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Manufacturing for Survival: The How-to Guide for Practitioners and Managers Paperback – January 27, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0201633733 ISBN-10: 0201633736 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Why This Book?I have been troubled by the lack of available "how-to" information on manufacturing planning and execution. It seems preposterous that the United States, which has contributed so much to scientific manufacturing, has no current, readily available information on this subject. In an attempt to fill this void, I have written this book. It is a book written by a practitioner, who has experienced - and continues to experience - many of the problems that people face in and around a factory. It seeks to provide a practical guide for all personnel engaged in the manufacturing of discrete products; that is, it seeks to explain how to plan and execute effectively and competitively.

I emigrated to the United States in 1976 and worked for a renowned railcar manufacturer, first in Indiana, and then in its original factory in Chicago. In 1976, the company designed and built Superliner railroad cars. My understanding of U.S. manufacturing was based on my knowledge of American manufacturing pioneers such as Taylor, Gilbreth, Ford, Sloan, and others. I also knew that America had built much of the equipment that had won the Second World War. Imagine my surprise when I found that working for the 150-year-old manufacturing company with a legendary reputation for building railcars was an exercise in frustration. Institutionalized knowledge of building railcars was missing. The design transfer was over a year late and we attempted to design and build simultaneously. This is never easy, and it is a disaster when basic manufacturing management know-how is missing. Of course, having a difficult customer did not help, as they continued to make changes all through production. The Superliners were built about 300 percent over budget and over two years behind schedule. Subsequently the company was taken over and the railcar building operation shut down.

While working for this railcar company I switched from line operations to inventory control. I also became aware of the materials management function, by becoming a member of APICS (American Production and Inventory Control Society) and being certified as a production and inventory control manager (CPIM). In 1981 I joined a renowned pump company in New Jersey as their materials manager. This company also had over a century of manufacturing experience, but again I found a woeful lack of manufacturing and materials management knowledge by the personnel running the factory. Product was made by sheer force of effort - twenty hours of overtime a week, including Saturday, was common. Rework was rampant; there was a continuous shortage of parts; purchased products had to be expedited on an order-by-order basis and customer order shipment had less than a 50 percent on-time delivery record. (Not surprisingly, this company was also taken over a few years later.)

I then was offered and took a job with a small company making standard lighting fixtures in four factories. Here again, customer orders were constantly late, there were large amounts of inventory, and operations seemed to be managed by expediting and constant fire fighting. In this company I was also exposed to marketing and sales management for the first time, and found that they too seemed to operate without much institutionalized functional knowledge.

I have now been in the United States for 19 years, working directly in manufacturing most of the time. I have met hundreds of practitioners and visited a large number of factories.

It appears that there are two major categories of manufacturing companies. There are those companies - General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Ford, and Caterpillar - to name but a few, that have institutionalized manufacturing knowledge. Under competitive pressure from the Japanese, they refined their techniques and practices and became more competitive. There are also those companies - probably a majority - that lack basic knowledge of manufacturing. In these companies, what is applied is common sense, a lot of muscle, and varying degrees of technology - this approach is not bad, but more effort and time is required to achieve national or international competitiveness.

The 1970s and 1980s have witnessed a decline of United States smoke-stack industries and the loss of U.S.-manufactured product to Japanese imports. Manufacturing competitiveness was a much-debated subject. A strong intellectual group, headed by Harvard Business School, proposed the formation of a manufacturing strategy aligned to a corporate strategy as the means of reestablishing manufacturing competitiveness (Skinner 1987). Other reasons given for the decline in competitiveness included excessive government regulations, unfair trade practices, an uneducated workforce, poor design, and poor management. Evidently many reasons contributed, over a period of time, to the erosion of manufacturing competitiveness, not unlike a frog who will not jump out of a pan in which the water temperature is slowly raised, so will boil to death! (On the other hand, if the frog is dropped into boiling water, it jumps right out.)

As a person on the front line I looked in vain for mention of the lack of practical manufacturing management knowledge as one of the main reasons for lack of competitiveness. It seemed clear that well-developed strategy, design, technology, or infrastructure cannot compensate for a lack of knowledge on how to make a product efficiently. If factory personnel do not know how to maintain accurate data records, or how to reduce lead time or control inventory, production will be costly and delayed. I never understood why this connection and its prevalence was not more recognized. Some reasons for this may be:

The competitive companies keep such knowledge within their company, and use it as a competitive advantage.

