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It's Time to Rethink


The car-friendly guide to fixing human-made greenhouse emissions.

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Last week I watched a short video about Daimler’s truck factory at Woerth, Germany: “Home,” said the narrator, “to a very special kind of creative process.”

It got me wondering about the image of manufacturing in New Zealand. Many Kiwi’s don’t realise that factories are some of the world’s most creative workplaces? Is that because so many New Zealand factories in the twentieth century were import substituters. They assembled kitsets imported from distant exotic lands. Those assembled following plans supplied by overseas engineers. Even assembly jigs and special tools came from overseas. There was no room for creativity.

That’s not manufacturing.

Real manufacturers like Tait Electronics develop, build, and market world-competitive products. They earn much of their revenue and profits in overseas markets. Like the Daimler’s truck factory at Woerth, they are challenging and dynamic workplaces where people are always looking for potential improvements.

The main production lines at Woerth custom-build more than 400 Mercedes-Benz trucks a day. Every truck is built to a unique specification. There are so many possible variants that the factory could run for more than a year without building two identical trucks. They are constantly building variants they’ve never built before.

Modern manufacturers, like Daimler or Tait Electronics, need creative, imaginative problem-solvers who relish every opportunity to improve products and processes. Such people would have been out of place in the New Zealand’s old import substitution plants.

I have no idea if anyone has formally studied these issues. I have a nagging feeling, though, that many New Zealanders would be very surprised to learn just how challenging and rewarding it can be to make useful things that enrich the other people’s lives.

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