Podcast Manufacturing Leadership

Gary offers observations on the continuing saga of former GE executives running Boeing changing the culture from engineering-driven to Wall Street-driven. Also thoughts on good manufacturing leadership.

Some people have nothing to lose in the game. They have no skin in the game.

The Milton Friedman school of economics says top executive need to have stock in the company so that they have skin in the game. Of course, that led to excesses like Jack Welch at GE and his protogés at 3M, Boeing, Home Depot who all ruined thriving companies by playing financial games in order to maximize their stock options in short term gains. Did they have skin in the game? Well, would they lose anything if the stock didn’t perform? Probably not much since they also negotiated large salaries and golden parachutes.

Skin in the game would have been if Elon Musk had sat inside the Cybertruck when they shot at it to test the bulletproof construction.

Soul in the game is when you care. Robert Pirisig writing his essay on quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance talked of the mechanic who cared about the quality of his work. Obviously the executives at Boeing had no soul in the game.

Descent to Normalcy

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Several colleagues have traveled close to my new location, and we’ve shared some good meals with great conversation. Inevitably they asked for my observations on the state of the automation market.

Part of my answer, in short, would be to quote from a recent Seth Godin blog post, The Drift to Normal. As an organization grows in scale, the idiosyncrasy and distinctiveness that was originally informed by the taste of the founders moves toward the mean. Over time, things get more average.

He continues, “That’s because each new customer, each new supplier and each new employee wants or needs something a little more normal, at least sometimes. The drift to normal can only be countered by persistent effort, usually at the cost of some element of short-term scale.”

Here are a few points that capture my thinking:

  • Mature Market
  • We’re building few or no new plants—and the USA seems to be declining in activity with European and Asian automation companies for the most part showing reduced interest
  • Customers are not switching systems
  • Automation supplier consolidation
  • Innovative startups look for lucrative buyouts as their end game
  • Technology is stable
  • Technology is also consolidating
  • Effects of the changes:
  • Automation companies have reduced need for outside marketing partly due to spread of technology
  • Primary emphasis is on sales and service—keeping present customers satisfied, if not happy
  • Technology development involves tweaking current products and innovating through acquisition
  • Geographical retrenchment

For example, let us look at a brief history of National Instruments, nee NI, nee Emerson Test and Measurement. Three technical innovators created a startup with a vision of software defined instrumentation. They created a creative, entrepreneurial culture. For several years there was great energy, growth in business, growth in technology development. 

Then one year I noticed that the technology keynote at the annual user conference sounded more corporate. Less, “Gee Whiz” technology. People started to trickle away—either encouraged or seeing the changes. The leaders deliberately changed the culture toward corporatism preparing for an eventual sale. Then the sale happened to the epitome of corporate management in the market.

Note: not a criticism, but an observation. And it’s happening all through the market.

I have released a couple of podcasts on my platform at automation.libsyn.com. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Overcast (my favorite), direct download, or from your podcatcher of choice.

Check out some thoughts on Standards and on Slow Productivity. My just released podcast includes a number of thoughts about the current state of the automation market.

I have arranged a special deal with energy drink makers Magic Mind. Listeners can visit https://www.magicmind.com/garym and get up to 56% off your subscription for the next 10 days with my code GARYM20. After 10 days, you can still get 20% off for one time purchases and subscriptions. 

Podcast Standards Standards Everywhere

I have published a new podcast thinking about standards and interoperability.

I’ve seen successes of industry standards. I’ve also seen industrial standards struggle to break through the logjam of large companies drive to lock customers into their ecosystem. What is the latest of OPAF and what is the meaning of Schneider Electric’s announcement of a product built with with Red Hat and IBM and development of a new computer communication standard?

I have arranged a special deal with energy drink makers Magic Mind. Listeners can click here and get up to 56% off your subscription for the next 10 days with my code GARYM20. After 10 days, you can still get 20% off for one time purchases and subscriptions. That’s magicmind.com/garym with the code GARYM20.

This podcast is sponsored by Inductive Automation.

Where do profits come from?

Boeing is a company that has lost its way. I have no idea why the board has not sacked the CEO. The 737MAX  program was a fiasco and continues to haunt the company. The 787 program ran way behind schedule costing the company billions. This is what happens when you ignore product and serving customers instead focusing solely on financial numbers. We are a business company not an engineering company, said one Boeing CEO. How right he was. They can’t build an airplane anymore. But they can still count, I guess.

You can listen to the podcast here or subscribe at Overcast or Apple Podcasts or wherever you subscribe. You can also watch on YouTube.

You can support me at Buy Me a Coffee.

Why Are Industrial Technology Vendors Moving to Software?

After attending several technology supplier user conferences this summer and fall, a colleague asked why suppliers are emphasizing software. I ponder this question in this podcast essay. And ask what the new breed of engineers will bring with new ideas. Maybe Arduino control platforms? Worth asking.

A link to the audio podcast.

A link to a video on my YouTube channel.

Here are links to some previous podcast episodes.

Siemens Digital Wrap Up 

HUG 2023 Wrap Up


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