Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
November 5, 2007
For $70 Per Hour, Ford
Might as Well Put Consultants on the Assembly Line
And you want to know why Ford is having a hard time. In its new contract
with the UAW, Ford has gotten its per-employee hourly labor cost down –
yes, down – to $70.
Yes, that’s quite an accomplishment. Even if you figure union wages of
$25 an hour or more, health insurance premiums, employment taxes, HR
administration costs . . . you could throw in a hot tub for every
employee and you’d still have to be trying to waste money to hit
$70 an hour.
“GM and Chrysler are worse!” Ford’s management team exclaims
The next time I write a bad column, I am going to check around on Google
and find something like the following: “Please lissen too me when I say
thit Americer needs to wake up and akt!”
Then I’ll tell you, “That guy writes worse than me!”
Keep telling yourself that you’re better than GM and Chrysler. That’s
why GM and Chrysler exist. To assuage the self-esteem of other
disastrous corporations. GM is a health insurance company that makes
cars on the side. Chrysler is so bad, the Germans swooped in and took it
over, then said, “Whoops! Never mind. Take it back. Please. We’re buying
Of course, even GM and Chrysler never lost $12.6 billion in a single
year, which is what Ford did in 2006, so it’s hard to definitively
settle the argument of which company is worst. Let’s focus instead on
$70-an-hour labor costs for a company that lost the aforementioned $12.6
Because I know how Ford can fix that.
have done a lot of work as a consultant. Consultants mostly work by
hourly fees. The same is true with lawyers, advertising agencies,
accountants and lots of other professional service outfits. Now, the
really high-priced ones, like Johnnie Cochran, who managed to convince a
jury that O.J. was innocent, can get more than $500 an hour. But most of
us schleps think we’re doing pretty well if we get $100. And it’s not
unheard of that a consultant would get something in the neighborhood of
$70 an hour.
So if Ford is going to spend $70 an hour on labor anyway, it should get
rid of all its hourly employees and have consultants work the assembly
line. It’s perfect.
First of all, you don’t have to give consultants health insurance, pay
employment taxes on them, give them vacation pay – nothing. If the
consultant’s fee is $70 an hour, you pay the $70 and that’s it. You
don’t need an HR department. And if things are slow tomorrow – because
let’s face it, no one wants Ford cars – you just tell the consultant you
don’t need him that day.
And they don’t have a union. They go to networking events where they eat
little weenies, but they’re not held at union halls.
But that’s not the best part. The best part is the wonderful wisdom from
which you will benefit as a result of the consultants’ presence. My
buddy Colby the Consultant, last seen trying to have a meeting with me
while I was actually posting messages on idlechatter.com, can explain to
his fellow line workers about tying some flies and putting them in front
of some fish.
While the consultants are welding stuff going by on the line, they can
theorize with each other about “circles of influence,” “alignment
shifters” and “synergy.”
They will gladly give their shift supervisor feedback on his management
technique, recommend books he could read and make him take career
And when the executives have had enough of them, they can offer
suggestions about “change management.”
Consultants would make great auto workers. Just make sure they have a
flip chart nearby and they’ll be happy as clams all day. Best of all,
most business consultants spend a lot of time in messed up companies
trying to figure out how to fix them. So they’ll feel right at home at
Granted, since they’re there to work the assembly line and not to
actually consult, no one will listen to them. In other words, a typical
consulting engagement, but with safety glasses. It’s always more fun
when you get to keep trinkets!
© 2007 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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