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Two Manufacturing Guys Walk Into A Bar 6234e7230ecb3

Two Manufacturing Guys Walk into a Bar …

March 18, 2022
Things have really gone crazy when a guy like me can’t say what’s on his mind anymore.

Former IndustryWeek editor John Brandt offers a satirical take on the manufacturing world.

Hey, good to see you. First round’s on me.

Oh, don't look at that idiot screen over the bar. Politicians, inflation … yada yada yada. But they aren’t talking about the real problem that manufacturing guys like you and I have: We can't hire anybody. I mean: I got orders I can't fill, customers I can’t bill. The Great Resignation, my ass. More like the Great Abdication, since none of these bums want to work anymore. I'm telling you, it’s a disaster for guys like you and me, and the economy.

Somebody ought to do something about that.

And don’t give me that line about younger generations—X, Y, millennials—being more evolved or … I don’t know. I keep getting told they want “meaning” in their jobs. Or “work-life balance.” Or ESG, whatever that is. You know what “meaning” and “work-life balance” were when I was young? If I worked, it meant I had a balance in my checking account. Which meant I could afford life. If I’d said anything different to my old man, he’d have rebalanced my life into next week with the back of his hand. But imagine trying to explain that to these whiners; HR would put you on a corrective action plan so fast it would make your head spin. Things have really gone crazy when a guy like me can’t say what’s on his mind anymore.

Somebody ought to do something about that.

Speaking of HR: When did we hand them control of our companies? I started this place with guys I found digging ditches. They were happy for a steady gig. But now the Chief HR Nerd says our “wage structure” is “under market.” What? We’ve been beating the hell out of metal for 50 years, and we’ll be doing it 50 years after I’m gone. I need people to run machines, not invent the next Internet; that why our employee manual has six words: Show up, keep up, shut up. Besides, if I pay more, margins go down—and if the company’s margins go down, my margins go down, too. You think my boat is gonna pay for itself? Plus: Our wages are fine, it's just out-of-control expectations among the so-called “new workforce.” These people need to be reminded that a job’s a job—not a chance to get rich.

Somebody ought to do something about that.

But that's not even the worst. According to the Prince of HR, I’m not only supposed to pay more, but I also need to invest in training and coaching and a thousand other feel-good bennies. Why? Because some magic will supposedly happen, and my employees will suddenly become smarter and more engaged and fix every problem and make more money for me and everyone. Mr. HR nearly cried when he speechified about it, because we’re going to help our “associate partners”—partners!—build portfolios of new skills, making us an “employer of choice,” whatever that is.

I looked him in the eye and said: Hooey. We tried training once, and here’s what happened: as soon as somebody got smart, they left for another job. Pal, I says to him, we can’t afford to train, because it always costs us our best workers. I can’t believe that nobody’s told all these other companies investing in education and continuous improvement and fancy stuff that they’re making a BIG mistake.

Somebody ought to do something about that.

But you can bet it won’t be me.

John R. Brandt is CEO of The MPI Group, a global research firm. A humor columnist at IndustryWeek since joining as associate editor in 1994, he was promoted to editor-in-chief in 1995, where he served until 2000. He is the author of  Nincompoopery: Why Your Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It (HarperCollins, 2019).

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