From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (9/21/2012)

Cheap is apparently so last week.  The New York Times tells the story of Watermark Designs of Brooklyn, a small manufacturer of high-end and unique plumbing fixtures, which the paper says has “cracked the code” and now exports almost all its top-of-the-line faucets and other plumbing fixtures to China, where they are being bought  and installed into the finest luxury hotels and condos in places like Shanghai, Macau and Hong Kong.

Richard Dauch, Sr., co-founder of American Axle, told the Detroit Economic Club this week to “stop living in the past.”

The Epoch Times reports on Rethink Robotics, a company whose new robot — Baxter — could just revolutionize manufacturing, not by replacing humans, but working alongside them.

Honesty compels me to admit, things have been looking a little soft for manufactring since the spring, and this week there was yet another sign that we’ve got some work to do to get the sector back on firm footing.  Manufacturing in China, meanwhile, decreased for the 11th straight month.

Here’s one I hadn’t heard:  an internal Microsoft investigation contends that malware is apparently being installed in many desktops and laptops during the manufacturing process.  The company recently did an internal audit, purchased 20 computers made in China — ten of each type of device — and found malware in four of them, despite the fact that all 20 were fresh out of the box and had never been used.

The U.S. and China are clashing over the latter’s exporting of auto parts, and our goverment’s contention that the Chinese auto parts industry is being illegaly subsidized according to the free trade rules outlined by the World Trade Organization.

Executives from 3M and Honeywell this week contended the weak global economy could whet the appetite of companies looking to increase revenue through the acquisition of undervalued assets elsewhere.

Silicon Valley digital sign maker Altierre says its future and automation are one and the same.

Bloomburg reports that Ariel Corporation, an Ohio manufacturer took an unusual step in its attempt to fill some 200 high-end machinist and engineering jobs:  a state-wide ad campaign.

Author and blogger Alan Tonelson wonders, is manufacturing moving from a slowdown to a full-fledged slump?

Reuters reports that a Eurozone recession seems likely as even manufacturing stalwart Germany has suffered a debt crisis.

A CNN report asks, “What does it take to deserve the label Made in the USA?

Speaking of questions, CNBC ponders, “Is Mexico the next manufacturing superpower?”

And speaking of the “Made in the USA” label, the New York Times reports that it’s starting to mean something entirely new to a new generation of consumers — especially when for the past 30 years or so, for many the label conjured up images of things like the boxy, cheaply made Chrysler K Car.

Manufacturing Digital reports its industry is fully behind the proposed American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act.

Naked Capitalism blogger Yves Smith takes a shot at debunking the myth that it’s China fault that American worker wages are falling.

Supply Chain Digest says that, while American manufacturing may be coming back, it’s not because of rising wages in China.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column, which has sought to determine the level of lies and half-truths found in each of this season’s campaign spots and slices of rhetoric, recently analyzed the Mitt Romney ad which took President Obama to task for “China’s manufacturing dominance.”  The Fact Checker gave the spot two (out of four) Pinocchios.  (Only the biggest whoppers earn the dreaded Gepetto Checkmark from the Post for bold-faced lying.)

The Boston Globe, meanwhile, takes Romney to task on the whole US job/China trade thing, revealing that the GOP candidate’s words and actions are awash in hypocrisy.

The Obama camp immediately responded to the Romney ad with one of their own (below), calling the Republican candidate/financier out for his apparent duplicity.

The National reports that, at least when it comes to manufacturing, the winds of change just might be blowing toward Silicon Valley.

And finally, writing in the official journal of the American Enterprise Institute, University of Michigan professor Thomas A. Hemphill discusses this country’s gnawing advanced manufacturing skill deficiencies and ponders some solutions to the problem.



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