Offshoring Debate Continues

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School sends a monthly newsletter called Knowledge@Emory, linking to its Web site at http://knowledge.emory.edu.

You must register to view, but I’ve never had a problem with spam with them. The articles cover many areas of business with research by members of the faculty.

This month, one of the articles researches offshoring. While politicians and other theologians can argue whether it’s “right” or “wrong,” the fact is that it’s here. So how do we deal with it.

Edward D. Hess, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Corporate Growth, and an adjunct professor of organization and management at Emory University’s Goizueta business school, says, “While moving operations to less expensive areas of the world may be an effective cost-cutting measure, the effort will only serve to boost the bottom line temporarily. The real challenge for company leaders is to gain an entrepreneurial mindset, in order to grow the business organically and creatively.”

He admits that true innovation is certainly harder to accomplish than the budget slashing measures that U.S. corporate leaders have routinely employed—from mass layoffs to offshoring.

Be an entrepreneur

Monica C. Worline, a professor of organization and management at Goizueta, says that the biggest problem is that businesspeople often misconstrue the term “entrepreneur.” She adds, “In the United States, an entrepreneur has come to be known as someone who is starting a new business, and the business is generally seen as a small, bootstrap startup—something you pour your heart, soul and life into. This is a limited notion of the term. Many also associate the term ‘entrepreneur’ with a risk taker. However, often the best kinds of entrepreneurial ideas are those small innovations on what is already working.”

Our mission at Automation World is, and has been, to provide you with ideas and tools to help you along the innovative and entrepreneurial journey. This month we offer a potpourri of information stretching from project management tips through information security to advanced process control.

Reading Wes Iversen’s article about project management brought back memories that weren’t always pleasant. I have many years of experience in project management. My first brush with the discipline also taught me the good things about trade journals. After a reorganization in the product development department, I was placed in a new position called “program manager.” My new supervisor handed over a copy of a binder he had put together over a period of years that included at least 10 articles culled from magazines all about project management. I still have that notebook around somewhere.

But none of the experiences were as critical as when the president of a small company placed me in charge of the project managers building specialized assembly automation equipment. The reason was that most of the net worth of the company was tied up in half-completed machinery with little hope of shipping on time. What I discovered was that most of cleaning up projects was common sense. I would gather the customer, project manager, design engineers and technicians together like the witches in Macbeth.

The next step was to painstakingly list every point of decision or roadblock. Rather than throw stuff in the cauldron, we’d just draw a matrix on the whiteboard (transferred to paper later), assign responsibility and a date to report back. Everyone with the responsibility to fix something had the power to make it happen.

It also wasn’t magic, just hard work.

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