How to Combat the Manufacturing Skills Gap

September 1st, 2014

“Creating a robust pipeline of workers to address the needs of U.S. manufacturers has become a national priority” according to a recently released report by ToolingU, a division of SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) titled, “Using Competency Models to Drive Competitiveness and Combat the Manufacturing Skills Gap.” The report discusses the results of a survey on the skills gap and current training, defines competency vs. competency models, explains different models, and explores best practices.

American’s manufacturers are increasingly challenged to find the skilled workers they need to fill good jobs. As more and more “Baby Boomers” retire, we need to address this issue if we want to keep the manufacturing engine going and growing to keep our economy strong.

Currently, 9 out of 10 manufacturers are having difficulty finding skilled workers and they say this is directly hurting the bottom line, according to a 2013 SME and Brandon Hall survey. In fact, the survey revealed:

  • 64% of manufacturers say productivity losses are a result of a skills gap.
  • 41% cited quality losses
  • 56% report the gap in skilled labor has impacted their company’s ability to grow
  • 78% cited a lack of qualified candidates as one of the top two factors that impacted
  • their ability to hire a skilled workforce
  • 78% cited a lack of qualified candidates as one of the top two factors that impacted
  • their ability to hire a skilled workforce

There are four main reasons for the skills gap:

  • Limited pipeline – Fewer people are pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and fewer youth are choosing manufacturing as a career.
  • Retiring workforce – Baby Boomers are retiring and about 10,000 per day will turn 65 for the next 19 years.
  • Changing pace of technology – Technical innovation is moving so quickly that it can be a challenge for workers who are unable to keep pace and are left behind.
  • Reshoring – Returning manufacturing back to the U.S. creates a bigger demand for jobs.

In January 2014, President Barrack Obama signed a memorandum to initiate a review of all the federal training programs to “develop a specific action plan…to make the workforce and training system more job-driven, integrated, and effective.”

Additionally, recent government investments in the Manufacturing Innovation Centers, as well as a new $450 million round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program demonstrates the commitment to solving these workplace issues.

The SME survey asked if the organization had a company-wide plan in place to address its skills gaps. The responses were:

  • 54% “No, we do not have a company-wide plan in place for filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles at this time.
  • 26% Yes, we have a company-wide plan for filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles through the next 12 months.
  • 14% Yes, we have a company-wide plan filling our skills gaps among skilled workers in critical roles through the next 5 years

The survey asked if the company’s skilled workforce training programs are built on specified competencies defined in job roles ? 71% said yes, 23% said No, and 6% said they don’t know.

In answer to the question about the best description of your company’s current approach to defining “skilled worker” roles, the responses were:

  • 40% We have written job roles, competencies, experiences, and education.
  • 21% We have general written job roles only.
  • 18% We have defined workforce roles in terms of written job roles, competencies (skills and behaviors), experiences, education, cognitive abilities, motivation factors and cultural fit.
  • 10% We have competency based written job roles only.
  • 9% We have not defined our “skilled worker” roles.
  • 1% Don’t know.

In the last 20 years, the training process has become much more sophisticated. Training is no longer one size fits all. Organizations are looking at employees individually and building customized training programs specifically to fit their strengths and weaknesses.

Professional and technical certifications provide objective confirmation and assurance of skill achievement in various areas of technical expertise. Certification validates a level of expertise and provides employees with advancement opportunities that motivate them to continue learning.

Certification organizations, such as the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC), SME, and American Welding Society (AWS), require manufacturers to show that employees have applied and retained the knowledge and skills they received through training.

The report contrasts “competency” with a “Competency Model.” Competency is defined as the capability to apply a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to successfully perform functions or tasks in a defined work setting. They serve as the basis for skill standards that specify the KSAs needed for success and measurement criteria for assessing competency attainment. A competency framework is used to design a plan specific to a particular manufacturing environment or organization or when there are no manufacturing certifications tied to desired job roles.

A competency model is defined as a collection of competencies that together define successful performance in a particular work setting. Competency models are the foundation for functions such as recruitment and hiring, training and development, and performance management. Competency models can be developed for specific jobs, job groups, organizations, occupations, or industries.