Thinkers and developers of manufacturing theory and manufacturing executives are too far removed from the reality of the shop floor.

The experts in the field (be it railcars or pumps) do not document their knowledge and it dies with them.

Manufacturing has always had the reputation of not needing any specific knowledge or skill to plan and execute - "anyone with intelligence and common sense can manage a factory."

Manufacturing is associated with unpleasant working conditions, and few leading university students select manufacturing as a profession.

Still just "off the boat," I was unsure whether my observations and conclusions had merit, even though they were corroborated by many other practitioners! The McKinsey report, Manufacturing Productivity, published in 1993, helped to confirm some of my thinking. The report shows that the United States has lost manufacturing competitiveness in the discrete product industries - autos, auto parts, consumer electronics, metalworking, and steel - and that this loss has occurred in the last two decades. It also showed that the "organization of functions and tasks" was one of the principal reasons for Japan's productivity advantage and that this production factor covers the whole continuous improvement approach to manufacturing in Japan.

Having determined that there was a lack of basic manufacturing knowledge in many industries, I asked myself how and where a person could acquire such knowledge. I first asked the question to help myself, and subsequently applied it to the manufacturing community. There is no simple way and there is no single source.

The keeper of some of the body of knowledge is APICS. This body focuses on the planning aspect of production and inventory control (Manufacturing Resource Planning II). In addition it offers a theoretical understanding of the topics covered. There are practical how-to techniques included, but these are scattered and have to be dug out and collected. There are few national manufacturing apprenticeships of the type common in Europe or Japan, where most large manufacturing companies (with government support), hire persons with a mechanical aptitude and formally train them in best manufacturing practices. Some companies in the United States, such as GE, have institutionalized "in-house" training programs in manufacturing, but such companies are the exception. I could not find a book focused exclusively on the "how-to" of manufacturing! How then does a practitioner easily learn the basics of manufacturing? How much of the lack of competitiveness of the United States stems from the lack of basic knowledge of effective manufacturing techniques and practices?

I have tried to address these issues in Manufacturing for Survival.

CompetitivenessCompetitiveness leading to profitability remains the long-term objective for all manufacturing.An anecdotal story (source unknown), best sums up competitiveness."Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up you better be running."

The book has been structured and written to show how to achieve manufacturing competitiveness and profitability by providing superior customer service. Superior customer service can be achieved by making a high-quality, efficiently designed product, with a motivated and empowered workforce. Further, to ensure profitability, a product has to be planned and then executed effectively, with lead time and inventory being the two primary controls that measure effectiveness. A comprehensive management information system is needed to plan, communicate, and track the progress of manufacturing. Finally, the product must satisfy a customer need and be in demand thus confirming a company's competitiveness and ensuring its profitability.

What Is CoveredThis is a book written by a practitioner, with over thirty years of experience, who is still a practitioner working in a factory. It seeks to provide a practical guide to all personnel engaged in manufacturing discrete products on how to plan and execute effectively and competitively. There are few books exclusively covering manufacturing practices. This book partially fills the gap by documenting some of the best manufacturing practices. The book does not cover all practices in all industries. It is merely a cross-section of some practices in some industries. It will provide a primer for a person seeking to know what to do in most manufacturing planning and execution activities. It is a response to a need expressed by many of my manufacturing colleagues - "Is there any book that can tell us, simply and briefly, how best to perform this activity?" I hope this book will satisfy that need and that practitioners will be able to identify and implement some of these best manufacturing principles and practices. I wrote the book with this expectation.

Blair R. Williams
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
May 1995

From the Back Cover

It's a long way from the operations theory found in most books on manufacturing to the realities of the factory floor.

Here is a book that bridges that gap. Written by a factory manager with more than 30 years of shop floor experience, it brings you proven, real-world techniques - unencumbered by complex mathematics and weighty theory - that you can put into practice immediately to improve your manufacturing processes. Focusing exclusively on factory-level problems and solutions, this hands-on guide gives you plainly-written explanations and specific instructions on how to set up and execute an efficient, nimble, and high-quality manufacturing system.

The book covers the state of the art in manufacturing, including ISO 9000, forecasting, scheduling, lead-time management, concurrent engineering, manufacturing information systems, and more. It helps you solve such difficulties as high inventory levels, unreliable sourcing, excessive overtime, and slow turnaround. And with each technique discussed, you will find a list of dos and don'ts that will help you successfully put methods into practice.

