'Lean Manufacturing', Toyotism & Class Struggle

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Lazy Riser's picture
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Jul 28 2006 12:20

Hi

Quote:
how does one revolt within an individuating decentred apparatus of domination?

I'm working on a proof that this is an example of a "travelling salesman" type problem, it is NP-hard. It may even be harder, equivalent to asking "how do you make money fast?" or "how do you change someone's mind?".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hard

The problem disappears under classical decadence theory, unfortunately that replaces one NP-hard problem with another. Having said that, as an example of a “Halting Problem”, it is at least known to be NP-hard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem

Lean and Agile methods may, I suppose, supply the means of revolt by developing an objective efficient revolutionary process. It’s an avenue I expect to investigate soon, but I doubt I’ll achieve a “quick win” on it. Ha ha.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 12:26

Lazy riser: in what sense is revolt within an "individuating apparatus of domination" (too much jargon J!) represent a "travelling salesman" problem? I don't see it- please demonstrate.

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Jul 28 2006 12:31

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In so far as there is no solution but to visit every possible course and measure whether it has worked. There is no way of “computing” whether you're right without brute force iterative techniques.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_salesman_problem

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 12:33
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The other day I was sent on a day course on 'lean manufacturing'

Just to note I brought this up in another thread in reply to a question about 'multiskilling' and team working...
http://libcom.org.uk/node/8146

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Jul 28 2006 12:34

I know what a t-s problem is, I just don't think it applies- it looks like you are bulshitting (sorry).
Try and explain it again- this time by drawing direct comparisons, and not just increasing the jargon. grin

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Jul 28 2006 12:52
pingtiao wrote:
I know what a t-s problem is, I just don't think it applies- it looks like you are bulshitting (sorry).
Try and explain it again- this time by drawing direct comparisons, and not just increasing the jargon. grin

Lazy Riser just means that

Quote:
how does one revolt within an individuating decentred apparatus of domination?

is a difficult question! No need for hard sums or jargon.

If bosses are getting workers to 'buy-in' to company aims by involving them in self-management of the the workplace, then you are in a difficult position - do you refuse, and risk losing your job, or is it possible to subvert it and still get paid. One way at least is to give two fingers to the idea of getting rewarded for being a good team member -in other words bollox to any form of performance-related pay, whether to individual or team.

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Jul 28 2006 12:55

Hi

Quote:
I just don't think it applies- it looks like you are bulshitting (sorry).

Ha ha. Well obviously if I knew for certain then I could afford to be more resolute in my assertion. Suffice to say the finest minds available have been pondering general theories of revolt for some time. The amount of time spent on the problem with no solution in sight suggests that it’s hard. The question is how hard?

Assuming the question is reducible to an abstract logical equivalent, perhaps the best way of solving it is try every plausible solution and hope that one of them comes up trumps.

And as for a couple of thousand forum dwellers thinking I’m a bullshitter, well I couldn’t care less.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 13:01
Lazy Riser wrote:
Assuming the question is reducible to an abstract logical equivalent, perhaps the best way of solving it is try every plausible solution and hope that one of them comes up trumps.
Love

Probably isn't as those cheeky capitalists keep changing the rules of the problem... being owners of the mean of production 'n all. Some heuristics are probably discoverable - doesn't have to be a completely random search smile

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Jul 28 2006 13:05

Hi

Quote:
Probably isn't as those cheeky capitalists keep changing the rules of the problem... being owners of the mean of production 'n all. Some heuristics are probably discoverable - doesn't have to be a completely random search

Spot on. The key, I think, is to find solutions that result in bottom line improvements in working class wealth.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 13:04

LR: I'm not trying to argue with you, I just don't see how the travelling salesman problem can be said to apply to this, other than in the way little_brother suggests- that it "is hard". This, however, is sort of like me saying "I am thinking at the minute that you can show that this is a form of solving Shrodingers equation for 9 hydrogen atoms"

Could you post up your work so far on the proof?

Quote:
I'm working on a proof that this is an example of a "travelling salesman" type problem, it is NP-hard.

Then I'll have a better idea what you mean.

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Jul 28 2006 13:12
Lazy Riser wrote:
Spot on. The key, I think, is to find solutions that result in bottom line improvements in working class wealth.

