Learn to swim against the tide of Binary Economy



It is an undeniable axiom of globalization: anyone in any job or profession has to be better than anyone else who can do the same job from a pool of workers across the globe. Conversely, those who can do a job in a similar manner to others around the globe will be rewarded for their effort at the lowest value at which the work can be procured from anyone else across the globe! Every worker will fall into one of these two extremes. Anyone in the middle will be ultimately swept to the low-labor-cost pool.
While there will be a natural tendency to be swept into the lower-wage pool, it will require a special effort to swim against the current to be associated with the limited few in the high-wage, high-reward pool. Swim against the stream and reach a high place (of New Solutions with identifiable impact) or be swept away into the global pool of low-cost resources (needed for Replication Solutions) is the true paradigm of globalization. There is little or no opportunity for treading water in this paradigm. This constant struggle to swim upstream and against the current is what is perceived as the volatility and uncertainty in the workplace. Suggestions such as higher education, higher SAT scores, and more grit and perseverance are all means to the same end. But as we have detailed in our book – see the links below – all of these have to be formatted toward identification, development, and exploitation of New Solutions using Transformational Skills as the means to this end.


New book authored by Dr. Subramanian and Prof. Rangan has been published by ASME Press.

Thriving in the 21st Century Economy:
Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals

Dr. K. Subramanian and Prof. U. Srinivasa Rangan

Subbu Book 2Thriving in the 21st Century Economy: Transformational Skills for Technical Professionals, co-authored by Dr K. Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute Inc., USA and Professor U. Srinivasa Rangan, Luksic Chair Professor of Global Studies, at Babson College has been published by the ASME Press. Copies of this book can be accessed at any of the following links:



Below is the link for the image of the cover of the book along with reviewer’s comments:


The following is a short summary of the book:
Technical professionals, represented by the short hand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), face a crisis, especially in the United States. Fewer American students are interested in pursuing these disciplines in college. Even many professionals currently working in these areas discourage their children from following them into their profession, since they see few attractive and financially rewarding jobs and careers when compared to the IT or financial sector. As research budgets shrink in the public and private sectors, many professionals feel that their contributions are not valued. Some blame the outsourcing fad for this and some others believe that foreign professionals are taking their jobs. Amidst all this, senior managers in major industrial and technology firms expect technical professionals to manage their own careers rather than help the professionals to develop their abilities for such career management.
Drs. Subbu Subramanian and Srinivasa Rangan address these concerns through three critical and related questions:
1. What is the nature of the challenge facing STEM professionals in the twenty-first century global economy?
2. What are the reasons for it?
3. How should STEM professionals manage their careers in the future if they want to lead a professionally fulfilling and productive life?

At the outset, Subramanian and Rangan assert that, since the 1980s, the workplace in most industrial companies has been undergoing a rapid transformation largely due to two factors: globalization and business model revolution. Globalization is described as the outcome of Global Capitalism combined with evolutions in Digital Technology. The business model revolution is seen as the result of disaggregation of the value chain and its disbursement across the world. These new business models require a new type of professional skillset. The result of these two trends are pushing more firms to rely on a small cadre of high quality professionals to be problem solvers or solution providers and a much larger group of professionals (even with lower levels of technical skills as required), to be replicators of those solutions across the globe. As more firms across the world adopt this new model of workforce deployment, a binary labor force is emerging. The first part, consisting of leading technology professionals, specializes in creating and implementing new solutions. This is enhanced through the use of DT solutions, which aggregates information from across the globe. The other part of the labor force, required for lower skilled jobs, is finding their functions further de-skilled and de-localized because of DT driven automation and off-shoring. There appears to be no middle ground, which in the past employed a large number of technical professionals. All STEM professionals now face the challenge of adapting to this binary economy that is becoming the hallmark of the twenty-first century.

