Does Barack Obama Like Lean?

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever heard lean principles discussed as part of a political campaign, and I certainly haven’t heard it during the current presidential campaign.

However, Barack Obama recently released what he called his
manufacturing agenda. And a couple of points caught my eye.

The agenda covers a wide range of topics, from environmental issues to education to trade policies, all from the perspective of how they relate to manufacturing.

I will not try to assess whether the bulk of these proposals would help or hurt manufacturing and the country. That’s not the focus of this blog. I’ll leave that to others. (The National Association of Manufacturers
has already offered its comments – some positive, some not.)

But two of Obama’s points got my attention:
  • Create an Advanced Manufacturing Fund to identify and invest in the most compelling advanced manufacturing strategies.
  • Double funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
After looking at the more detailed description of the proposals available on Obama’s website, I believe he is using the phrase “advanced manufacturing strategies” to refer primarily to technology. I hope there are people who can convince him that a lean strategy is, in fact, the most advanced manufacturing strategy.

(By the way, I’m not at all sure the federal government should have a fund to invest in manufacturing strategies. I tend to believe that is more a function of free markets. But the subject is at least worth discussing.)

Obama’s mention of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership is more on point. The nationwide network of MEPs has a long history of assisting manufacturers, often by helping them implement lean strategies.

He says the Bush administration has slashed MEP funding, and he would double it. He doesn’t list any figures.

His statement is correct as far as it goes. In presenting the federal budget, the Bush administration, at least in most years, has proposed cutting MEP funding. However, in most years, Congress has revised the budget to increase MEP funding, or at least keep it stable.
Regardless, it is good to hear that Obama supports the MEP program.

Oh, and I did take a look at the websites for both John McCain and Hillary Clinton. I couldn’t find anything on either site specifically about manufacturing.

Which candidate (if any) do you believe would best champion the cause of lean manufacturing, or at least strengthen U.S. manufacturing?


mike said...

I fail to see any positive evidence any of the candidates understands anything about business in general or manufacturing in particular. Their visions all center around spending other people's money to buy votes through programs to "help" us.

As for the MEPs, they are not all created equal. Michigan and Ohio, for instance, are pretty unorganized as far as training and communication go and helping companies develop grant requests, etc. In Michigan, at least, they focus on "disadvantaged" areas--meaning Detroit and Flint for the most part--and if your company is not in one of those areas you do not qualify for much assistance. They are also guilty of following butterflies instead of keeping their focus. The Michigan MEP, for instance, has become very interested in lean healthcare lately.

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