Danger there is that in competing groups of factories within the same company you might lose out by an individual or localised 'go-slow'. Does that suggest 'build links between workers across borders' as a heuristic?

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Jul 28 2006 13:34

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Quote:
Could you post up your work so far on the proof?

I don’t think I’m quite ready to subject my “bullshitting” to your scientific scrutiny. But I appreciate you’re opening up a valuable line of enquiry, so let’s set up some ground work and we can see where it gets us.

I first became interested in NP-hard problems when working with SQL compilers and understanding that finding the optimum index available to facilitate a query was a travelling salesman type problem.

I’ve also looked into the implications of game theory on strategic behaviours of workers in order to reconcile their optimum actions as individuals and as a collective against “nature”, where “nature” includes an opponent whose goal is to maintain its privileged social status.

Now, in terms of concrete outcomes, I’ve not got much to show, which is very frustrating, but it’s a hobby I suppose. However, I am beginning to wonder if the following problems…

1.
How does one revolt?

2.
How does one make money?

3.
What should one do next?

4.
What is the shortest roundtrip that a travelling salesman can make?

Are all of equivalent hardness.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 13:35

I don't think they are equivalent.

Revolt is a temporal thing- it has no specific goal other than acting against the interests of those imposing control.
Same for making money- this is also a problem constrained massively by context.

"What should one do next?" in order to do what? This could be an easy problem, or - as I assume you are implying- it could require calculating all probabilities for the set of all possible actions and them choosing the optimum one. This superficially sounds like a travelling salesman problem...

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Jul 28 2006 14:04

We obviously need a Toyota salesperson on this thread.
Assuming the salesperson is driving around visiting customers, how much would would carbon emission be reduced if:
1) they took the shortest route, gaining more sales per day and so getting more cars on the road (through sales).
2) took a slightly less optimal route, creating more emissions, but making less sales.

Time for the weekend to begin...

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Jul 28 2006 14:10

Now

Lazy Riser's picture
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Jul 28 2006 14:22

Hi

Quote:
I don't think they are equivalent.

I'm not (necessarily) suggesting the problems are topologically equivalent, but that an algorithm for generating solutions to one is good for generating solutions to another, although the specific goals and inputs maybe different.

Quote:
This superficially sounds like a travelling salesman problem...

Doesn’t it just. I’m rather hoping it isn’t though, I’d rather show that this problem is not NP-hard than have to accept that it is.

Quote:
Time for the weekend to begin...

“Oh little_brother!, we are in a mess-uh”, as someone once said. My weekend started last night, I think I’m doing quite well considering my hangover. Baby sitting tonight, so I’ll check back later.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 14:29
Quote:
We obviously need a Toyota salesperson on this thread.
Assuming the salesperson is driving around visiting customers, how much would would carbon emission be reduced if:
1) they took the shortest route, gaining more sales per day and so getting more cars on the road (through sales).
2) took a slightly less optimal route, creating more emissions, but making less sales.

The correct answer to my question is of course that carbon emissions would not be reduced in either 1) or 2).
Only the refusal of work by the Toyota salesperson involving destruction of the company car they are driving in a collective act of insurrection would be valid (full eco-version of this involves burying car rather than burning it).

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Jul 28 2006 14:44

Hi

I thought "Refusal of work" was a definite way forward, but I tried that approach and all it got me was poor.

Love

LR

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Jul 28 2006 14:47

Indeed. Happy weekends whenever they begin (or began). I hope I have 'added value' here today (not at work anyways). One day we will all refuse together and we will build a new world in the shell of the old.

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Jul 28 2006 15:16

Back to the start of this thread though...

Joseph K. wrote:
(in fact 'lean' is often close to Marxism in emphasising 'people are the ultimate creators of value')

Difference is 'lean thinking' is only about squeezing as much out of the workers as possible. 'From each according to ability' bit is all they are interested in, whereas it's only the 'needs' of the customer that count (or was that the 'wants' of the shareholders). Everyone else is 'waste'. Nice, huh.

So the question then becomes, can you fight without being identified as waste, when you are being asked to participate in the reduction of waste?