STEM professionals are experiencing angst because of their transition to new roles in this binary economy. Many who have invested years getting trained at advanced levels and acquiring specialized skills suddenly feel unable to create new solutions that are considered valuable.
Subramanian and Rangan argue that STEM professionals need to become exceptional and relentless solution providers. They must be able to identify new opportunities, convert such opportunities into complete and integrated solutions, and maximize the benefits from these solutions. These skills are not purely technical or managerial. Instead they are a combination of skills pertaining to Science, Engineering and Management. These Transformational Skills are:

• Identify a problem or opportunity and frame it as a “need”:
• Develop a Common Language
• Three Dimensional view of Core Capabilities and their deployment:
— As an individual
— As part or member of a team
— As part of the company or enterprise
— As part of the industry/community
• Develop the need into a “Solution”:
• Integrate Knowledge from all available sources (across the globe)
• Place emphasis on “Science”; Relentlessly use Portable Diagnostic Tools and methods, Analysis
techniques and Analytics
• “System Thinking”: Focus on the big picture and not merely on the pixels;
• Deploy the Science/Engineering/Management pertinent to the “solution” simultaneously (The
System Approach); Emphasize on mobile/portable diagnostic tools.
• Synthesize: Connect the dots leading to the “Solution”; Emphasis on Core Technology driven
• Exploit the “Solution” and maximize the benefits:
• Focus on “End to End Innovation” = Idea X Use X Impact
Measure innovation in a scale of 1 to 125 (= 5X5X5 and not 1 to 5 scale in isolated silos). “Branding” as an outcome of End to End innovation
• “Emotional Intelligence”:
Find ways to be useful to others, which in turn benefits you.
Co-create value; I open the door for you, and you let me in as well.
Focus on end user (Customer) benefits as the primary goal and driver for innovation and entrepreneurships.

The authors then describe the roles of individual professionals, organizations, management, the Government and the educators. Each player is called upon to understand these Transformational Skills and integrate them into education as part of a Life Long Learning strategy. The authors conclude that this education is the only reliable pathway enabling technical professionals to thrive in the 21st Century economy.

Transformational Skills for Advanced Manufacturing

Transformational Skills For Advanced Mfg. – Feb. 2012IMG_2285Image

One day Seminar on 

Transformational Skills for Advanced Manufacturing

Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian

President, STIMS Institute

Lexington, Massachusetts, USA.


IIT – Chennai, India

February 24, 2012.

All manufacturing companies across the globe face two parallel needs:

  • Create and implement “New Solutions” for step change or large scale improvements
  • Execute tasks (with minimum demand for technical/professional skills) to replicate known manufacturing processes and solutions for incremental or continuous improvement in cost, quality and service.

The rapid growth of manufacturing sector in India has substantially benefitted from manufacturing process solutions already available from across the globe and replicating them.  But, there is an increasingly growing need to develop Advanced Manufacturing solutions whose implementation in shop floor will create a large scale impact. This is very essential for long term vitality and competitiveness of these companies and to many of their suppliers such as Machine Tool manufacturers, Tooling suppliers, and component fabricators, etc.

Skills required for advancements in manufacturing solutions are always a hybrid between Academic Knowledge and Industrial Know-how. They also require active collaboration across many industries and suppliers. Investments required for new manufacturing process solutions are always high and hence seen more risky. Above all, they require people who can identify new opportunities and Transform them into solutions of commercial impact. These Transformational Skills for Advanced Manufacturing will require formal education for manufacturing professionals with sound academic background and proven track record of success in their current industrial profession.

This  seminar addresses the following questions to benefit those engaged either directly or indirectly in manufacturing of products.

Ö    What are the emerging needs for competitiveness of Manufacturing Companies and Industries in the global market place?

Ö   Need for “New solutions” that create a step change Vs. Current practices of lean and Six Sigma?

Ö   Transformational Skills necessary to identify, create and implement advanced manufacturing solutions.

Ö   Education and Training programs required for Transformational Skills for Advanced Manufacturing?

This meet will provide an opportunity to share the views of practicing engineers/managers with the speaker who has been engaged in addressing the issues with his vast experience in the manufacturing field. The participants are encouraged to bring a set of identified needs that are relevant to their company. This seminar specifically looks at the needs of professionals and their requirements pertaining to education and skill development for grooming them into successful and high potential employees. There will be an opportunity to discuss these needs in a group setting as well as one-on-one with the speaker and other faculty members during this seminar.

System Approach for Precision Components Manufacturing – Interview

This summer (2012), I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Krishnan, Vice President of the Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers Accociation (IMTMA). We had a great conversation sparked by the current innovation pathway needs in the manufacturing industry. We discussed in detail how the System Approach could be the next wave in manufacturing, after Lean and 6-sigma approaches.

