Present concerns

Many of the present concerns of participants at the workshop were subsumed or supplanted by the issues raised later in the workshop concerned with future visions and obstacles to realisation of those visions.

Lean is too mean

In particular, several participants expressed concern about the effects of leanness and supply chain compression, making suppliers ever more competitive in the short term, squeezing out innovation and innovative people.

Cohesive co-operation or constraining claustrophobia

A related concern, also addressed in later discussions, is that formal, rigid, inter-company interactions suppress informal, flexible linkages. Systems integration, tying SME's and suppliers generally much more tightly into a manufacturer's system, could well exacerbate such negative effects.

However, the following concerns were not fully addressed in later discussions but should not be forgotten. It is not clear how they might be addressed, but they stay on the table.

Can you keep up?

Most people these days assume a frenetic environment and maybe even assume that the pace of change will continue to increase, however difficult this might be to imagine. Nevertheless, even some of the participants at the workshop - at the forefront of change - expressed concern about their own ability to keep up the pace, let alone stay ahead of the game. Even if one accepts that this is inevitable, it is not necessarily comfortable.

Dithering on the sidelines?

Even if one accepts the pace of change, there is the uncertainty. Even the near future is uncertain. Technology is changing all the time. Strategies of major manufacturers are changing all the time. Even if one is comfortable with uncertainty, it does not make decision-making any easier. It is not clear to the supplier when to jump or which way to jump. And an almost inevitable conclusion, if one does not know which way to jump, is to defer the decision and not jump just yet. In other words there is a sense of suppliers being aware of the chaos around them, prepared to do something about it, but unable to decide what to do. Even some larger companies in the thick of change experience the same nervousness.

Just a cog in the machine?

Finally, there is concern that the role of the human in the manufacturing system does not receive sufficient consideration, and certainly not sufficient consideration from the human perspective.

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