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Jul 28 2006 16:25
little_brother wrote:
Back to the start of this thread though...
Joseph K. wrote:
(in fact 'lean' is often close to Marxism in emphasising 'people are the ultimate creators of value')

Difference is 'lean thinking' is only about squeezing as much out of the workers as possible.

very true - but that just makes it our enemy's take on the LTV, they want to take as much from as for as little outlay, and we want to give them as little for maximum returns (or abolish them alltogether) - to steal a summation of class struggle from John. (or pingtiao?).

When i posed the question at the end, i didn't intend to suggest that there is a single answer or general theory of revolt - thats what makes the problem so enigmatic. And sorry about the jargon, in laymans terms, when domination is not personified in a single person or structure (i.e the boss), the possibilities of revolt are complicated and instinctive reaction against 'affronts to autonomy' (Drew et al) is made almost impossible, infact spurious 'autonomy' becomes the goal of capital.

In my own experience, workers reactions to these processes have been purely defensive (or even conservative?) in terms of trying to preserve existing conditions (and often failing, in the case of annualised hours). Now defensive struggles are fair enough, but Negri (accurately going by the 1st quote) suggests capital has adopted these strategies in response to our class power - and thus we should 'push through' to the other side.

But here Negri seems to celebrate isolated revolts and categorically states that proletarian internationalism/antinationalism is dead and struggles are now incapable of circulating. To the extent that this is true i think it relates to capital's strategy of 'flexible hierarchies' etc ... which leaves us with the obvious answer of trial and error, but i'm not sure what else. At the very least a good understanding of the current capitalist 'paradigm' gives us 'know your enemy' points, but i wonder how this knowledge can inform our actions. Its fucking tricky.

I mean maybe the return of wildcats offers some insight - everyone knows this stuff about the boss being 'just another member of the team' is bullshit, just we can't play by the rules to reject it. I can see why Negri, Holloway etc look to broader social movements for change, since direct production is a fucking minefield, e.g. wtf are the workers of Ryton to do if they can't link their struggle with other Peugot workers and beyond?

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Jul 28 2006 20:41

So we are all agreed it's a hard one! The dilemma of the wildcat tactic in the face of transnational capital is that action of any kind in one country is now not enough, and can often tend towards protectionism, especially when the trade unions of one country pit themselves against workers (unionised or not) in another. An international perpective is therefore vital. Ryton is one example, and worse still in industries where its easy for the company to move their operations around. Latin American workers have suffered from Motorola's abandoning electronics plants across the Mexican border to China, although some smaller companies have moved in to take advantage of trained workers and cheap plant. Worse still is service industries like call centres that can move with very little capital outlay (since PCs and telecoms equipment are so cheap). Sorry this is only adding to the 'know your enemy' part. A solution is more tricky, but makes it clear that we can't let national interests/protectionist ideology to gain foothold anywhere.

A more insurrectionist feeling might arise out of a recognition of international solidarity, but internationalist ideas need to be become much more prevalent first I think, to build up trust amongst workers across national borders. At 'home', I'd say a start is to oppose the growth of performance related pay and other attempts by management to get employees to buy into the company's aims in any industry (manufacturing or service or public sector).

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Jul 28 2006 21:41
little_brother wrote:
So we are all agreed it's a hard one! The dilemma of the wildcat tactic in the face of transnational capital is that action of any kind in one country is now not enough, and can often tend towards protectionism, especially when the trade unions of one country pit themselves against workers (unionised or not) in another. An international perpective is therefore vital.

I tend to agree, which leads us to the autonomist idea of the 'circulation of struggles'. However Negri has theorised a 'paradox of incommunicability' - in the age of instant global communications struggles have become incommunicable. I have a hunch he's taking a low point of struggle and declaring a new era, but for example the recent events in France (both in the banilieus and against the CPE) seem to support Negri here - these struggles even struggled to link up with each other! (Negri is unequivocal: "make no mistake the age of proletarian internationalism is over" or very similar in Empire)

Perhaps the lack of proletarian internationalism has much to do with the lack of proletarianism in general. Class is overwhelmingly viewed in sociological or even subcultural terms, which translate poorly accross regions and 'national' boundaries now that the division of labour is truly global, and even the same kinds of work are qualitively different leading to a lack of identification. Where i work shop floor workers tend to pity but not identify with their counterparts in the same company's factory in china (with near slave conditions).

