The 21st century delivers many challenges to manufacturers -- challenges that have never before been addressed because the challenges never existed. The way companies (read customers) do business today is real-time. Manufacturers know they need to upgrade their IT systems and are asking about transportation issues -- can the existing roads and ports handle globalized economies? Is there a reliable energy grid?
And companies are investing in upgrading plant infrastructure now that the economy has bounced back a bit.
But the success behind infrastructure is people.
According to Tom Scalf, director of operations for NAFTA filter manufacturing, Donaldson Co. Inc., Minneapolis, "we have an abundance of natural resources, a strong national transportation system, highly skilled labor, an efficient capital allocation system, and the professional management skills to use these assets."
He notes that in order to exploit infrastructure advantages, lean manufacturing is the answer. And behind the lean initiative are the Donaldson workers who determine the best methods to perform their jobs.
Similarly, another Minnesota company, Ecolab Inc., notes that the success of its infrastructure boils down to one essential element: people.
To foster career development and personal growth, the company launched its Talent Pipeline initiative, which will provide employees the opportunity to play a more proactive role in the future of Ecolab.
The following essays further illustrate the people skills necessary for full-functioning infrastructure.