Factories: Chicago guru calls for rethink

2009-08-07 00:00

MANUFACTURERS may have to re-invent themselves as producers of complex, value-added products while positioning themselves at the cutting edge of technological advances in order to survive.

Furthermore, their future success will be more dependent on the quality and relevance of the skills offered by the local labour market.

These are the views of Chicago-based manufacturing guru Dan Swinney, who shared his experiences in an address to business people in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday. The event was hosted by the Durban University of Technology and the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business. The theme was “rediscovering, re-inventing and rebuilding manufacturing in the knowledge economy”.

Swinney is the founder and executive director of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council (CMRC). Chicago was hit by massive company closures and job losses in the 1980s and 1990s. The CMRC was created as a broad partnership of the city’s business, labour and local government leadership to revive the manufacturing industry, create jobs and achieve social sustainability.

The South African manufacturing sector is in a prolonged recession, with production in May 2009 registering a decline of 17,1% year on year.

Swinney told guests the value of the manufacturing sector to society should not be underestimated, noting that one manufacturing job can create a further three to four jobs in other sectors. He stressed the importance to manufacturers of accessing critical market and sector-specific information and of exploring active partnerships with businesses, communities, labour and the government.

 

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