On a July evening in 64 A.D., a fire erupted in Rome and is said to have burned for days, eventually destroying three districts and severely damaging seven more (out of a total of 14 districts). Legend has it that the reigning emperor, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, played the fiddle while the city burned. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Tim Heston
When it comes to a lot of things about the economy, I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy. Will the government shut down soon because of the mess inside the beltway? Yeah, probably. The jobless rates are down this week! Yeah, we’ll see how long that lasts. Five years after the financial crisis and worst downturn in a generation, Fannie and Freddie still operate much like they always have, quantitative easing continues unabated, and nothing much has changed. That figures.
But when it comes to metal fabricators and manufacturing in general, I tend to be a little more optimistic. I started covering this business in the roaring 1990s. Since then, manufacturing has endured global competition and a roller coaster ride of booms and busts. The best fabricators keep on keeping on.
And even after all this, this isn’t a bad business, judging by the money being made. Honest.
Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dan Davis
My son’s high school had its annual Parent Night on Wednesday. Parents actually get to experience the student’s schedule, albeit in a much abbreviated time frame. (Classes lasted only eight minutes.) It’s a great way to meet the teachers and get the real scoop on what may be happening in the classroom—much more than the “not much” you get when you ask the 15-year-old what happened at school that day.
This year my wife and I coaxed our sophomore son to take Introduction to Engineering, despite his defense that he has no plans to become an engineer. Truthfully, does any teenager know what he or she wants to do as an adult? There was not a huge demand for magicians in the job market 30 years ago, but my parents really didn’t do much to dissuade me from that possible career path. (Poor hand-eye coordination and a lack of practice probably doomed that career choice.)
But we were able to sell him on the idea that he needs to be exposed to all kinds of possibilities, including engineering. On the other hand, we were sold on the earning potential of those that follow up on engineering degrees. According to the 2013-2014 Payscale College Salary Report, engineering careers dominate the top 10 career paths with the highest starting median pay. It would be nice to have a career that allowed the student to pay back loans, instead of falling behind on them. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Vicki Bell
Earlier this week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced its income, poverty, and health insurance coverage statistics for 2012. According to the numbers, the median household income in the U.S. last year was $51,017, not statistically different in real terms from the 2011 median of $51,100. This followed two consecutive annual declines. OK … in unreal terms, I count three. I suppose I need to sue the educational system for teaching me unrealistic math.
A comparison of real household income over the past five years shows an 8.3 percent decline since 2007, the year before the nation entered an economic recession.
The Bureau also determined that the changes in the real median earnings of men and women who worked full-time, year-round between 2011 and 2012 were not statistically significant. In 2012, the median earnings of women who worked full-time, year-round ($37,791) was 77 percent of that for men working full-time, year-round ($49,398)—not statistically different from the 2011 ratio. The female-to-male earnings ratio has not experienced a statistically significant annual increase since 2007.
I call these statistics stagnation bordering on degradation, and, in real-life terms, an insult to wage earners, particularly women. Perhaps this is one of the reasons women are more likely than men to feel undervalued at work. The latest Randstad U.S. Survey substantiates this probability. Only 57 percent of women felt that their salary was adequate for their position of responsibility compared to 65 percent of men. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Vicki Bell
As I sat down to write today’s post, I thought about all the topics I could cover—jobs, the economy, manufacturing, world events, Miley Cyrus’s record-breaking video (apparently that’s big news today)—the list is endless. However, none of these outweighs the events that transpired on this day in 2001.
Almost everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news that the North Tower of the World Trade Center (1 WTC) had been hit by an airplane. One such event could be thought to be an accident. Accidents happen. When the second tower was hit, there was no mistaking either as an accident. Our worst fears were realized as we watched the drama unfolding, heard about the Pennsylvania plane crash and the attack on
the Pentagon, and then learned that these were indeed attacks on Americans with intent to kill innocent men, women, and children.
When this horrific event first began, I was doing what I am at this moment—working from my home office writing and editing. It just so happened that my youngest son had stayed home from school on that day. He came running out of his room and into my office to tell me about the first plane striking. At the same time, phone calls and e-mails from co-workers, friends, and family were coming in: “Have you seen the news? Turn on your television.” This is how things were done in the days before Facebook and Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Eric Lundin
If you spend a lot of time looking at economic data, you’re already aware that 2013 hasn’t provided much to get excited about. It has provided glimmers of hope, but nothing to set the world on fire. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Tim Heston
How is Maersk’s new Triple E class containerships—nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall—like a job shop?
Forget the fact that, as reported by BusinessWeek, the behemoth is designed to go only 16 knots to save fuel. Sure, heat-capture devices use heat from the massive ship engines to drive secondary turbines, saving fuel a bit. But you also just can’t beat the savings of going slow, not just for the Triple E but for any ship, really. If you need a small quantity of something fast, a container ship isn’t for you.
With all that capacity, the slow-moving ships may work well for companies that need a lot of something, but aren’t necessarily in a hurry. But the demand for this kind of business is incredibly cyclical. And it just so happens that these ships give Maersk some unprecedented levels of capacity.
By: Vicki Bell
If someone asked you to name your greatest asset, what you would say? Your home? Maybe once upon a time, but probably not anymore, thanks to the recession.
Your 401(k) or stock portfolio? See previous statement. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dan Davis
An author recently posed this question to me: “Do you think this submission is too negative?” His article was focusing on what metal fabricators do to destroy their machine tools—and he couldn’t have been more correct with his approach.
At least, that’s what servicepeople tell me. They get calls that something is wrong with a machine, and when the investigation takes place—by phone if they are lucky—the problem tracks back to a maintenance issue. Read the rest of this entry »