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From the Desk of Jack Healy

AME – A Uniquely American Organization

By Jack Healy, Director, MassMEP

Anyone working in manufacturing today is painfully aware that the current "Great Recession" (woefully misnamed) has caused the biggest production declines in our lifetime. Such declines are better defined by the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI in their quarterly survey and business outlook. The group’s composite index that includes prospective shipments, exports, orders, investments, and backlogs has fallen to a new low,  down from last quarter’s index of 28 to its current level of 21. This is the lowest level since MAPI started its index in 1972.  Anything below 50 means that manufacturing as an industry is contracting. MAPI expects this will continue for the next three to six months.

As has been amply demonstrated in past recessions, the manufacturers who now are planning to spring back when we come out of this recession will be the enterprises that become stronger and more productive

At the end of 1984, in response to the 1980-82 recession, a small group of manufacturing professionals gathered in St. Louis to form a uniquely American, all–volunteer organization, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME). The group was organized around shared learning and mutual access to best practices to help its members personally succeed and drive their companies’ success. The AME started from such humble beginnings in 1984. It continues today with thousands of members and is a catalyst in the productivity revolution that has changed manufacturing since its inception.

US manufacturing was described in 1984 as the engine that produces overpriced, poor quality products in outdated factories, with overpaid workers. Nevertheless, the same industry, has seen the following changes from 1984 to 2006:

  • 133% increase in production
  • 133% increase in value added
  • 24% reduction in production work hours

These productivity gains were described by Peter Drucker, famed management consultant, as "the biggest transition in U.S. manufacturing  history — to a Lean, more productive capacity which has not been recognized, let alone properly measured."  Throughout this transition, AME has been a leader and continues to introduce leading edge innovation in manufacturing.

When most people think of innovation, they think of new technologies or new inventions.  However, the more common type of innovation that produces the majority of improvement is managerial.  Managerial Iinnovation increases productivity by introducing new business processes or practices, such as Lean, that are implemented with limited involvement of equipment and technologies.

AME will continue to introduce innovation at this year’s annual AME conference that will be held in Covington Kentucky , Oct. 19-23, 2009. You can join over 1,000 other manufacturing professionals who will come from plant floors around the world to learn best practices, as well as new concepts.

At this conference, AME’s Mentor-in-Chief Doc Hall will introduce his new book Compression, which is a challenge to all to understand and plan a way forward in a world of diminishing resources.  We are obviously in a world of change where issues relating to the global environment will have a direct bearing on how we operate. We will need a fundamentally different kind of organization to deal with such change.  In his book, Doc describes such an organization as a "Vigorous Learning Enterprise."  He continues to state that we are seeing many such organizational changes occurring now with the interest in "appreciative inquiry, learning organizations, six-sigma quality, lean operations, servant leadership, green business alliances, corporate social responsibility, etc." 

It is expected that when they coagulate, we will then see the next systematic change in manufacturing throughout this country. Anticipating such changes and sharing that knowledge with conference attendees is what makes AME such a unique organization.  

Attending this conference could change the future of your organization.  Last year’s organization sold out, so register early. Click here to register.

Also note the article from McKinsey, "From lean to lasting: Making operational improvements stick."

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