Whether you head up manufacturing in a small family-owned business or are an operations manager in a larger company, the valuable insights in this book go to the heart of what it takes to remain competitive in worldwide markets.

"AT&T's Manufacturing Operations have benefited greatly from Mr. Williams' practical, down-to-earth approach to manufacturing management. This book (Manufacturing for Survival) captures much of that experience."
-W.D. Selig, Vice President, Global Manufacturing, AT&T

"This is the book (Manufacturing for Survival) that both practitioners and their managers have needed for the past 10 years. It is written by a real practitioner, for real practitioners, in simple straight-forward language that tells it like it is. This is not a text book, it is a "How To" book. If you are involved in any area of Production & Inventory Control, this book could become your Bible. Keep a copy on your desk alongside of your dictionary."
-Richard (Rick) Titone, President, Why How Consulting Company

"Having read, taught from and used dozens of books on how to harness the process of manufacturing planning and control, I am saturated with the word from 'on-high.' Blair Williams has written the only book I've seen in recent memory (Manufacturing for Survival) that speaks from and to the practitioner and middle manager. His 'dos' and 'don'ts' focus on practical answers to real problems ... quickly and effectively. Blair's book should be required reading for anyone who wants to be a participant in world-class manufacturing into the 21st century."
-Donald N. Frank, President, D.N. Frank Associates

"Blair finally committed to print what he practices. This book (Manufacturing for Survival) is based on a solid understanding of manufacturing and represents tried and proven methods that have been implemented over the years. This book is a recipe for success!"
-Michael Greenstein, Adjutant Assistant Professor of Manufacturing, Polytechnic University

"Today we demand more and more breadth from our workers. Our responsibility as managers is to provide them access to information they need. The need is particularly acute when we hold factory workers and other, non-logistics professionals, accountable for managing materials. This book (Manufacturing for Survival) is one of the best ways to introduce your practitioners to the host of other logistics related processes they must master. It meets the critical tests of clarity, practicality and rapid access tospecific tools and techniques."
-John J. Bruggerman, President, Bruggerman & Associates



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (January 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201633736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201633733
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #744,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Originally from India, I am an Anglo-Indian, that is having a British/Indian heritage. After working as an officer on the Indian Railroads in the Mechanical Department for 10 years, I migrated to the US in 1976. I spent the next 25 years managing the Materials and Supply Chain functions of companies. I have an Enginnering degree from London and an MBA from Chicago. I wrote a technical book 'Manufacturing for Survival', published in 1997, and sold on Amazon. I am now an Industry Professor at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, New York
In 1999, we established a 'Not for Profit' organization called CTR Inc., whose purpose is to help poor Anglo-Indians in India. Please see our website at We have established some worthwhile projects in India, such as providing senior citizens with a pension and sponsoring endangered young girls in residential schools. Write to me if you want to help us make a difference

Blair Williams -

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book couldn't have been better if Moses himself had brought it down from the mountain along with the Ten Commandments. I started to highlight the most important and relevant points but, unfortunately, began to run out of ink well into the second chapter. Despite the technical nature of the subject matter, the book is easily read and digested. The formulae and calculations are presented in a manner that is quickly comprehended by both engineers and nonengineers alike. This is one great book!!!
...Perhaps five stars are not enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John A. Patterson on February 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a manufacturing professional with over 20 years of experience, I find Blair's book extremely insightful and current. Blair's book embodies his practical knowledge of manufacturing while incorporating today's business environment philosophy. Manufacturing for Survival helps to integrate the value of supply chain management into all aspects of the manufacturing environment. It is an invaluable tool that I frequently refer to. Very well written and practical --- I wouldn't be without it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Don Snyder on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I have an M.S. in Logistics and a nine-foot shelf of text books. When I need an answer I reach first for Williams' book, it is often the only one I need. I have only two complaints:
1. The binding - for these prices the binding should not be so fragile (I'm on my second copy).
2. References to ISO-9000 as a "Quality" standard. While most pursue ISO-9000 to help improve their quality, it is a "Documentation" standard, and it is possible to become ISO-9000 certified to build garbage.
For these two reasons (and the fact that Amazon won't let me) I can't give the book the seven stars it otherwise merits.
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