There are two main industry competency models for manufacturing in the marketplace:

Department of Labor (DOL) Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model – Created by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and other industry organizations, the Advanced Manufacturing Competency Model is a broad platform outlining critical work functions and topical areas. It includes crosscutting competencies applicable to various industry sectors.

Tooling U-SME Competency Framework or Manufacturing Excellence – Created by a cross-section of manufacturing experts and introduced in 2014, the tool features a comprehensive series of competency models in nine manufacturing functional areas and is made up of more than 60 job role competency models, each outlining knowledge and skill objectives for job roles in production, technician, lead technician/technologist and engineer levels. Designed to complement other competency models in the marketplace, the Competency Framework can be used “as is” or customized to individual work practices at a facility. The framework is mapped directly to Tooling U-SME’s extensive training resources and a specially designed system allows for seamless validation and record keeping.

Implementing an ISO quality management system to obtain certification or becoming a Lean enterprise requires a talent development program, which means training. Companies are finding that competency models provide the rigor needed to meet the ISO and Lean quality objectives, guidelines, and reporting requirements.

Competency models allow companies to combat the increasing talent shortage and achieve stronger performance from their workforce while providing clear development pathways and career growth opportunities for their employees.

Advantages for companies:

  • Ensures enterprise-wide consistency making the workforce more flexible and dynamic.
  • Streamlines the training process and cuts costs by eliminating unnecessary/redundant training to focus on true needs.
  • Helps managers easily evaluate worker performance levels defined using specific behavioral indicators, which reduces subjective assessment and increases assessment accuracy.

Advantages for employees:

  • Enhances employee satisfaction based on the rationality of the system.
  • Defines and explains to each worker what they need to do to improve their skills.

The first step to get started is for human resources to work with production and operations managers to develop job descriptions that accurately define the qualifications needed by workers, including both knowledge and skills. This analysis provides the foundation for a program that meets a company’s objectives related to budget, consistency, measurability and results.

Good training requires both knowledge and skills that may not come from informal knowledge transfer or tribal learning. It requires understanding the concepts of what and why a job is done a certain way, and then requires on-the-job training to validate that the worker can fulfill the needs of that job.

The key is commitment from top management down to individual employees. It is important to communicate to all employees that the focus is on knowledge and skill requirements of the job and align training designed to help each person perform his or her job more efficiently, while providing new growth opportunities. An effective training program will include a validation process that not only tests a new skill but provides employees with the opportunity to gain new skills, apply them on the job, and then have their new skill sets validated through assessments, testing, and certifications.

A well-designed competency model can become the foundation for performance management, talent acquisition and leadership development for manufacturing companies. To combat the current and future talent gap and build a high performance team, it is critical for companies to have a system in place to codify knowledge and skills required for specific job roles aligned with the appropriate training.

 

Made in USA San Diego Brands Succeed in Apparel Market

August 26th, 2014

Would you be surprised to find out that San Diego has a fashion design industry? On July 30th, the Fashion Group International San Diego held a meeting, titled “Going from Designer to Manufacturer,” featuring Barrie Kauffman and Heather Haas from two San Diego based clothing lines: Fables by Barrie and Fiveloaves Twofish. Both of these brands are designed and manufactured right here in San Diego, not made across the border in Mexico and not made in China like other brands founded and still headquartered in San Diego.

Since the 1980s, the San Diego region has been known for its active sports line of clothing and shoes. In addition to the golf and sports apparel of San Diego-based Calloway and Taylor Made, other San Diego companies include: Reef, starting with casual sandals in the 1980s and branching into a complete line of men’s and women’s sportswear in 2002; Bad Boy starting with T-shirts and shorts for local surfers, skaters and motocross riders in the early eighties and expanding into action sport and combat sport lines in the 1990s; and Tribal Gear, launched in 1989 as a Southern California lifestyle inspired clothing brand, until its original San Diego based shop closed in 2012. None of these brands claim their products are “Made in USA.”

On the Fables by Barrie website, Barrie says that she started her company in 2007 to create stylish, whimsical, and head turning clothing for women. “Since 2007 I’ve been striving to meet these goals with a good mixture of kindness and elbow grease…I’m very pleased to tell you that Fables is designed, developed, and manufactured in San Diego, California USA. We take pride in being most definitely sweatshop-free…We are very aware that our creations cost a bit more than so many similar-style brands, much less knockoffs, so we want to thank you for your continued support through the years ….”

