During most of the last two decades of my Welding Engineering career, I’ve been searching for the “OFF” switch on the Elephant Cloaking Device. 95% of manufacturing companies lack the high profitability and the growth into market dominance which could be theirs, by turning off the cloaking device that hides their true core business, and embracing the elephant-sized key to profitable market dominance. Manufacturing companies may think they are in appliances, or implements, or vehicles, or equipment, or devices, or actuators… just name it. But they are really in the welding industry. Automotive is a perfect example: simply removing welding and brazing from a vehicle leaves nothing but a useless pile of disconnected and non-functional small sub-assemblies – and yet the entire automotive industry seems blind to that fact. It’s pervasive, and it’s top-down.
The “cloaked elephant” in most of the metal-manufacturing industries is that their actual core business is selling their expertise at manufacturing complex welded assemblies. Because this elephant is cloaked, staff cannot see and grasp that their core success is inherently and tightly linked to the permeating depth and breadth of the scientific welding expertise that’s woven throughout their organizational structure… or, far more likely, is missing entirely. One major supplier, a “household name” within automotive, is manufacturing complex welded system assemblies in dozens of countries without one single welding engineer, anywhere. Lack of welding expertise was the overwhelming cause of a major “quality spill” that may have cost them over $50M, and is the reason they are probably doomed to repeat their losses.
The sad truth is that few manufacturers of welded metal assemblies understand and embrace their core business. Even amongst “world class” companies, there is rarely a discussion of world class welding. How can they talk about Continuous Improvement, and leave welding out of the picture? It’s due to invisibility – causing an inability for normal sight to see, just as if they were blind. In the vast majority of companies, the costly lack of welding expertise is the manufacturing lesson rarely seen and never learned.
Even though it should be painfully obvious, the lack of welding expertise is typically as invisible to upper management and executive staff as a sci-fi warplane or starship that’s hidden by a “cloaking device”. The welding “starship” has the immense and unequalled power of “otherworldly” knowledge in the applied physics of the universe, yet it’s cloaked in the invisibility of those complex physics, always evading management visibility, nearly completely untapped and uncomprehended – the stuff of legends, heroes, and world domination or rescue. But why? For years I’ve puzzled over the reasons for this top-down invisibility, and I’ve drawn some conclusions… Read the rest of this entry »