada, COO and owner Collie Hutter also notes that most of the departments in her company have women employees. “Many people have the misconception that jobs for women in manufacturing exist only on the plant floor,” she says. “But at Click Bond we have women in every department—sales, purchasing, planning, inventory control, accounting, and our shipping department is managed by a woman.” Hutter believes that women have more patience, and are therefore better able to deal with the problems encountered in a typical business day. “If you’ve raised a two-year-old and then survived your kid’s teenage years, you have learned patience,” she says. “On the assembly line, our women workers are able to see all elements— gathering components, packaging, labeling—and get great satisfaction from doing the job correctly and not having any of their boxes returned.” Sandy Westlund - Deenihan, president and design engineer of Quality Float Works of Schaumburg, Illinois, a manufacturer of metal floats, faced many challenges as she began her career in manufacturing. “I was mentored by men,” she says. “I worked alongside men and I had to work twice as hard as a man to earn respect— just to be taken seriously, but I think these tougher challenges have made me more focused and more confident, and have given me a greater resolve in running a business.” Westlund-Deenihan also echoed Hutter’s mantra of what it takes to be a successful woman in manufacturing. “It takes patience, patience, patience— patience to overcome the roadblocks that men don’t have to face.” She viewed each challenge as an opportunity to succeed and find solutions. This determination helped to make her 93-year-old firm one of the fastest growing companies in the US. West lund-Deenihan believes that manufacturing is still suffering from the ‘Hollywood’ image as a downand- dirty, dead-end industry. “Here at Quality Float Works, we are not the company that my grandfather founded. We are not using hammers and nails on the production floor— we’re using lasers and numeric controls, advanced manufacturing and robotics.” Advances in technology have helped to open the door for technically savvy women to progress in manufacturing jobs that pay above average wages and offer good benefits. There is no doubt that women are making a positive impact in the industrial work environment. Attention to detail, shorter meetings, patience, concern for family and work life balance, interest in health and well-being are attributes manufacturers value in their quest to become employers of choice. Now you know where to find them. Thomas R. Cutler is President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm in the world. Operationalexcellence “We are not the company that my grandfather founded. We are not using hammers and nails on the production floor—we’re using lasers and numeric controls, advanced manufacturing and robotics” 6 May 08

May Anand Sharma is President and CEO of TBM Consulting Group, Inc., and author of The Perfect Engine. 08 7 There is a saying that when the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold. The word recession has been increasingly cropping up in the rhetoric of economic pundits lately, but are we really headed down that road? And if so, how will it affect manufacturing on a global scale? If anything, we are in an emotional recession, which is the direct result of the antics of the housing and banking industries. The increase in foreclosures—on people who should never have qualified for loans in the first place—is driving the recession discussion train, but housing is just one business sector among many. Most business silos are seeing fairly robust growth, despite all the talk to the contrary. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the warning signs. Instead, take this time to take a hard look at your business. Concentrate on what you do best. Continue to improve your products and services through policy deployment and your lean initiatives. Remember that a lean journey is about putting creativity before capital. You can continue to make improvements without spending money—improvements that will result in even more cost savings and that create the kind of agility that can put you in a better competitive position no matter what happens. When dealing with market fluctuations and economic stress that can affect your business, look closely at the critical characteristics of lean companies that have successfully transformed their enterprises for competitive advantage in any business climate: • Focus on what you can control. Take waste out of your operation. Appeal to your customers to buy from you because your lead time is shorter, your quality is better, and the value you provide is greater. • Leverage gains for growth. Every time you eliminate non-valueadded steps and reduce waste in your processes, you can increase capacity, improve productivity, and cut capital spending. • Create a current, compelling vision for the future. Communicate the vision with everyone in the organization and clarify everyone’s roles. Develop a roadmap to achieve that vision that everyone can follow. Communication derails speculation and allows everyone to concentrate on working together to improve the business. • Listen to your customers. Goto your customers and find out what they really want through discussion and observation so you can continually develop innovative solutions to their problems. Most importantly, don’t let the pundits force you into rash decisions like downsizing. If you need to make workforce changes, consider retraining. If you are an experienced lean organization or one that is just starting on a lean journey, remember that your human capital is your only appreciating asset. Take advantage of slowdowns to prepare your workforce for the next upturn, which history shows will inevitably follow. Continually investing in your workforce is good business sense— without a trained, empowered, motivated team you have no business. Unlike those who may have downsized, you won’t be beset with episodic hiring and training issues, and the quality problems that follow. Your lean journey is for the long-term. Continuous improvement is a way of life. You should never view lean as a means of cost cutting—it’s a methodology for promoting growth, and it will work even during economic slowdowns if you have fully embraced its principles. It serves as an ally in good times as well as bad. Lean is not just a fair weather friend, says Anand Sharma Opinion Atoolforall seasons