The Destruction of America’s Manufacturing Base

“Factory Man” by James E. Harbour with James V. Higgins is a wake-up call for American manufacturers who think their decisions to source jobs offshore is a short-term solution to being globally competitive.

DEARBORN, Mich., January 11, 2009 — If the Detroit Three gradually disappeared, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, the Koreans, and the Chinese would eventually fill the gap. In “Factory Man,” a new autobiography being published in February 2009 by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME;, author James E. Harbour says there is an even greater long-term risk. Profits from the American auto industry would largely be sent overseas, and millions of shareholders would go broke. Worse, the foreign companies would keep their major engineering operations at home.

Recognized as a leading automotive industry analyst and founder of The Harbour Report, a study of original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) manufacturing performance, Harbour has co-authored this factual, non-technical book with James V. Higgins, an award-winning automotive reporter, columnist and editor who covered the industry for most of his career at The Detroit News.

Factory Man” clearly presents the insights and viewpoints of an automotive “insider” who became an “outsider” and one of the industry’s main critics. The book is a brutally honest assessment of what was wrong with U.S. automakers from the 1950s into the early 21st century. Harbour states his views very strongly and is a highly opinioned observer of the auto industry. His views are as relevant to the condition of the auto industry today, as they were in 1981 when he issued his first Harbour Report. The jury is still out on how many of this industry’s problems will be resolved.

Harbour’s work experiences while at Ford Motor Company and at the Chrysler Corporation, mainly in manufacturing, takes readers on a personal trip. The reader is allowed to see how Harbour’s discovery and evaluation of the Toyota Production System – documented in The Harbour Report – gave impetus to his efforts in pushing Chrysler and the other “Big Three” American auto companies – General Motors and Ford Motor Company – to changing their production systems to become more competitive with Japanese car companies.

In his book “Factory Man,” Harbour says what America needs right now is a good jolt of the power of the factory. During recent Washington hearings, he viewed elected officials playing a game of liquidation roulette with the Big Three without realizing the risk of:

• Europe, Japan and Korea dominating the American market.
• China becoming a far stronger, major competitor.
• Product development will take place overseas and engineering students at American universities may be forced to go abroad to find jobs.
• A majority of major capital investments, such as stamping press lines, body shops, and engine and transmission tools, going to foreign countries.
• Foreign manufacturers expanding in southern right-to-work states.
• The profits of foreign manufacturers from their American operations will flow back to their home countries.
• Vehicle prices rising because of diminished competition.
• Little attention being paid to the real possibility that Detroit will recover and repay government loans.
• The prospect of losing Detroit’s historically large support for major charities and foundations, along with actions such as the “Get America Moving” vehicle price cuts that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks and weren’t offered by foreign competitors of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

The Destruction of America’s Manufacturing Base

Book Purchase:
To purchase a copy of Factory Man, available February, 2009, visit List price is $30.00/SME Members: $26.00, order code BK09PUB2. Orders also may be placed by calling 800.733.4763. Outside the U.S., please call 313.425-3000, ext. 4500.

Note to Media:
To request a review copy – available February, 2009, please e-mail  and refer to Factory Man (BK09PUB2), ISBN 978-087263-860-0. For a high resolution photo of the book cover, send an email to

About the Authors:
James E. Harbour is a recognized automotive industry analyst and founder of Harbour and Associates. The Harbour Report, published annually, is the automotive industry’s bible of manufacturing labor efficiency and which has driven massive improvements in manufacturing performance for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

James V. Higgins covered the worldwide automotive industry for more than 25 years as a reporter, columnist and editor, primarily for The Detroit News. Higgins left The News in May 2006 and has since followed automotive topics as a freelance writer.

About SME:
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers is the world’s leading professional society supporting manufacturing education. Through its member programs, publications, expositions and professional development resources, SME promotes an increased awareness of manufacturing engineering and helps keep manufacturing professionals up to date on leading trends and technologies. Headquartered in Michigan, SME influences more than half a million manufacturing practitioners and executives annually. The Society has members in more than 70 countries and is supported by a network of hundreds of technical communities and chapters worldwide. Visit

Media Contacts:

For James E. Harbour
Barbara J. Gaston

For Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Lori Ann Dick

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