Globalization Issues Facing Lab Managers 1.
For half a century, Peter Drucker has been the gold standard by which management consultants are judged. He was the first to recognize that management is a discipline worthy of deep study. Some of his remarks in an interview published in the January
For half a century, Peter Drucker has been the gold standard by which management consultants are judged. He was the first to recognize that management is a discipline worthy of deep study. Some of his remarks in an interview published in the January 12, 2004 issue of Fortune (I'm cleaning up my files) remain relevant today and appear to have major implications for the current and future state of the chemical profession. This week we'll talk about R&D outsourcing overseas. I plan to comment on Drucker's discussions of workplace productivity, continuing education and global capital requirements in an upcoming blog.
Outsourcing of Industrial R&D Jobs
One issue that has become of growing concern is the "offshoring" of U.S. technology jobs to other countries by multi-national corporations. While information technology has been impacted the most, the limited and scattered evidence I've been able to discover indicates offshore appears to be a significant and growing problem for U.S. laboratory professionals in many industries including chemicals and petroleum.
However, Drucker notes, "Nobody seems to realize that we import two or three times as many jobs as we export. I'm talking about the jobs created by foreign companies coming into the U.S." He notes that most of these jobs are high-paying, high-skill jobs while many of the exported jobs are low-paying. In recent years European drug companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have opened large U.S.R&D centers. However, some U.S. chemical and drug companies are reducing U.S. employment of researchers while increasing employment overseas. The most popular sites for these new laboratories are countries with large and rapidly growing domestic chemical and pharmaceutical markets such as India and China.
So it would be interesting to see how the balance of laboratory jobs created versus jobs lost works out on a national (U.S.) basis. However, I'm not aware of any data bearing on this question. Are you?
Another interesting aspect of the offshoring question is to what extent U.S. lab professionals can benefit by going abroad to take assignments in these new, overseas research centers. According to Bharat Desai, CEO of Syntel, Inc., a firm that helps U.S. firms set up overseas facilities, U.S. firms are sending Americans to jump-start those facilities. Many of these are lab managers who hire nationals of the host country and familiarize them with the company's corporate culture. The expat managers can provide information on testing methods, reporting procedures and what has been done in the past. This information will help growing numbers of new overseas researchers from "reinventing the wheel."
While most of these overseas assignments for U.S. chemists are likely to be temporary, chemists can return home with valuable skills that will aid their career development. In a Chemical & Engineering News article, journalist Susan Ainsworth notes, "Unfortunately, chemists and other professionals may find it increasingly difficult to land lucrative, career-enriching international positions in the midst of the deepening global recession. And those who are already serving in those roles may face the prospect of lower pay, reduced benefits, and fewer opportunities for a new job as their assignments wind down." While this was written in April 2009, the slow pace of the economic recovery suggests it remains true now.