So maybe its simpler than we think, and closer to the same old answer - the long work of building links and networks and self-educating ourselves, thus constructing our own subjectivities and collective identity which can inform our struggles wherever they erupt. I mean its not like anyone really buys into this bullshit about being 'partners' in a 'team' with the boss - witness the success of The Office. In this sense a project like libcom assumes potential importance, creating a political space for links to be made accross borders (and subcultures etc), and for our personal and collective ideas to evolve, often on the boss' time black bloc

Or maybe i'm just giving intellectual gloss to my forum habit wink

lem
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Jul 28 2006 23:36
Quote:
I mean its not like anyone really buys into this bullshit about being 'partners' in a 'team' with the boss

I agree, but I would think that it does affect class struggle in some way. How? Does it allow for less leeway in what is non-antagonistic behaviour (makes sense, I think)? Surely this would have an effect. What else? Does it breed more resentment (?), but in doing so more disempowerment (I could see the one leading to the other), maybe because less antagonistic behaviour is everyday acceptable?

Is class struggle less common when the boss is a "partner"?

Sorry if this is mindless rubbish, I haven't had a job in quite a while tbh.

Also, I agree that if the proletariat were truely international, then maybe, revolution would be very close!

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Jul 29 2006 11:51
lem wrote:
Is class struggle less common when the boss is a "partner"?

i think that's one of the purposes of Toyotism - see the quote about people not liking orders in my intial post. I watched a documentary on Slovoj Zizek last night, and he gave the example that a traditional totalitarian father is more honest than a liberal post-modern one because he just says 'you are going to your grandmothers' while the liberal gives the false choice 'you don't have to go but your grandmother loves you very much' - which is an even stronger order veiled by a veneer of choice. Its almost like passive-agressive behavior. How to counter this seems a pressing question. Dare I say it, crimethinc are correct to say its vulnerable aesthetically. But satire and parody won't make capitalism go away any more than flawlessly reasoned critique.

Revol, you've read Empire (I'm half way through). What do you make of Negri's claim that 'the age of proletarian internationalism is over'? Do you think his 'multitude' is a retreat from the proletariat in that it seeks to root a consciousness in the anti-globalisation type movement of proletarian-petty bourgoise-left nationalist alliances? And how does this relate to the problem at hand ... hmmm.

revol68 wrote:
Of course the lack of a "class" subjectivity is not just cos of a lack of consciousness but rather it reflects real divisions and contradictions within the proletariat.

which Toyotism/Lean seeks, more or less deliberately, to exacerbate. Negri's idea to 'push through Empire' is poetic enough but it seems to boil down do struggling in disjointed, isolated ways and letting communism come about through capital's reaction, i.e. a sort of veiled determinism and tactit support for capital. But i haven't finished the book yet wink

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Jul 29 2006 13:26
Joseph K. wrote:
which is an even stronger order veiled by a veneer of choice.

Well yes, but ultimately the problem is actually that the father wishes the child to go and that either statement is designed to produce that outcome.

Quote:
I mean its not like anyone really buys into this bullshit about being 'partners' in a 'team' with the boss

No but it isn't hard to understand that while you might hate your boss and s/he makes more than you, your fates are still connected.
The other tactic used is to give you bosses who can't fire you. I can't fire the people I supervise and my manager can't fire me. So my manager comes to me for help, becaue we have the same boss, he needs something done, I go to the person below me, I need this done, we've both got the same boss and that's how it works. It is coercive.

Toyotism is simply managing your own exploitation is it not?

The problem of improving working class consciousness is not a travelling salesman problem, (incidentally those are getting easier and easier to solve as increased computer processing power makes the iterative process quicker)
It is not a problem that can be solved by an iterative process because there is not a definitive argument with a proof and there never will be. And assuming that it is possible to create such a solution, then spreading knowledge of it would also need to be done. Although I'm sure that if you argue a definitive provable solution is possible, then you would also argue that simply exposing people to it would be enough and we'd have an international revolutionary subjectivity within days.

revol68 wrote:
Of course the lack of a "class" subjectivity is not just cos of a lack of consciousness but rather it reflects real divisions and contradictions within the proletariat.

Well they are real in the sense they exist but they do not exist in the sense that the proleariat believe that they do: they are accidents of geography, technical progress etc. and divisions have grown from those accidents but also been created, imposed and expanded. The problem is that people try to live within the system they are born into and take it as a permanent state of affairs.

