From productivity to needs

From productivity to needs

In Taylor’s time, the focus was on productivity. The more cars produced, the better, “as long as they were black” as told by Henry Ford. The steam engine enabled the step from craftsmanship towards industrialization. To keep up with the increasing demand for those horseless carriages, Ransom E. Olds created the assembly line in 1901!

The new approach to putting together automobiles enabled him to more than quadruple his factory’s output, from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902. Olds should have become known as “The father of the assembly line,” although many people think that it was Henry Ford. Ford improved Olds’s idea by installing conveyor belts, which cut the time of manufacturing a Model T from a day and a half to a mere ninety minutes. The conveyor belt still exists in a similar way today for over 100 years!

Henry Ford should have been called “The father of automotive mass production[ii].” The second industrial revolution kicked of.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. TS Elliot

Productivity was considered the crucial factor until the quality gurus came along in the sixties. Shewart had already introduced statistical analysis in companies around 1920, but soon new insights from JuranDeming, and Crosby would drastically change the way products were produced. Deming became mistakenly known for the PDCA circle, when in fact Shewart had came up with it. I consider Deming the most significant and most modern customer-oriented thinker. Before the sixties, you could buy a rusty car. Most companies adapted the Tayloristic hierarchical model and added a department called quality. This created a battle between productivity and quality. This was set in the seventies! Quality control was not good because it stopped the production. Production was not good: what to do with a product you can’t sell? Various steps of quality controls were added to improve quality, such as incoming and outgoing goods inspection, and statistical analysis tools like X-R charts, Cpk and problem solving techniques such as Ishikawa’s fishbone approach.

Productivity killed quality controls. It eliminated the incoming inspection and replaced it with hard-to-deal procurement departments. The quality inspectors didn’t seem to add anything, except for problems. By adding operator self-control, companies tried to break the conflict between quality and production. The departments, however, stayed the same. New departments came along, such as safety, maintenance, human resources and lately the IT department, but the department heads did not challenge the Taylor model at all! “Teamwork” in the nineties increased the span of control; many in-between department layers were clipped. Division of labor still exists as it did 100 years ago.

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We have been delayering for a long time, but what do we do next?

Did this delayering change much for the customer? No! The same considerations remained over quality, production, and safety, but now between sequential process steps that form a team.

Although Lean and Six Sigma besides productivity and cost reduction also focused on the voice of the customer, they mainly resulted in cost optimizations and thus bigger profit for the shareholders. I would consider them very internally focused, as visualized by the arrows facing inwards.

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A different viewpoint is found in [ii] . The idea is that the nineties were about customer driven. This has changed today toward a general need driven society. The productivity can be associated with the stakeholder owner. The customer is yet another stakeholder but a more general viewpoint is that there are more stakeholders.

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Now we have a new opportunity with the emergence of industry 4.0. I define industry 4.0 as “ultra-connectivity, where customers become partners, machines talk to machines, machines talk to people, anticipated technologies where speed is the key main need.

These old drives or needs can still be met. You can have a better order driven company (by means of AI). You can have a better product (3D aspects and meta data). But indeed, it is not about one or more stakeholders, when customers are partners. It is about understanding the needs and using technology to try to meet this need.

I would call “time” as one of the most important general need. Since time can’t be changed (every other parameter is changeable) this is the most valued parameter for everyone. This is why now so many start-ups emerge. Many different needs are still not met and the possibilities from industry 4.0 are enormous.

Do we still invest in productivity? Yes! But at the same time quality, throughput time is important. Why?Because they fulfill needs and needs are general for all humans. The need for quality, the need to have time, the need to be recognized, the need for good work relations, for growth in the job, the need for harmonization.

Every need in the below picture from Non-violent communication can be met, and i expect some startups will come up with some form of technology to assist in this need.

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“All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished. Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”

― Marshall B. Rosenberg, NVC

Because of the strong vibration we all get when a person meets our needs, new industry 4.0 technology solutions will thrive when pushing this button!

Herzberg analysed the needs in companies and found this interesting relationship. It is not because the salary, first being nok, is solved that this will keep you saftisfied.

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We are in the need age, so if you help your customer or yourself to fulfill this need, you’re ultra-connected.

Have a great day!


[ii] Vaas, S., Dhondt, S., Peeters, M.H.H., & Middendorp, J. (1995b). Vernieuwde WEBA-methode. Deel 1: De WEBA-Methode: Handleiding. Alphen a/d Rijn: Samsom Bedrijfsinformatie.

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