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Archive for February, 2010

-2m industrial jobs! Who is to blame?

February 23rd, 2010 admin No comments

The number of industrial jobs in France has fallen by 40% over the past 30 years. A report has come out published by the government which attempts to understand some of the main reasons (albeit analysing only the period from 1980 to 2007, during which 2m jobs were ‘lost’).

The first conclusion is a reflection on the way statistics are collected. Using temporary labour from agencies on the shop floor does not count as an industrial job. It is categorised as ’services’, so that any company which resorts to using agencies to absorb peaks in activity (or even just uncertainty over the future) is in fact suppressing industrial jobs. This effect is estimated as accounting for 25% of the total (half a million jobs over the period) – and this was before the current economic crisis hit in.

Technologicial progress has obviously been a big factor, accounting for 30% of the total. This has led to a decrease in demand for labour but also, through increasing household revenues, has increased the demand for services, thus creating jobs and attracting workers away from industry.

The remaining 45% would come from the effects of globalisation – the commercial deficit of France has grown from 15 billion euros (they didn’t even exist in those days, what would it have been in francs!) in 1980, to 54m in 2007. What the study tried to do was distinguish between foreign competition and French companies which decide to delocalise. And surprisingly, the conclusion is that it is the delocalisations that have slightly the greater share of the 45%, even though it seems to have been difficult to come up with precise figures.

In summary, not taking into consideration the statistical glitches, technology, foreign competition and French businesses themselves each account for around a third of industrial job losses over the past 25 years. Food for thought for the French President and his advisors as they prepare to announce a ‘national industrial policy’ probably next week following the consultation exercise that took place at the end of last year.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

The German model

February 19th, 2010 admin No comments

There’s been a fair deal of questions in France over the past few months – basically a request for root cause analyses of why Germany seems to be handling the economic crisis a little better (the least that canĀ  be said) than in this country.

I have a one word answer to that one : ‘teamwork’. Whereas all over France industrial actions seems to be breaking out at the moment, the trade unions defending the interests of the German automotive and metal workers agreed yesterday to an agreement which will, in reality, hold salaries steady over the next year in return for guarantees on the level of employment over the next two.

Call it what you want – ‘win-win’ or ‘give-give’ – but the truth is that, in the current climate, such compromises are inevitable.

And while in France and other European countries, factories are closing down and hypermarkets are on strike, Germany is holding on to its skilled workers.

Just guess who my money is on for being the first out of the recession?

Categories: It's Happening Worldwide Tags:

10 propositions to reduce stress – did I hear ‘Real Lean’?

February 18th, 2010 admin No comments

Back at the end of last year, following a spate of suicides in the workplace, notably at France Telecom which I commented on in December, the French Prime Minister ordered a study from three emanant ‘practiciens’ to include propositions which would “improve the conditions for psychological health at work“. The report was published yesterday, and makes interesting reading.

In their conclusions, they come up with some points which, if they’d read ‘Lean Thinking’ and related literature back in the nineties, might have saved them twenty years or so.

As soon as the introduction, we are told that “the real challenge is the well-being of the workforce and them being valued as the most important resource that the company has“.

A number of factors were listed as being at the origin of stress in companies today. Amongst these, we can find:

- “management is too often judged on purely financial performance, with insufficient importance given to social performance”,

- “the poor use of new technologies, which dehumanises relationships at work whilst encouraging virtual exchanges. In just one generation, we have moved from a work collectivity physically close to a community of individuals, connected but isolated from each other”,

-”difficulties in work relationships within a team or with the supervisor when isolation reduce the opportunities of interaction“,

Other factors quoted include the frequency of reorganisations, the fear of unemployment, centralisations which discredit local management, matrix organisations and incessant reporting, time spent in transport, the impersonalisation of the customer interface, and the increasing social role of the workplace.

And the best one for last :

- ” the development of new forms of taylorisme in services. Characterised by standardisation and the isolation of tasks and relations, they can lead to work losing its meaning. When management methods encourage both standardisation and taking initiatives, workers are faced with a paradox. The processes must remain only the means and not the end – they do not resolve the human aspects which depend on the proximity of management“.

I’m not sure whether Lean Management comes out well or not from this, but it certainly shows that for many companies, the continuous improvement aspects have been well understood, but maybe not the ‘respect for people’.

The ten propositions read like an advetisement for ‘Real Lean’, as Bob Emilani would term it :

1) Executive management and the Board need to be implicated in ensuring that performance evaluation includes social and health factors,

2) Reinforce the presence of management in the workplace – the managers have to have authority to make decisions to support his team,

3) Ensure that the workers have the space and time to find their footing and develop as individuals,

4) Implicate the workers representatives in reducing stress in the workplace,

5) Implement measures to evaluate health and safety – we all know that measures influence behaviours

6) Prepare and train managers to actually be managers

7) Promote the value of teams and teamwork, rather than treating organisations as a collection of individuals

8) Anticipate and take account of the human factor in reorganisations and restructurings,

9) Understand that as a customer, your company also has an impact on the health of the employers of your suppliers

10) Don’t leave workers alone – always accompany those in difficulty.

All of a sudden I feel that Real Lean Management has a very healthy future.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

When the going gets tough….

February 12th, 2010 admin 1 comment

… the tough get going. And deserve to succeed.

The big boys don’t want to help the kids anymore. Two of the large aircraft manufacturers in France (you’re probably surprised that there is more than one!), probably through a well-intentioned value-stream-mapping (or cost-cutting) exercise, have decided that they will not longer play a part in supplying materials to their own suppliers. It seems that they were buying in bulk, getting a preferentiel price and therefore offering cost advantages to themselves, to their component suppliers, and also probably to the suppliers of the materials. Win-win-win, what a great arrangement, you would think.

Well, all that’s going to stop, and little Mr.Cable Supplier is now faced with negociating individually, and the material supplier now has tens of orders to take, prepare and ship. And we can very well imagine that the large manufacturers are in no way ready to accept this new state of affairs as a reason to increase costs!

Down here in the south-west, the smaller suppliers have taken it on the chin, and rebounded. 10 of them have created a platform to purchase materials in the same way as before. They’ve created a company called SAS Aero Trade, of which each has 10% of the capital. OK, it has taken two years of discussions, and there were 18 companies at the outset, so 8 have fallen off the wagon somewhere along the way, but it is still a very creditable achievement.The local authorities have been closely involved. As outlined by the President of the new platform, Serge Assorin, “we will continue to benefit from the reduced prices, and we have arranged loans from local governement agencies to finance the initial purchases”. This will even stimulate employment, with two logisticiens planned to be recruited. And if this works, there are potentially other areas of collaboration.

Congratulations SAS Aero Trade and may this example inspire many others.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:
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