Thursday, July 01, 2004

Safe Harbour

In my previous life as a consultant, I regularly came across the Harbour Report, the Gutenberg Bible of automotive manufacturing statistics. Fast Company recently featured the Harbour Report and its impact on the automotive world.

I was struck by the reasons, implicit and explicit to the article, that the Harbour Report achieved its preeminence.

(1) The Report is written by someone who has lived and understands the subject matter. Jim Harbour was Chrysler's director of corporate manufacturing engineering. He's since retired from the consulting company he founded, Harbour Inc., but his tradition is carried on through his family.

(2) The Report's credibility is at least partially attributable to its longevity. The Report was first produced in 1981 and has been produced in its current form since 1993.

(3) The Report gets much of its information directly from its subjects. Manufacturers contribute information because they see the value in it for themselves.

(4) The Report presents objective facts. Users value the information because the Harbours don't have a hidden agenda. They seek to provide a true picture of automotive manufacturing. The Harbours don't even own stock in auto makers or parts manufacturers, so that their objectivity is beyond reproach.

(5) The Report provides value. It provides information about things manufacturers care about, such as "hits per labor hour." While somewhat pricey at $495 per copy, everybody who's anybody in the automotive industry wants their copy.

The characteristics that make the Harbour Report successful are also valuable to librarians as they evaluate other sources of information for credibility and value.

The Truth Shall Set You Free, by Chuck Salter. Fast Company, Issue 82, May 2004, p. 78.