The Start-Up Nation has put Israel on the world technology and innovation map. But one of Israel’s best kept secrets is that whereas much of the developed world has outsourced local industry, here there is still a lot of local “traditional” industry. Some of these are world leaders — mainly in the plastics and metal fields. These industries survive and even thrive, despite the many threats to their existence.
The term low tech is somewhat misleading. For Israel to compete, it has to change the rules of the game. The low paying jobs of the textile industry are a thing of the past – they have all gone to neighboring Arab countries or Asia. Israel must bring in new technologies to allow it to compete globally, or be doomed.
Recently I attended the 7th Academic Industry Conference at Ort Braude in Karmiel, a college that is working together with industry to develop innovative operations and product development. I have also worked on organizational development with a number of people who have made the transition from high-tech companies to traditional industries, for example, in the human resources and sales fields. It got me thinking about what is attractive about regular industries.
Here are some of the reasons I like low tech:
- Traditional industries make tangible products that people really need and that can be understood simply by looking at it work.
- When traditional industrial plants are sold to a multinational, mostly the plants stay put, as the abilities are dependent on the entire internal and external ecosystem which is not so easy to move offshore.
- Low tech is spread all around the country and a lot of it is in the north. People in the periphery are less likely to be living on their CV’s, and if treated well, will be committed to the business in the long term.
- Skill diversity. Often high-tech companies are experts at hiring the same kind of men and women that they went to school/army/university with. In low tech a huge range of skills is needed from IT to machine operation to maintenance to marketing to finance. It can be much more interesting.
- Cultural diversity. Health care is considered to be the only place where Jews and Arabs work on an equal footing together. To that you can add traditional industries in the north, many of which have a good representation of all the cultures and religions who live here.
- Economy drivers. A successful and high quality factory in the periphery can carry an entire town and community with it. This is the case in the northern cities, villages and kibbutzim. It is no wonder that people can be so passionate when industry is under threat.
- There is a lot of room for innovation in traditional manufacturing with the adoption of a new machine or robot, in shop floor production innovation and in management practices. The worker on the shop floor can make a huge difference in developing innovation – if the managers give them the place and opportunity to do so.
- Team-centric. Everyone is important. To get that product out to the customer, everyone has to play their part. The engineer, the production planner and all the work station operators have to get it right. Anyone who plays the prima donna does not have a place.
- Regular industries employ a lot of people who are not going to work as programmers or engineers of any sort. That makes them just as important to Israeli society and the local economy as the glitzy high tech field.
If the high-tech world is not for you, the diverse world of low tech, where long term passion and soul are critical, may be your calling.
Inspired by the 7th Academia – Industry Conference at Ort Braude on the 23rd of April 2017