by Wellford W. Wilms ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 1, 1996
Wilms, who teaches at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, looks into the future of American manufacturing and concludes it could be made to work again in certain circumstances. Convinced that a strong manufacturing sector is an essential ingredient of domestic prosperity, Wilms has little patience with analysts who laud a postindustrial economy's promise. He nonetheless argues that the age of mass production is over, making it vital for management and labor to develop a new, appreciably less adversarial modus vivendi if they are to survive, let alone thrive, in the face of increasingly intense competition in outlets for capital and consumer goods throughout the Global Village. Over a span of more than five years, the author enjoyed apparently open access to four major California enterprises in various stages of reorganization or reform. Interviews were conducted at all levels of the corporate hierarchies and also on the assembly lines. His case studies encompassed the Douglas Aircraft subsidiary of McDonnel Douglas; a joint venture of South Korea's Pohang Iron & Steel Co. and US Steel, at the latter's Pittsburgh works; a passenger-car plan allying General Motors with Japan's Toyota; and Hewlett-Packard's Santa Clara division in the heart of Silicon Valley. Drawn as they are from firsthand observations, the author's findings carry considerable weight. Aware that the attitudinal changes required can be wrenching for all concerned, he goes on to address the new, more cooperative roles that could be played by employers and unions alike. High on his list of priorities is a mutual commitment to an in-house system of continuous learning, which can help a workforce adapt to the technological, financial, and market changes that may bring hard times overnight, even to companies long deemed world-class. Uncommonly sensible and convincingly documented perspsectives on the import of human resources in an era that places a premium on flexible, street-smart manufacturing.
Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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