From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (9/30/2011)

Industrial Info Resources, a Texas-based market intelligence and research firm, released a report this week indicating that the industrial sector is now opting for strategies of “limited growth,” and that rather that building new facilities, many manufacturers are focusing on increasing production efficiency at their existing plants.

This story may just be so much science fiction, but it was too fun to pass up.  The BBC reports on Angela Belcher, an MIT professor who, inspired by the lowly abalone’s ability to turn carbon and tiny, microscopic organisms in seawater into a hard, durable protective shell, has spent 20 years researching a natural phenomenon that just might prove to be a gateway into a revolutionary new form of “green” manufacturing.  (And check out the video below.)

Speaking of green, Huffington Post blogger Sarah A.W. Fitts says that “freedom is an electric car.” I say freedom is an electric car battery that charges deeply, is affordable, and does not cause more pollution concerns than it alleviates.

Echoing one of my long-time mantras, one Ocala (Florida) high school has launched a magnet industrial arts program called EMIT (Engineering and Manufacturing Institute of Technology).  Peggy Brookins, the co-founder of the initiative and a teacher herself, profiles her brainchild on Ocala.com.

And speaking of next-generation designers, engineers and tradesmen, at the same time the company announced it was breaking ground on a new 200,000 sq. ft. plant in Davis, California, global giant Mori Seiki announced it would be holding a career fair for those seeking to join their ranks of over 4,000 highly skilled professionals on October 5, also in Davis.

Given the staggering number of people currently out of work, what does that say about the skill level of the average unemployed man or woman in America?  That Mori Seiki actually has to issue a press release seeking qualified candidates for the kind the work they need done?

What’s more, would someone explain to me again, why is it we’re cutting back funding to trade schools, if not closing them altogether?

One report issued this week noted that durable goods orders were down in August, which had been expected.  But what surprised many analysts was that  orders for such goods were not down nearly as much as they had projected, which in turn triggered a much-needed rally on Wall Street this past Wednesday.

We sure love our lists in this country, don’t we?  In that spirit, MSNBC offered to us this week its list of the ten states that have lost the most jobs to China.

Along those same lines, author Michele Nash-Hoff, writing in the Huffington Post, offers her thoughts on the number of jobs lost to China, which one report this week pegged at 1.9 million.

Meanwhile Supply Chain Digest offers up this graphic representation of manufacturing value by country, based on data supplied by Booz & Company.

Market News International (MNI) says that the Institute of Supply Management’s most recent report on U.S. Manufacturing indicates that in September, despite downturns in manufacturing in many parts of the country, steady growth in two markets in particular — Chicago and Dallas — buoyed the national numbers and led to net growth for the sector (albeit by the slimmest of margins).

Meanwhile, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61 of the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S. actually gained manufacturing jobs in 2010.

Spurred, no doubt, by one of the most business-friendly environments in the country, Spanish carbon fiber composite manufacturer Carbures announced this week it will build an all-new $6.5 million, 40,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Greenville County, SC, bringing with it 50 new full-time jobs.

What do outsiders think of America’s off-shoring of jobs?  Check out the video at the link below, which ran on Reuters this week, in which Brazil businessman Eike Batista, founder and president of the Brazilian-based EBX Group, offered his thoughts on a number of things, including the role content rules, such as those currently on the books in his native country, could play in bringing about a renaissance in American manufacturing.

Solar power production continues to consolidate in China, as this week a relatively small Colorado-based solar film manufacturer announced it will send one of its divisions and 30 of its jobs to mainland China.

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