From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufactuing (5/13/2011)

If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s how passionate many people are about the issue of China as a manufacturing superpower.

Recently, an edited version of one of my Belden Blog posts in which I detailed some of the reasons I believe China’s position in the global marketplace is vulnerable appeared on the web site for Product Design & Development, a highly regarded trade magazine under the Advantage Business Media umbrella.

That led to a detailed and impassioned rebuttal by a fellow manufacturer named Gordon Styles of Star Prototype, which I’ve linked here.

Then, this week I learned that Mr. Style’s rebuttal had in turn triggered a whole series of equally impassioned reader responses, some of which you will find at the bottom of his rebuttal.

The long and the short of it is that China is not only dominating the news, it is clearly occupying our collective thoughts as well.  That’s why next week I’ll continue to explore the issue in this space with yet one more reason why I believe China remains as vulnerable as ever.

Now on to some of the other interesting things I’m hearing and reading this week in the world of manufacturing.

On CBS Money Watch, blogger John Keefe ruminates about some of the deals municipalities are making in order to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. It’s an interesting debate, and one that has at its very core some larger questions about the changing nature and future makeup of America’s tax base.

When you’ve got 40 minutes or so, make sure you check out some of the highlights of the keynote speech by Bayer Corp. President & CEO Gregory S. Babe to the attendees of the Industry Week Best Plants Conference in Orlando.

Parts of Babe’s address, titled “The Importance of Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing,” sounded a little Donald Trumpish on the quantity and the future of American products being produced for the global marketplace,  but did include some refreshing (though decidedly obvious) insights, like when Babe told the delegates the U.S. cannot tax its way to prosperity, nor can it attempt to wall out foreign competition.

The M&G Group announced plans this week to open a PET production plant in the Gulf Coast region, most likely in Texas, Mississippi or Louisiana.  PET is a polymer used in numerous packaging applications.  That’s clearly a bit of good news for a region of the country that could sure use more of the same.

Speaking of which, GE Transportation spurred Mexican overtures this week and announced it would open a new locomotive manufacturing facility in Texas.

On the media front, ABC News this week issued an APB for the highest quality American-made products its viewers have come acrossDiane Sawyer and the net’s news division are looking for great American-made success stories, which they’ll feature in their popular “Made in America” series, which has rapidly become one of the most popular segments of ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

A Volkswagen executive told the Wall Street Journal this week that his company will attempt to combat the global effects of the weak dollar by expanding its U.S.-based manufacturing.

Some time ago, GM said it had plans to invest some $2 billion in various U.S. manufacturing facilities.  Those plans continued to take shape this week as the company announced it would invest $109 million in a Michigan-based Ecotec four-cylinder engine plant.

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