From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (2/18/2011)

It was a pretty exciting week in manufacturing.  Among the more noteworthy, interesting and/or amusing items I stumbled across:


West Coast Swing
The Seattle Times reports on President Obama’s recent stop at an Intel manufacturing plant in Oregon. Obama was wrapping up a two-day West Coast trip to the San Francisco area and Oregon, soliciting support of technology leaders as part of his global competitiveness agenda to create growth and jobs and cut the jobless rate, now at 9 percent.

Speaking of Mr. President, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that members of the Louisiana business community are hoping for a sit-down with the Chief Executive to talk about the Obama Administration’s de facto ongoing moratorium on off-shore drilling in the Gulf following the now not-so-recent BP fiasco.

3D Printing a Game Changer?
The Economist details the wonder of 3D printing from digital designs, while in another story tacitly warning engineers and manufacturers that, as 3D printing grows in both popularity and sophistication, their approach to everything from pricing and cost dynamics to Internet security will have to change.

No Problem, Houston
It’s probably not a stretch to think these two items are related.  First, while Houston may only be the fourth largest market in the U.S., the city recently ranked first in manufacturing job growth.  At the same time, U-Haul recently released its ranking of the drop-off destinations for its trucks and trailers in 2010.  The #1 destination?  You guessed it.

Tax Posturing
Think you’re a low-tax, small-government kind of guy or gal?  Here’s your chance to prove it.  Go to this link, fill out the brief questionnaire, and learn for yourself what your personal tax policy might look like if you were in charge.

Reading List
Just released this past week was Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier by Edward Glaeser, which makes a number of out-of-the-box observations, including:

  • Cities are more eco-friendly than tree-lined green suburbs
  • Urban and architectural preservationists and such “quality-of-life” things as restrictions on the height of buildings end up doing more harm than good
  • Cities like Chicago, which continued to add high-rise apartments, factory, warehouse, retail and office space even as the recession was taking hold, ended up creating extremely business-friendly post-recession environments by making space more affordable for existing and new businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and low-earning, well-educated workers.

Ozark Attitude
One small, independent manufacturer in tiny Mountain Home, Arkansas is going toe to toe with the big guys by trying toinstill in his all employees a “winning, staying” attititude.  Meanwhile, a small Ohio fishing tackle manufacturer is making a case that the “Made in America” label still means something.

Back to School
Want to invest an hour in yourself and your understanding of macro-economics?  Print the academic paper you find here and take it to bed with you some night this week.  Outsourcing, Demand and Employment Loss in U.S. Manufacturing 1999 — 2005, by three UMass Amhert professors, reads like a whodunnit in reverse. 

China Stuff
Think the U.S. is the only economy smarting from the poverty wages and government-subsidized manufacturing that is the Chinese manufacturing reality?  Think again.  The L.A. Times reports that Columbia’s textile manufacturing industry lost 13% of its annual $7 billion revenue to China-based competitors.  The Times also reports that as China has slashed its exports of rare earth elements, so critical to the manufacturing of high-tech gadgetry — the U.S. is putting on a full court press to find and mine its own supply. 

Meanwhile, Business World reports that, while China might appear to be rolling in clover to the outside world, inside the world’s new manufacturing mega-force it’s a somewhat different story as growing pains are starting to manifest themselves.

What Would Germany Do?
In the most recent issue of Manufacturing Techology, two authors offer an analysis of how U.S. manufacturers could benefit from looking, acting and operating a little more like their German counterparts.

When Factories, Industries Die
Amid the euphoria over the U.S. being able to rally it’s manufacturing sector, comes this sobering take on the effects of closing factories, and more importantly what happens when certain products are no longer made in America.

In a recent post, blogger Jim Pyke gives an analysis of the top ten industrial product divident stocks. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that market finished up for the third consecutive week, while the S&P 500 Index reached a 32-month high — the 8th consecutive quarter it has outdistanced analyst projections.

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