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.
Bleigh has been unavailable for comment, so I haven’t been able to confirm if one of PCI’s strainers is used inside the nuclear plant in trouble. Regardless, such fabricated strainers have become standard in the Japanese nuclear industry, so I don’t doubt that their robust design is being put to the test. (Of course, the critical state at the
The work at PCI exemplifies the importance of manufacturing, an industry so critical even if it continually battles its ho-hum image. Here’s a case in point. The onshoring phenomenon splashed on the front cover of last month’s Wired magazine. “The Future of Made in America,” it screamed. The principal cover story recounted one reporter’s trip inside Foxconn, China’s giant maker of iPhones® and other gadgetry that, after a spate of worker suicides last year, installed nets adjacent to buildings to thwart would-be jumpers. The cover message was clear: Businesses can sometimes make it cheaper and better stateside--and judging by some of the human rights problems overseas, it’s the right thing to do too.
Then I read several paragraphs into the cover feature describing the workday at Foxconn: “You get an hour for lunch and two 10-minute breaks; roles are switched up every few days for cross-training. It seems incredibly boring--like factory work anywhere in the developed world.”
Incredibly boring? Really? Tell that to the workers at PCI. Their supposedly boring work produces products designed to save countless lives.