The next time you hear an argument that justifies moving Australian manufacturing to a low cost country in order to compete, refer to this post on the Evolving Excellence blog describing the work practices in a Toyota’s Kyushu plant.
Labor is much more than a pair of hands doing a repetitive job, it is an opportunity to improve processes and identify and solve problems before they can impact on the customer, or even the next bay in the production line.
It may be hard to get to this point in Australia, but you will have no chance of making the changes necessary in a contract manufacturers plant in a “low cost” country. The accountants will generate their numbers, which can be pretty persuasive until you recognise that they do not account for the things that make a difference in the market, or count the wasted time, emotion and energy in their “productivity” calculations.
When an abundant country like Australia becomes a net importer of food, we have a real structural and strategic challenges in our demand chains that urgently need to be met, and the sooner we recognise the scale of it, and do a bit more than just mouth platitudes, the better.