Below is a brief video of our talk.

– Dr. Subramanian

Do you know your “core” capability?

Are you the owner of a small or medium sized manufacturing company? Are you the head of a profit center or a Business Unit that is part of a company group? If you are, it is very likely that you are one of the business leaders, trying to find ways to keep your business above water. Some of you may be concerned about growing your bottom line and in rare occasions seeking ways to further grow your business. But, no matter what your needs are, it is certain that you are facing the stiff winds of global competition, cost pressures, challenges from outsourced operations and above all a sense of uncertainty about the future.

We believe that such pessimism and the sense of gloom and doom about manufacturing industries and their future is not warranted. It is true that there are stiff head winds and it is also true that the waters are turbulent. But, you are not up the creek, with out a paddle!

Have you ever sat back and asked yourself, “How did we (your business unit) get here?” No, I do not mean, how you got into a situation of stiff competition and low profit margins and high costs. These are all obvious and readily known to every one. But, have you figured out how your business or operation grew from its beginnings to where it is today? It did not happen by chance or by some luck or through magic! It happened because you and your people along with your suppliers and your customers contributed their share of knowledge and know-how that resulted in the products you manufacture, the processes you use to make them and also the applications know-how through which your customers use your products. The “Products. Processes and Applications knowhow” are your core capabilities. These core capabilities are embedded in the knowledge of many people connected with your company – through your employees, suppliers and customers and their customers.

You might say “It is indeed true that we did not grow out of thin air. We built our company, brick by brick though our products, manufacturing process capabilities and our know-how to help our customers use our products better. Then, whatever happened to my business or operation, over the years? Why are we struggling today with low profitability and shrinking margins and low to no growth?” One can ask such valid questions and wallow in misery or merely be nostalgic about the good old days for ever. Instead, you can muster the passion to dig deeper.

Your product is not any widget you put in your shipping box. It is not merely something you identify by a product number or a bar code. Product is something of value to some one (the user), who is willing to pay you (the manufacturer) something of value to you. Can you describe your “Product” using the above definition? Is there any one in your sales, product design/development, manufacturing/production, tech-support or general management who can describe your product in terms of the value to your customer and the expected value for you in return? Do you know who they are? Do they all have the same understanding of the user value and manufacture’s value or are they speaking over each other in different languages? Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of your “Product” and developing a core team across the business functions that speaks the same language about your product.

How well do you know your Processes to manufacture your products? They are not “black box” that nobody knows anything about, after Joe Smith retires from the company! All processes in your manufacturing floor have well defined Inputs, which are converted into Outputs. All processes are “Input/Transformation/Output” system. No, we are not talking about Ph.D language. In the past years, few who knew about the process could tweak them and keep them going, while others were simply pairs of hands to help them out. We can not do that any more. All processes can be diagnosed (using proper sensors and IT tools for measurement), repaired, improved and in some cases changed dramatically. But, you can not do any of the above, if you think that the processes in your shop floor are merely “black box” put in place by some one who left the company years ago! Your journey for the future can start right here and now, by developing a common definition of the key “Processes” in your manufacturing floor and developing a system view of these processes across all the business functions that support such processes. You would not like to see any medical professional with out a stethoscope and a thermometer. Then, why would you not want all your manufacturing process professionals have similar capability to measure and diagnose and cure the problem with respect to your processes and their health?

How well do you know your customer’s processes (Application) and how you can add value in their processes through your products? If software is the enabler of all the growth and success in the IT industry, you can make your AT (Applications Technology) as the enabler for your growth and success in the manufacturing industry. AT helps you to build alliances with your suppliers and customers towards building solutions of shared benefits. If you have treated your process as a black box, it is likely that your customers have done the same with their processes. It is about time, you helped them to do a “health check up” on their processes, while they use your product. After all, strong and healthy customer process is essential for your long term strength and success.

Product, Process and Applications know-how are your core capabilities, which got you where you are today! They are the bench strength of your team. You can do more or less with them enabled by all the plug and play IT capabilities. But, you can not build a manufacturing industry with out the brick and mortar (i.e) Product, Process and Applications Technology. Have you taken the time to cultivate them? If not, may be it is time for you and the key personnel in your team to go through the “Core Capability Boot Camp”?