Ever wonder how much better off we would be if the U.S. government was forced to follow the same dictates of private companies, be fiscally responsible and run at a profit?

Because Congress doesn’t appear to have the accountability that a private company faces — make money or shutter the doors — pork-barrel spending has run amok. The 2008 Congressional Big Book Summary, a compilation of pork-barrel projects by the Citizens Against Congressional Waste, puts the spotlight on some of the inexplicable appropriations in this year’s federal budget: $1.8 million to eradicate Mormon crickets from Nevada; $846,000 for the Father’s Day Rally Committee Inc. in Pennsylvania; $188,000 to the Lobster Institute in Maine (creator of the Lobster Cam and lobster dog biscuits); and a $3 million Defense appropriation to The First Tee, a Florida-based organization with the mission: To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and education programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf. (Is the solution for ending the war against terrorism going to be decided on the 19th hole?)

One can only wonder what the U.S. Government could achieve if it implemented the basic tenets of lean manufacturing and trimmed waste in its spending. How much would be saved if Congress eliminated funding of several narrow niche projects (batch and queue), and instead looked to the bigger picture and focused its energy and dollars into finding ways to help our nation better compete in the global economy (implement flow)? What if, for example, rather than appropriating $221,490 on the Brown Mansion in Cofffeyville, KS, a popular site for ghost-hunting and paranormal activities, the government used the money to help subsidize our nation’s businesses as they compete against low-cost imports, obey the dictates of reducing VOCs and formaldehyde emissions, go green and use sustainable resources, and still try to turn a profit.

As Tom Dossenbach writes in this month’s column, there are “No Easy Buttons for Change.” But change we must, or the United States’ economic base will continue to erode.

 Read More on Lean

In the woodworking industry, lean manufacturing is a proven method of improving productivity and profitability. Issues of Wood & Wood Products continue to highlight companies that have implemented the concept. Featured this month is IKEA manufacturing subsidiary Swedwood, which uses a highly automated, lean manufacturing system at its 930,000-square-foot Danville, VA, facility to produce board furniture in a continuous, cost-effective flow. Also in this issue, St-Malo, QUE-based, JM Champeau has integrated lean manufacturing techniques, along with Kaizen events, to produce small runs of components quickly and economically.

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