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From the Desk of Jack Healy

Unlocking the Value in Manufacturing

By Jack Healy, Director, MassMEP

As the news media lament that the bursting housing bubble is affecting other parts of the economy, such as manufacturing, there is a return to the belief that we must migrate production to low cost countries in order to survive. The illogic of this premise is often supported by various publics who seem genuinely surprised that we are still manufacturing much of anything in Massachusetts. Such beliefs are based more often on feelings than on facts. 

Hopefully, the forthcoming manufacturing study from Northeastern University’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy will dispel such feelings with such data as:

  • Manufacturing output (1997 to 2006) is growing faster in Massachusetts than in the US with real manufacturing GDP 61.5 % higher for this period versus 30.6% for the US. 
  • Real output per worker in 2006 was $134,000 versus $93,000 for the US.
  • Real output growth per worker between 1997 and 2006 was 9.3% for Massachusetts versus 5.4% for US manufacturing.

What most people do not realize is that Massachusetts manufacturers of all types,  not just the big durable-goods manufactures, have been diligently working to improve their productivity throughout their organizations. As a result, they have gotten us to where we are now – the most productive production levels in our history.

There is a debate on how long such increases can be sustained. This is illustrated in a recent article in the Economist magazine that states, "No serious economist thinks that America can maintain such a torrid of productivity growth over a longer period; indeed, the pace has already eased in the past year or two." The Economist article goes on to state "there are signs that America’s productivity in manufacturing has been boosted by forces inherent in the structure of the economy, so that the sector should continue to thrive."

One of the forces "inherent in the structure" are the hundreds of "Lean champions" who continually work to overcome resistance to change and instill continuous improvement in their companies. These are the people who are leading their companies in today’s dynamic manufacturing marketplace, an environment that requires dealing with increasing complexity, changing technologies, and escalating customer demands, while continually improving performance. 

The MassMEP works with several hundred "Lean champions" throughout the state, providing the networking forums where these individuals can come together and learn from each other. Upcoming events include: Lessons Learned – The Toyota Way and Leanness.

Lessons Learned – The Toyota Way
A premier networking event on October 1, 2023 at 1pm. The Western Massachusetts Chapter of APICS will present  "Lessons Learned – The Toyota Way," featuring guest speaker Dr. Jeffery Liker. This meeting will be held at the Log Cabin Meeting Center, Rte 141, Holyoke Street , Holyoke MA. The event is open to the public and registration is online at or call Kathie Mahoney at the MassMEP at (508) 831-7020.

Dr. Liker has written numerous, award-winning books on Toyota’s operating systems detailing the concepts and providing examples that anyone interested in improving operations can logically implement in their organization, no matter what the industry. 

This event will be followed by a book signing and several plant tours of Western Mass companies. The opportunity to network among peers will make this a premier event, so please register early as seating is limited.

This year’s William J. O’Brien Distinguished Lecture Series will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn from world-class practitioners of Lean thinking, including:

  • Hajime Ohba, President of Toyota SSC
  • Jim Davis, Chairman of New Balance Shoe
  • Jake Gosa, Chairman of American Woodmark.

This distinguished panel will be moderated by Peter Senge, lecturer and author, Society for Organizational Learning.

This event will be held October 11, 2023 at the College of the Holy Cross’s Hogan Campus Center, from 7-9pm. This event is also open to the public and registration is online at Seating is limited and registration is required.

Both of these events will offer attendees a great opportunity to learn how to continue to "Unlock the Value in Manufacturing," so please join us and your peers in learning how to make it happen.


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