Thursday, August 19, 2004

Is the services sector killing the manufacturing industry?

For someone like me who spent considerable time in the manufacturing sector its just a matter of habit to refer to examples from the sector while explaining things to people in and around me. I used to be so thrilled about my job as a Manufacturing Engineer that some of my close friends have gone to the extent of calling me a "Mazdoor". I guess they were right because once on the shop floor I was actually one of the many workmen who would soil their clothes to learn about the new gear assembly or to take up the challenge of fixing a machine shaft in its rightful place.
Most of my resource management skills that I possess today have been acquired on these very shop floors. The experience of being asked to handle 200 workmen on the 31st day of your career, being threatened by a union leader with a knife, being part of the team of young engineers who had to actually run the shop floor when workers went on strike have all been instrumental in making me a strong and focused human being and an effective manager. I probably took less than 3 years to acquire most of these skills and the learning was both experiential as well as through some theoretical lessons. I can't think of any other industry that could provide such a diverse learning in such a short frame of time. Hence the manufacturing industry with its pros and cons is still an industry of choice for me when it comes to starting ones career. I have advised many young engineers and graduates to first grind their wheels on the shop floor and then move on in life and choose to do what ever they wish to take up.

The unfortunate thing is jobs in the "soft" services sector are available in abundance and are also far more rewarding in monetary terms as compared to the jobs in manufacturing. This has led a host of talented and hardworking youngsters away from the manufacturing industry. In a typical evolutionary cycle these bright young engineers go on to become CEO's and senior managers in the industry and shape up the future through innovations to improve productivity. Since most of these leaders now a days never make it to the queue to take up these jobs. There is a dearth of such people at the bottom of the industry and in the next few years the manufacturing sector is going to see a big void in the middle and lower level officer positions.

Would it lead to better pay structures, better facilities for the young engineer in manufacturing? Probably yes. But by then hopefully the services sector too would have calmed down from its current 30-40% growth levels to a more modest 10-15% growth and the salaries would not be too different.

Wouldn't it be a great time to be young and 22 years of age and make the choice then.
I know where I would go, how about you??

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