It cannot be just a coincidence that Netflix released the documentary called
American Factory under Higher Ground banner – Barack and Michelle Obama’s film production company. It’s perfect timing for another round of the trade war between US and China.
Earlier in April, the film won the Best Documentary Feature Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival in North Carolina. American Factory also debuted in a few select theaters this week, it will be eligible for an Academy Award nomination next year, Fast Company reported.
Filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, got free acccess to Dayton,
Ohio’s Fuyao auto-glass factory, which took over a GM plant that shut down in 2008, putting 20,000 people out of work (and in many cases out of their homes). On the other side viewers can have a sneak peak to Chinese business life ramping up of their American investments and hope to build a factory as profitable as its Asian counterparts.
The two working cultures are inevitably lightyears away, and however parties try to get the closer they fail badly. Fuyao, the Chinese company (where CEO is respected by employees as at least a smaller dictator with a cult of personality) is having trouble to introduce Chinese working culture in the US. And the clash of cultures escalates quickly.
One American worker says that when the GM plant closed, she was making over
$29 an hour, while Fuyao is paying — wait for it — $12.84. But in some ways the Chinese (the bosses and several hundred imported workers) have a bigger adjustment to make. They are required to attend “classes” to understand Americans, who, unlike the Chinese, “say what they are thinking directly.
They are very obvious.” The Chinese learn the U.S. is a very casual place:
“You can even joke about the president.” But their output is pathetic. American workers, the Chinese managers observe, are “pretty slow. They have fat fingers.”
Life writes the best scripts: the first generation of the US managers appointed to manage Fuyao US plant, fail badly, and the company is suffering serious losses; they cannot implement the practices of Chinese working ethics and practices. Obviously, as a number of Chinese workers interviewed (in mainland China factory) they hardly have any holiday to see their families and kids living far away (once a year!) they work on the weekends in long shifts of 12 hours, so practially they live and die for their company.
I especially loved the part when US executives have been invited to study
Chinese plant operations and they are invited to a traditional Chinese new
year company party. The whole trip to the China factory seems surreal.
We see the passionately unwordly faces of Chinese employees singing the corporate athemn – an ode to transparency, to a “transparent world.” In the communist China paying tribute to transparency? Transparent … glass – as the company is manufacturing windscreens for cars.
Young girls dancing an singing of lean management, waste elimination and revenue generation, I’ve laughed my ass off.
Then I loured sour; this is their reality.
They really MEAN it. The best US delegate could do as a return, a bold and
miserable WMCA dance on stage.
But back to the drama escaleted: when a new US CEO (Chinese, but at least speaks English) is appointed workers start to organise themself to unionize (UAW).
The company employs “union avoidance consultant” trying to convince workers
that after joining the Union, direct relationship with Fuyao managers will be
“illegal”. Fuyao – according to filmmakers – spent 1M USD for consultancy to
prevent workers joining a union.
In one of the scenes there’s an extraordinary example of Chinese working ethics and passion for the company: a working brigade “preparation meeting” session, disciplined like a military unit, shouting their numbers
and confirming their affection for the job, repeating loud their creed of diligence and simplicity, appear willing to sacrifice rest time for better work results.
As a contrast later we see when
US group leader tries to introduce “morning meetings” he can’t even collect the full group. Its’ simply a totally different working culture. Enormous challenge for the management to align working cultures, let alone the language barriers.
I never thought a documentary on an American manufacturing plant would be so interesting, It gives an extremely interesting insight into the world of manufacturing in small-town USA as well as the cultural differences between the USA and China. Through the windshield of the movie you can have a close- up view of today’s working social security and the impacts of global
manufacturing business, comes from the the clash of working cultures, and you might realize communists can be the best capitalists.