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Jul 29 2006 16:32

cheers for that revol, i was planning to read multitude at some point just cos negri's so influential. Have you read aufheben's critique of immaterial labour (in no.14) - its pretty comprehensive. I mean, communicative, co-operative attributes are increasingly important, but i thats a shift in emphasis (from taylorism to lean) rather than a whole new category, which negri seems to love to announce.

Ok, here's a thought. A core component of Lean/Toyotism is Kaizen - continuous improvement, i.e. constantly increasing productivity. Cleaver argues that the attempt to integrate working class aspirations into an engine of capitalist growth with the 'productivity deal' of the postwar-'69 period was ruptured by an explosion of struggles that used improved material conditions as a base to demand more, more than capitalists could afford. Thus by the late 60s an attempt by capitalists to link productivity to wages was broken by w/c power.

Could we seek to link demands for 'continuously improving' wages/conditions with capitalist demands for continuously improving productivity? We'd run the risk of feeding the machine, but a la Negri the point of struggle would be at the very centre of this problematic strategy of Lean/Toyotism, trying to push it forward and out the other side. Once such a deal was established, and to do so would dovetail with the Toyotist principle of 'respect for humanity' (i know i know), the principle of constantly improving conditions/wages becomes a working class norm. The fight over the rate of increase then becomes a new terrain of struggle at the heart of capitals newest weapon.

We'd be fuelling something thats happening anyway, but we've already concluded that the only defensive struggles capable of holding toyotism back are international ones which are very much not on the cards atm. The main danger would be management pitting different production cells against each other for a set pool of increases etc - but if factory/company wide 'agreements' were reached this can be averted. The advantage is that struggles to increase the workers share of the continuous improvement don't need to link up until they become strong enough to threaten capital anyway, with all the consciousness and class-for-itself that strength implies. Its a trojan horse, one that sounds 'reasonable' to management and fellow workers ('you wan't continuous improvement, ok, so do we').

Just floating the idea like, don't shoot me as a collaborationist wink

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Jul 29 2006 22:08
revol68 wrote:
I think your idea might be about 20 years to late. Toyotism has broken down in Japan, and now it is merely a management strategy. When you look at the manufacturing abilities of China, it seems utopian to believe that there is room for capital to offer high wages and secure conditions in exchange for high productivity

i work in the offices of a factory which is part of a fortune 500 multinational, which also has a plant in china thats part of the same sub-division as my work. In this training i had, some of the management present (the company i keep roll eyes ) were discussing how in china lean is uneccessary because labour is so cheap and can be hired and fired so easily. What china doesn't offer however is good lead times to core markets, and theres no easy way around this, especially with oil prices rises making air transport even less economical. Lean principles can also be applied to service industries. Thus, lean is explicitly a strategy for regions with historically better conditions (due to past struggles etc). Its very much current, like i say 'my' fortune 500 company is spending a fortune (ahem) on it. Since the goal is continuous improvement, by definition they can afford to give us a cut.

revol68 wrote:
in manufacturing the speed of the production line is determined primarily by the technology, and hence the room for proportion of productivity linked to greater human effiency is diminished.

Well technology is important, but not as important as process management, at least in the 'lean paradigm'. Technological investment is also expensive and fairly risky, while process management is relatively cheap. Lean emphasises things like 'takt time' (demand for units per second) and tries to balance each production process to takt time so that there is minimum inventory build-up. This is achieved by multiskilling workers, needing workers to be flexible both in time worked and function, and closely monitoring materials and value flows, for which lean relies heavily on bottom-up information flows. Lean relies on a co-operative workforce to function, we just need to tell them it comes at an (affordable wink ) price: a cut of the benefits. 'You want continuous improvement, ok, so do we.' Meanwhile we incubate our subjectivities for the struggles ahead.

Negate me, Hegel-boy black bloc

[/devils advocate]

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Jul 29 2006 22:15
revol68 wrote:
Im Gay.


you don't say roll eyes

bit late for class struggle strategy sessions then wink

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Jul 29 2006 23:20

Revol isn't gay. A girl that he totally slept with because he's a stud keeps pretending to be him and saying it. It's probably because she's gay. They are crazy those gays, not like Revol. He's not gay, he just acts like that to get chicks.