In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a massive wave of manufacturing jobs move to low-labour-cost countries. Now, many companies are beginning to question whether the cost differential offered by distant suppliers compensates for the cost of working with an extended supply chain. These companies find themselves with massive inventories, yet in spite of those inventories they frequently are not able to meet all demand.
It has been difficult for managers to analyse the cost differential mismatch trade-off because mismatch costs are difficult to quantify. The intuition is that the mismatch costs are high, but the managers I discuss with have difficulty believing that overstocks and stockout costs are high enough to wipe out the cost advantage enjoyed by their offshore supplier. Without solid numbers, it’s difficult for managers to incorporate these costs into decision-making.
As a manufacturing expert, I help factories become more productive by refining the way they operate. Small improvements over time can lead to big changes in the long term.
But it wasn’t until I arrived home late and exhausted from a trip that I realized I needed to use these same principles at home. Opening the closet to hang up my coat, I found the closet crowded with kids’ sporting equipment and old school projects. Similarly, evenings at home seemed shorter as our after-dinner hours became crammed with homework and activities.
Where had all our time gone? And how did the space in our cabinets and closets disappear? Why had the job of doing the dishes slipped from right after dinner to right before bed? And why was I finding myself more frequently being drawn into a game of “Dish Tetris,” struggling to fit all the dishes into the dishwasher when they used to fit in just fine?
The health of the US manufacturing sector has been at the top of the news agenda for some time. Factory closures are highly publicized; businesses that move their production overseas are publicly shamed; and politicians often find themselves on the defensive.
True, the United States has seen a dramatic reduction in manufacturing jobs over the past decade, and many of those jobs are not coming back. (Garment-making and smartphone assembly will likely stay in places such as China.)
Despite all the negativity, though, US manufacturing is in good shape. Industrial production remains near its all-time peak, as measured by the Federal Reserve Board, and the sector will likely continue to thrive. More companies will set up — or indeed keep — their production here as the manufacturing sector becomes more efficient, innovative, and technologically sophisticated to allow for greater product variety.
Meetings play a big role in many people’s jobs. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 11 million meetings take place in a typical day. Managers can spend up to three-quarters of their time in meetings, and approximately 97% of workers say that collaboration is essential to do their best work.
As a result, meetings are tremendously important for businesses. Yet understanding meetings — much less finding ways to increase their productivity — is challenging for researchers because it requires an understanding of many social signals and complex interpersonal dynamics. Most of the work done in this area has been from the social sciences perspective using field work and surveys.