An interesting thing occurred during my recent trip to attend FABTECH® Mexico, May 11-13, in Monterrey, Mexico. I ate fried crickets, but that wasn't it. I witnessed a spark of fabricating equipment innovation that originated within the country's own borders and from the minds of its talented engineers. Mexico is growing up as a manufacturing market. (more...)
Archive for the ‘Global Marketplace’ Category
By: Dan Davis
I'm working on our FAB 40 editorial feature for June. It's a collection of 40 metal fabricating companies that have submitted to us their revenue figures for 2010, projected revenue for 2011, and outlook for this year. The listing provides a great snapshot of the overall health of the fabricating industry.
To no one's great surprise, fabricators believe that 2011 is shaping up to be a pretty good year, even in the face of rising steel prices and international turmoil. As several fabricators have told me, when you come from the depths of 2009, you have no choice but to believe things are looking up.
Amidst the positive feelings and cautious optimism, a couple of fabricators noted how they currently are working on jobs that previously were outsourced to China. One fabricator actually called the jobs part of a "trend" and included that work as part of the reason his company will see a 15 percent increase in sales for 2011. Another fabricator called his store fixture business a "growing segment" because of all the jobs coming back from China. (more...)
By: Tim Heston
With Japan in crisis, so are global supply chains. With the world’s third-largest economy basically in standby mode, manufacturers stateside--and around the world--are scrambling to adapt.
Most metal fabricators aren’t assemblers sitting at the end of a long global supply chain, but many of their customers are. Disasters like last week’s earthquake reveal the uncertainties of long supply chains, and for fabricators it also brings up the question of inventory: How much is enough? Lowering inventory frees up cash. But knowing all the uncertainties of a global economy, how “on edge” should a shop operate?
By: Tim Heston
When news broke of the earthquake-damaged nuclear plant in Japan, my mind turned to Jim Bleigh at Performance Contracting Inc., a Lenexa, Kan., company The FABRICATOR covered earlier this year. His group of talented welders, laser cutting machine operators, and assemblers fabricated strainers designed for use in Japan’s nuclear power plants.
When researching the story, I learned that these strainers help prevent what I thought at the time was an extraordinarily unlikely scenario: a nuclear meltdown. Fully assembled, the strainers help filter debris so that the pumps never become clogged and the flow of water back to the reactor is never blocked.
The strainer was designed with 1-in.-thick stainless steel sections, literally thousands of them. Why 1 in. thick? As Bleigh told me, it was to meet the Japanese nuclear industry’s unique seismic requirements. The 1-in.-thick stainless steel components cut on the company’s 7-kW laser were built to withstand unthinkable disasters.
By: Vicki Bell
Yesterday I was happy to read an article that said the U.S. is No. 1 in manufacturing, out-producing China — No. 2 — by more than 40 percent. It's an interesting article that chronicles what's happening in manufacturing: U.S. factories are closing; American manufacturing jobs are reappearing overseas; and China's industrial might is growing each year. (more...)
By: Dan Davis
Perhaps you noticed that Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington this week. If not Jay Leno did and theorized his initial meeting with President Obama's kids went like this: "So what factories do you work at?"
I laughed out loud when I read that joke. After spending the early part of this week reading about all of the special precautions that the White House was taking to ensure that the Chinese president and his entourage were welcomed in a way worthy of a world dignitary, I think an unscheduled celebrity roast should have occurred with President Hu as the special guest:
- "I hear President Hu is quite the ballroom dancer. Having tap danced around that whole currency manipulation charge for the last five years, he's got to be pretty good by now."
- "China is really starting to improve its human rights record. Dissidents are allowed two showers a month now in jail and are not subject to reruns of 'According to Jim.'"
- "Everyone is noticing the quality improvement in Chinese-made goods. President Obama commented on how much he liked President Hu's Rolodex watch during their initial meeting." (more...)
By: Vicki Bell
The December issue of "Stamping News Brief" featured an item about reshoring, one of several terms used to describe bringing jobs back to the U.S. After citing examples of reshoring by companies such as Ford Motor Co. and Caterpillar, which also were covered in a recent blog post, the newsletter asked its subscribers to answer two questions about the trend: 1. My company has acquired work that formerly was done offshore – yes or no. 2. I expect the reshoring trend: To continue; to die when the economy improves; what reshoring? It's just a buzzword someone coined to give us hope that things are improving.
How would you answer those questions? And would your answers match the majority of those who responded? (more...)
By: Tim Heston
If Dave Westphal doesn’t qualify as a lean manufacturing champion, I don’t know who would. The executive is director of global lean manufacturing for Nexteer Automotive, a $2 billion automotive supplier specializing in steering and front-axle components. Last year The FABRICATOR covered his lean accomplishments, including his use of video to streamline worker movements. It turns out worker ergonomics leads to greater efficiency and greater overall throughput. It’s a progressive place, one that shows how competitive manufacturing in the U.S. can be.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Nexteer is now a Chinese-owned company?
By: Dan Davis
In case you didn't know, we're raising a generation of kids that aren't as sharp as their peers around the world.
That's the story according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) released Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2009 the group gave a set of standardized tests that weigh reading comprehension, mathematics, and science to half a million 15-year-olds in 65 countries. (more...)
By: Eric Lundin
Last week I took a trip to Genoa City, Wis., and felt like I had spent a couple hours in 1955 or so. I paid a visit to Ralph Wells, owner of Wells-Osborn Spiral Stairs, a company that specializes in spiral staircases. Founded in 1949 as a welding and repair shop, it expanded its repertoire to include spiral staircases when its founder, Bill Osborn, was asked by a customer if he could build such an item. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Osborn got to work on it. The shop had windows near a street, and curiosity from several passers-by turned into orders from several passers-by. Spiral staircases caught on, and to this day they make up about half the company’s revenue. (more...)