Coincidentally, one could summarize the week of April 3 in the same way one could summarize the week before. First, the Department of Labor released a report with unprecedentedly grim implications for U.S. employment; A day or two after the report, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act amid a public spat with a major manufacturer and orders them to produce more personal protective equipment. Meanwhile, businesses look ahead in hope that government stimulus will prove effective.
The particulars, of course, were different. On the week of March 27, the Labor Department revealed that 3.3 million workers had applied for unemployment insurance before. The number quadrupled the previous weekly record. The next week, the newly-set record was doubled, this time to 6.6 million new claimants.
Last week closed on President Trump angrily tweeting criticism of General Motors CEO Mary Barra before ordering GM to begin producing ventilators using the Defense Production Act. GM continued its push to do so. On the evening of April 2, the President ordered 3M to produce more respirators and criticized the company on Twitter. And although the CARES stimulus act was passed only last week, it’s likely that a fourth stimulus bill will follow in its wake.
3M Resists Call to Stop Mask Exports
In a statement released April 3, 3M publicly disagreed with the White House’s call for the manufacturing conglomerate to stop exporting N95 respirators to Canada and Mexico. According to 3M, such a move would result in “significant humanitarian implications” and could end in retaliation against the United States—the end result of which, 3M said, could be that the United States ends with less access to respirators than it started with. Read the full story here.
Applying and Updating Lean Principles to the Pandemic
Lean principles still have a place in what is increasingly described as the “social distancing era,” says Beau Keyte, a consultant who works with the Lean Enterprise Institute. But they must be adapted to cope with key environmental changes, including the request by the government to keep workers six feet apart.
“It’s time for a course correction in our lean thinking,” Keyte writes, “and social distancing can be the lever.” According to Keyte, if social distancing might challenge certain implementations of lean philosophy like huddle processes, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an opportunity to apply and even improve lean implementation. Read the full story here.
Workforce Numbers Continue Freefall
April 3 saw a new official report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on unemployment numbers. That report showed that nonfarm employment lost 701,000 nonfarm and 18,000 manufacturing jobs in March, but the data collected all came from the week of March 12. That means they can only give a preliminary look at the impact which later resulted in at least 10 million people filing for unemployment insurance in the last two weeks of March. Read the full story here.
Lockheed Martin, in a statement, bucked the unemployment trend by announcing they had hired “close to 1,000 employees” in the past two weeks and would continue to advertise for 5,000 open positions. Winnebago Industries and Cummings Inc. announced they would cut pay for executive positions, and aircraft component maker TransDigm Group Inc. said they would cut 15% of their total workforce—2,750 employees in total.
Auto Sales Continue Dismal Showings
On April 7, a few more auto manufacturers reported depressed sales of vehicles. BMW reported that its first-quarter sales for 2020 were down 15.3%, and Honda’s United States division reported quarterly sales were down 15.3%.