From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (3/2/2012)

How’s this for Good News?  The U.S. Federal Reserve reports this week that manufacturing output rose in all 12 of its banking districts across the country in February.

Reuters has a story this week on how — again, in keeping with one of this space’s basic contentions for some time now – a rebound in manufacturing capacity in this country will not necessarily translate into a spike in factory jobs.

A second Reuters piece echoes that sentiment, saying that the Obama Administration’s manufacturing plan may mean more votes than jobs.

Blogger Chris Mayer calls what’s happening in U.S. manufacturing “the great comeback no one will believe.”

Georgetown professor of economics J. Bradford Jensen says that while the current push for more manufacturing jobs is admirable, it might be costing the U.S. even greater opportunities for job growth in the much larger service sector, particularly business services such as finance, engineering, software and architecture. 

And not to point out the differences between the two schools academically, but here’s a second blog this week — this one from a University of Maryland economics professor — with a much shallower (and frankly, outdated) view of the state of U.S. manufacturing, not to mention a more traditional, linear and perhaps parochial view of what might be called “services.”

Circuits Assembly, a trade pub, has a nice piece about one HD video products manufacturer shifted its contract work from China to Massachusetts after considering, among other things, the total cost of production in the two locales.

Calling the country’s economic growth model “unsustainable,” the World Bank president, promoting a report his organization issued this week, says China needs to change going forward, or suffer the consequences.

Here’s a report that says that after flooding the market with polysilicon to gain market share, particularly in the U.S., China is now cutting back on production by 30% in an attempt to drive up prices.

Speaking of China, Bloomberg first reported this week that February might be the fourth month in a row of contraction in that country’s manufacturing sector, indicating the very distinct possibility of a Chinese recession in the months ahead.  But then later in the week, Bloomberg corrected itself and said that following what turned out to be a slight rise in China’s manufacturing output in February, better days may lie ahead for all of Asia

And you wonder what the dangers are these days as the media tries to operate without the benefit and the critical perspective of what used to be called a “ news cycle”?

The U.S. continues to lead the world in the manufacture of international armaments and other war toys, at least according to the organization that compiles such data; the ironically named Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Bolaji Ojo, editor in chief of EBN, a supply chain industry trade publication, says that those who have predicted the demise of manufacturing jobs in the west have greatly jumped the gun and may find themselves sadly mistaken.

The Epoch Times reports that a number of experts say U.S. manufacturing needs a facelift.

One blogger claims that this country’s manufacturing revival might come at a price, particularly as President Obama continues to act and sound more like a conservative as he seeks to rekindle our particular segment of the economy.

Never let anyone say I’m loathe to put the finest of points on all things manufacturing related.  Case in point, this release from the Milking Machine Manufacturing industry which points out that that particular subdivision of the American industrial sector has been booming for the past five years, as farmers are apparently continuing to upgrade and equip themselves with the latest in milking technology.

Here’s an interesting and very brief white paper from Wells Fargo Securities that concludes that the current disconnect between American manufacturing jobs and American worker skills is as old as the technology boom.

First it was Solyndra.  Now another recipient of an U.S. Energy Department incentive loan has run into trouble, as ABC News tells about a Colorado solar panel manufacturer forced to lay off nearly half its work force as China continues to flood the market with its cheap panels.

Speaking of which, Clean Technica reports that when it comes to silicon and solar power manufacturing, China continues to play by its own set of anti-competitve rules.

And on the campaign trail in Ohio this week, Mitt Romney said the U.S. in the form of President Obama is being “walked all over” by China.  At the same time, the president was in Wisconsin where he said the U.S. could jump start its manufacturing recovery even more by re-training military veterans for all those high-skilled manufacturing jobs that continue to go wanting.  Couldn’t agree with that one more.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that manufacturing in Japan is bouncing back to a somewhat surprising degree.

And finally, CBS News reports this week on manufacturing slowly returning to Michigan.

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