From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (2/25/2011)

Another amazing week in the world of manufacturing:

Raw Materials
Blogger and steel industry analyst Michelle Galanter Applebaum offers some heartening news on steel fundamentals.

One Canadian blogger/consultant questions the wisdom of migrating manufacturing jobs and functions to China.  Meanwhile, one of the great bugaboos of any fast-growing industrial power — inflation — is making itself right at home in the hyperbolic Chinese economy.   And along those same lines, salaries (and prices) are rising in China to the point that the country is now officially in uncharted waters.  The Financial Times weighed in on that issue as well, and questioned whether or not companies were going to start looking elsewhere for cheap Asian manpower.

Swedish auto giant Volvo recently announced plans to build two manufacturing plants in China, and at the same time projected they will sell 200,000 vehicles in the host country by 2015.

And finally, one tech analyst raised some eyebrows this week with some pointed on-air comments about both Chinese quality and the country’s business ethics — or lack thereof.

The Blogosphere
UK blogger Ian Fletcher calls industries “complex ecosystems” and details how the demise of certain technologies had a ripple effect throughout the entire economy.

Mike Elgan is as appalled by the findings in an Apple report on manufacturing conditions in China, as Apple executives were by the conditions they encountered in many Chinese factories and manufacturing plants.

Meanwhile, on the Forbes blog, John Mariotti looks into the future and asks, “What will America make, and what does ‘make’ mean?”

Strange Bedfellows
The Capitol Hill blog reports of a strange marriage of freshman congressmen from opposite ends of the political spectrum, who together might change the both the size and the shape of the Pentagon — not to mention the defense and aerospace industries.

Speaking of Congress, debate will begin this coming week on a new bill which critics say, if passed, could have a chilling effect on innovation.  The patent reform bill would change the traditional “first to file” standard currently employed in the U.S. to “first to invent.”

Tech Talk
Chip manufacturer Applied Materials announced that revenue should exceed projections this quarter, based in large part by greater-than-expected demand from China for its solar panels.

According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that old bellwether of the country’s economic health, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, saw the profits of its manufacturing, service and retail companies double in 2010 overthe previous year — which just validates what many of us already knew.  But still, I have to admit, that’s pretty sweet validation.

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