For nearly 45 years, I have applied myself to solving problems at many levels and in many disciplines, some far outside my area of expertise. During these years I have also met others that seem to have an unusual ability to resolve issues that others have stalled on. When I would do a review on the particular problem and how the solutions were obtained, it was clear that often it was not necessarily solved by somebody of superior intellect. Rather the solution would be achieved by a fairly simple application of common sense, and utilizing available information that would be applied in a special way.

I continued to wonder why some people could design a solution while others stalled. What was enabling the positive trait that allowed the biggest issue at hand to be resolved?

This month’s Times magazine helped me find the answer. A major article outlined the local economic news with Caterpillar Corporation as an example. It explained how local manufacturing in America could rebound. Statistics on 3 million more jobs in 5 years in that sector was possible, and that mid to high level tech type jobs would come alive. In fact the major issue would be to find Americans who could fill them. Hours later I came across another article on factory robots being used at Philips Electronics in the Netherlands. They claimed that anything that could be done by hand in China could effectively now be done through robotics and cost effectively, essentially saying manufacturing could be pulled back to whomever wants it back in their country. Wow.

What was amazing was the 3 points raised on how this would be done. Robotics, strong community college involvement, and towns conducive to housing these approaches. Nothing all to complex, but I said the exact things a few years back and wondered why nobody was moving on this. During a speech I gave at Queensborough Community College, I outlined how community colleges and trade schools would more specifically train tomorrow’s work force. How special industry specific towns would develop that would allow housing, transportation and living expenses to be drastically reduced, and finally robotics implemented to do the work supported by a new labor force that could install, support and run them. So why is this now in print, being done? Why the delay? Why the under the radar discussions of this approach?

Tool belts. Each part of the plan disrupts the way life exists in our country. It takes community colleges and trade schools and puts them in front of all others. It takes low end labor out of the game and forces high end skills and new education matched to the needs of the super robots, and of course it puts automation back into our factories, with all the political nonsense of explaining why it must happen. Nobody had the answer because the tool belts of conventional schools, labor groups, cities, had nothing to really offer other than piecemeal options. The politics did not work and nobody could see the solution. It was always in front of us if you just did not ask conventional leaders to figure it out.

Now that we have seen the slide of our country by almost every measure, the politics must be moved aside and most conventional wisdom tossed. The business engine will take control of the change, and industry will allow new, uncharted approaches to achieve the production capability that will put us back on the map as an industrial giant. As we become competitive in manufacturing, the job growth will follow to support the demand. Simple. It just needed a change to the way we thought about solving the problems.

No stimulus, no non-serviceable debt, no political dreams will make this happen. Just a new set of tools and thinking from somebody else’s tool belt. The politics will probably change this November, and hopefully with it a new set of thinking that will turn the old way upside down. It happened in the past during each industrial turnover, now it must happen to save our nation from the free fall we are in. It will.

Larry

July 2012