Confronting Managerialism by Locke Robert R. Spender J.-C

Confronting Managerialism by Locke Robert R. Spender J.-C

Author:Locke, Robert R., Spender, J.-C. [Robert R. Locke and J.-C. Spender]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781780320731
Publisher: Zed Books


Managerialism and the decline of the US

automobile industry

In this chapter we move from a macro to a micro dimension in order to demonstrate specifically the serious handicap that managerialism imposed on US industry. The historian must be careful to delineate what is being discussed when approaching the topic. There are many reasons for industries to grow or decline that are not directly related to management systems. Events can turn on strategic decision making (over products for example), or on government fiscal, educational, and taxation policies, or on macroeconomic developments, or on war and revolution, climate change, resource depletion, or many other matters that were/are constantly evoked to explain US industrial decline in the old staple manufacturing industries after 1975.

Then, a comparison of management systems might reveal very little about US manufacturing failure, especially when evaluating the success of foreign transplants in their competition with American firms, which is one focus here. The first significant transplants to America from Japan happened in the television industry with the establishment of assembly factories in the 1970s. By 1998, “Japanese companies owned all television assembly factories operating in the United States” (Kenney, 1999, 257). Successful Japanese automobile transplants arrived later, and theirs is a different management story from that of electronics firms.

Martin Kenney, in a study that compares Japanese television assembly transplants to Japanese automobile transplants, points out that for technical reasons

automobile manufacturing spent less on R&D than consumer electronics, had lower engineer-to-operator ratios, had lower automation, [and] used many more parts in assembly (30,000 to 40,000 compared to less than 2,000) in much longer assembly lines (one kilometer compared to 100 meters). Assembly time in an automobile factory per unit varied from 10–20 hours compared to 27 minutes in a television assembly plant. The role of operators was much greater in automobile assembly than in television production; automobile manufacturing required more on-the-job training and more interactive work. Automobile production technology needed employees with more inter-relational skills. (Kenney, 1999, 273)


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