Find the Silver Lining

Tough Economic Times Provide an Opportunity for Those Willing to Be Visible

Jeremy PollardBy Jeremy Pollard, CET

The Associated Press recently reported that the sales of SPAM luncheon meat were on the rise.

The New York Times in November reported that Hormel, the manufacturer of SPAM is busier than ever, booking overtime, and can’t keep up with production. Hormel has been this way since July. Hormel makes about 150,000 cans of SPAM per shift and is selling it all.

Purchases of beans, rice and instant potatoes also are on the rise, the article goes on to say. SPAM was developed during the Great Depression in the 1930s. And it doesn’t look rosy right now, does it?
So what can be done? Nothing. It’s all about coping skills now.

Living in Canada, specifically in Ontario where the automotive sector is responsible for one in five jobs, we are going to feel the heat big time. With capital expenditures slowing and plants closing either now or earlier than planned, many wonder how a stagnant economy can absorb the people who will be out of a job.

And if manufacturers in North America are slowing down, many might relocate to reduce costs and to try, in their minds, to save their businesses.

At the very least, manufacturers will probably reduce their purchases of the things OEMs make, like packaging machines, and the spiral continues.

All companies will see a slowing of incoming orders, if they already haven’t. Good coping skills and nonreactionary behavior will help make sound decisions and build a better business for the future.

The financial industry is still paying its CEOs and top brass a bonus this year. It seems the justification is that there are not very many “good and qualified” brass types so they have to be paid this way to keep them, so they can guide the company through these rough and troubled waters.

You wonder where I’m going with this train of thought.

Training is the new buzz word for the next few years.

If you are the owner of a company, there is nothing wrong with splitting up the work week, where some people might work shorter hours so that everyone can continue to work. And maybe you attach some strings to that: Learn more stuff.

Anyone can go to night school and take classes or online courses on a variety of topics. The kicker is that the topics must be of benefit to the company first, and in turn it will be beneficial to the individual.

And, yes, those workers will have to sacrifice something—and it would be time.

The argument, “I’m not going to do any training unless I’m paid for it,” has lost its tailwind. Right now you must.

All technology-based companies can use elements of newer technology, if they’d just learn about it. The opportunity now is to get on top of it, regardless of where the technology will be implemented.

I often wondered how a union and a company can be at loggerheads all the time. They are supposed to be on the same team. In Ontario, the CAW union publicly stated that regardless of what was going on, they were not interested in talking about concessions. Regardless of what those concessions might be, the standing-with-your-hands-on-your-hips childish behavior is exactly the environment in which a good decision can’t be made.

Technology has reduced our personal contact and along with it our coping and communication skills. We hide behind email.

If you want to be an innovative OEM in North America, you must make yourself visible. As an employed worker bee, you need to make yourself heard, in the right way.

Increase your training budget. Go to school. Take a course. Prepare yourselves for the recovery, regardless of how long it will take us to get there.

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