Training: an inhibitor of innovation in the automotive supply chain?
Have training programmes become the new Taylorism: allowing OEMs to exercise control over their smaller suppliers and unconsciously preventing these SMEs from innovating, diversifying and growing to become competitive rivals? At the Lisbon Council in March 2000, European government leaders set themselves the target of making the European Union the “most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustained economic growth …” within ten years. Human resources are central to the creation and transmission of knowledge and a determining factor in the European automotive industry's potential for innovation. This research seeks to clarify whether the new skills that are being promoted across the supply chain are truly enablers for competitiveness and innovation. As currently practised they may be providing a less effective response to the Lisbon Agenda, i.e. increasing the distribution of skills without the depth that allows companies to become potentially innovative. For SMEs to be encouraged to grow, to be innovative and so be truly competitive, they need training support. The training may be designed just to tackle short term skills needs. It may be designed to instil the demonstrable best practice of its customer and lean manufacturing is an eminent example of this type. Training must also be designed in the context of where the SME aspires to be, to allow the SME to mature and develop. This research has highlighted the risk when externally promoted and funded training potentially constrains the potential for innovation and the Lisbon goals.