Oct 7, 2006

The good shepherd

Most of us don’t think about sheep all that much, but I happened across a research bulletin from Australia that illustrates a woolly parallel with manufacturing:

Dr Norm Adams, Senior Research Scientist with CSIRO Livestock Industries has found that merino ewes with the biggest fleeces [for the wool industry] tend to be thinner and have lower rates of reproduction than their poorer-fleeced sisters.

“These sheep can have difficulty maintaining body reserves without a plentiful food supply and as a result can produce fewer lambs,” he said…Dr Adams said the research findings have implications for animal production as well as ensuring that lamb survival is a priority.

He said one explanation could be that their energy appeared to be going into developing a good, heavy fleece at the expense of the animal’s fitness, its fat to muscle ratio and its ability to reproduce.

“Simply put, the findings show that if we push too much for production we can muck up the sheep’s chance of reproducing.” CSIRO
The piece goes on to say that the research was aimed at genetic modification could help produce sheep that would produce yummy lambs as well as wool, but let’s leave that aside for the moment.

The point is that human systems, including manufacturing, resemble nature’s. They need to be fed enough to provide robustness (regular machine maintenance), energy (human creativity) and reproduction (business expansion). Focusing only on production ain’t gonna work.

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