Don’t you just love it when you read an article on a major news site that makes you go, “Well, duh!” Such was the case today when I read a feature story on nbcnews.com about how fewer Americans count on retiring by 65 (unfortunately, the link to this article no longer works). As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of workers working beyond 65 has increased significantly from 1985’s low of 10 percent to 18.5 percent in 2012. My reaction is a result of seeing many of my peers among those who will be working until at least 70—some because they love what they do, but most out of necessity. (more...)
Archive for the ‘Shop Soapbox’ Category
By: Vicki Bell
A couple of weeks ago, my esteemed fellow blogger and close watcher of all things economic, Eric Lundin, wrote a post entitled “We’ve all fallen off the fiscal cliff.” Commenting on the last-minute deal Congress approved to avoid sending the U.S. economy off the fiscal cliff, Lundin said, “Yes, superficially, the new legislation prevented the U.S. economy from becoming the equivalent of a high-speed train wreck. However, it didn’t deal with the broad, deep, fundamental problems that are weakening the foundation of the U.S. economy. We have the same problems we had before this legislation passed, and the U.S. economy will eventually go off the rails. It won’t be sudden. It will play out like a painfully slow train wreck. Rather than a couple dozen freight cars piling up in a matter of seconds, it will take a decade or two, but it will happen nonetheless.”
This blog post became the lead story in January’s “Tube Talk” e-newsletter, and we asked readers to share their thoughts about the pending train wreck. Here’s what some of them had to say (the caps are all theirs): (more...)
By: Vicki Bell
It’s a New Year, and we escaped falling off the fiscal cliff, thanks to the very last-minute, drama-laden efforts of Congress to pass a bill to avert a much-portended catastrophe. In fact, if you went to bed too early on New Year’s Eve, which I apparently did, you fell asleep thinking we were going over the edge. It wasn’t until the next morning when I fired up my computer that I learned about the bill passing the Senate and awaiting House approval.
The bill covers a lot of ground, and yesterday’s “Fabricating Update” e-newsletter attempted to cover a few highlights that affect fabricators, both personally and from a business standpoint. And then, as we always do, we asked readers to share their thoughts about the topic. (more...)
By: Tim Heston
Early last year, I recall eating lunch in the break room at Atlanta-based Metcam, which hosted a press brake training seminar run by Steve Benson and organized by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. Sitting across from me was a press brake supervisor, we chatted a bit about his tours of duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He told me some intense stories.
He had gotten a job at a local metal fabricator and had climbed the ladder quickly. His military training, it seems, helped. He could focus. He paid attention to detail. He showed up to work like clockwork, and he was totally engaged in company’s improvement processes. To me, he sounded like a model employee. This is why I wasn’t surprised when I read an article in Forbes describing this as a trend that may abate, at least to some extent, our country’s skilled labor crisis.
By: Dan Davis
"They've tried for two years to find my replacement, but they didn't find one yet," said 67-year-old Gil Smith, a second-shift welding technician for Rose City Manufacturing, Springfield, Ohio.
He shared that fact with me after saying that he had read the December edition of the Fabricating Update e-newsletter where I mentioned that metal fabricators need to keep older workers around because companies simply aren't prepared to have all of that valuable knowledge walk out the door permanently to enjoy retirement. It's not that workers can't be found and trained to operate the machines and systems; it's the fact that those workers won't know what to do if faced with unforeseen circumstances that prevent them from operating the same machine and systems they were trained to operate. They simply don't have the experience. (more...)
By: Vicki Bell
Recently, my fellow blogger Tim Heston published a post that cited a New York Times article from November about how entry level pay in manufacturing is waning. The article quoted a Boston Consulting Group report that actually questioned the skilled labor crisis: "Trying to hire high-skilled workers at rock-bottom rates is not a skills gap."
Past posts on The Fabricator blog have addressed wages, which appear to vary from region to region and company to company. And, just as Heston noted, welders and fabricators at both ends of the pay scale let us know what they are seeing regarding wages. Such was the case when I posted a link to Heston's blog on The FABRICATOR's Facebook page. (more...)
By: Tim Heston
On Dec. 20, 1936, workers at a GM plant in Flint, Mich., had enough--and sat down. Many consider that sit-down strike in 1936 as the impetus for the modern labor movement. That made yesterday’s news more poignant--when Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature made Michigan a right-to-work state.
People can debate endlessly about the pros and cons of unions, but the issue isn’t simple. A decade ago I recall talking to a few lean manufacturing consultants who told me they wouldn’t work with a union shop, because of the work rules in place. In a high-product-mix situation, workers need to adapt, cross train, and work when and where needed to meet ship dates.
I still hear complaints, but not as often as I used to. Some unions are great to work with, while others adhere to the old, inflexible-work-rule stereotypes.
By: Dan Davis
What makes a jungle a scary place? It's probably fear of what might happen—not so much of what has happened. Uncertainty feeds paranoia, and paranoia forces one to lose focus. Without focus, a person is more likely to find himself in a dangerous spot.
Upton Sinclair observed those dangers firsthand when he went undercover for several weeks in 1904 in the Chicago stockyards. The journalist observed the dangers that unskilled workers had to cope with every day, the sickness that was rampant among the workforce, and the abuse that was heaped upon the workers by greedy company management. Back then the workplace could be a deadly place for someone that didn't have his wits about him.
Sinclair's book The Jungle, published in 1906, brought these conditions to the attention of most Americans and eventually led to legislation that set federal standards for meat and food inspection. Sinclair actually wanted the book to generate more interest about worker safety and well-being—which didn't really happen until several years later. (more...)
By: Vicki Bell
Among my job duties is scouring the Internet for news of interest to the metal fabricating community. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t run across items related to a topic of particular interest to metal fabricators—the shortage of skilled labor. It seems that every notable publication nationwide has addressed and continues to address the subject that cannot be resolved expediently enough for many manufacturers. So old, yet still timely news.
What’s relatively new in my searches—say in the last year or so—is the proliferation of news items from local media about expanded technical training programs in high schools, community colleges, and universities all across the country. I see these almost daily. It’s a far cry from what I was seeing almost a decade ago when these programs were being decimated. (more...)