Do Reality TV and Manufacturing Mix?

May 22, 2012
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During our 2nd annual Tech ManufactureXPO online trade show, which was held earlier this month, Jack McDougle, outlined some of the key challenges facing American manufacturers today during his keynote presentation. McDougle is senior vice president for manufacturing at the Council on Competitiveness, a nonprofit organization that has outlined five key challenges facing U.S. manufacturers.

Among other things, McDougle believes we must take steps today to prepare the next generation of manufacturing engineers and assemblers. As I listened to his presentation, I started to wonder if a reality TV show could help spark interest in manufacturing among young people. It seems like there’s one on for just about everything these day.

While I’ve never been a big fan of the reality TV genre, I recently watched a couple of episodes of a new show called “The Pitch,” which showcases the advertising industry. Each installment depicts two competing teams of ad agencies with different personalities and philosophies battling for a client’s thumbs up.

Perhaps a reality TV show with a manufacturing theme might be worth pursuing. I envision a group of three or four people tackling a wide variety of production jobs. Each one-hour show would supply several vignettes that depict the realities of modern manufacturing.

For instance, one segment could involve the challenges of programming a robot to pick up and move a part. Another installment would require contestants to use simulation software to address repetitive motion concerns on the assembly line. Next, there would be a kaizen session to address a subassembly issue on the plant floor.

Then, finally, the cameras could follow participants as they actually work on an assembly line. The show could take place in a car factory one week and an aircraft plant the next, with a refrigerator plant, a casket factory and a pump facility mixed in for diversity. Along the way, contestants would have to address things like layout design, line speed, quality concerns, supply chain snafus, employee training and other real-world events.

Of course, there would be all kinds of logistical and legal issues to tackle behind the scenes before the cameras could role. But, other reality TV shows already have to address that kind of stuff.

Do you think the time is right for a reality TV show that’s set in a factory? Does anyone know if such a show exists in Europe, Japan or elsewhere? How many U.S. manufacturers would be willing to open up their plants to a TV crew?

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