A feature article in the San Diego Union Tribune in July 2010 described her line as vintage style inspired fashions for ladies, specializing in swimwear, Western wear for women that kind of look like a chic version of the outfits on “Hee Haw,” and dresses. Kaufman makes clothes using lots of primary colors, bows, ribbons and ruffles. The popularity of her red, white and blue swimming suits, which are sold in places like South America, Puerto Rico, Israel and Australia, helped propel Kaufman from Internet saleswoman to boutique owner. She opened her first boutique, Fables by Barrie in the Hillcrest area of San Diego in April 2010.

Fiveloaves Twofish was founded by Kit Kuriakose and Heather Haas in 2009. Kit is the head fashion designer, and Heather functions as COO. Fiveloaves Twofish is a fashion design house for girls, tweens and teens. The design house was originally in the art district of Little Italy near downtown San Diego, but relocated to the Liberty Station area in and is open to the public.

The website states, “It is a fashion driven lifestyle brand for girls, tweens, and young contemporaries” and describes the collection as an “all encompassing look, attitude, and way of life,” saying they “design clothing for the up and coming generation’s needs, wants and desires.” They “design in order for girls to grow-up and enjoy each stage from 4 to 16, while allowing them to embrace the transitions from little girl, to girl, to tween. We like to call these stages the age of exploration, as girls are caught between ‘little’ girlhood and ‘juniors.’ During this age of exploration, Fiveloaves Twofish provides girls with a rich collection of varying attitudes that allows girls to play with who they will become each and every day.” The brand is sold in boutiques and department stores nationwide, with Nordstrom being one of their major department store outlets.

The website touts that “all our fashion is designed and patterned in our design house in San Diego. We take great pride that all our manufacturing from design to completion is done not only in America but also locally in San Diego, CA.We source our raw materials locally at first, using about 50% from local suppliers and 50% from overseas. All our packing material is recyclable, and waste is kept to a minimum.” The website encourages clients to wash their clothing in cold water and line dry it, saying “This is not only better for the longevity of your clothing, it is also easier on the planet.”

Fiveloaves Twofish’s website offers a challenge to clients: Know what you buy and read labels. Buy from companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect.

Barrie and Heather were asked by the moderator to describe how “went to market.” Barrie explained that “Going to market” means exhibiting in a major trade show in the fashion industry. The market calendar means that you sell your spring line in August and October, and your fall line in January and March. Barrie said that she started selling at craft shows in 2007 and “went to market” in 2009. She started with two swimsuits and one pair of shorts at the Magic show in Las Vegas.

Heather said they started in a tiny studio with 10 – 15 of each style, and it was a matter of either going to market or closing down. They went to market at a children’s show in New York in 2010 as that is where you have to go for children’s clothes. She said that all the big accounts (major chain stores) place their orders at the August and January shows, so they have spent all of their money by the October and March shows. The boutiques and small chains come to the shows in October and March to place their orders. She said that this can often work out better for a new brand as it is hard to meet the production needs of the big accounts when you start out.

An information handout for attendees said the major U. S. markets are: Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta. There are trade shows conducted in these markets, with two of the biggest being the ENK show in New York and Magic in Las Vegas.

Heather and Barrie were asked what the costs to participate in trade shows are. Barrie said it started out as low as $2,500 for a booth at the Pool show, but that show costs $4,600 now. Then, you have to add in the cost of either renting or building “walls” for your booths. She explained that all booths have to have “walls” on three sides, so the booth is only open to the aisle. You can build the “walls” out of a variety of sturdy materials and cover them with contact paper.

Heather said that the children’s show in New York costs $3,000 for a 6′ X 10′ booth and besides the costs of building the “walls,” you have to add the cost of hotels, which in New York can run $5,000. Both ladies were leaving town at the end of the week to exhibit at one of the trade shows held the first week of August.

Heather said that you need to make a commitment to participate in trade shows for at least a year, so the buyers can gain confidence that you are going to stay in business. She added, “Our first New York show paid for itself. The accounts that make a show worthwhile don’t write orders at the show.” Barrie said that her biggest customer is Mod Cloth, and they were her first customer.

The next question was whether or not they used “reps” and had “showrooms.” Barrie said she doesn’t have any “reps” now, but is looking into it. Heather said they have “reps, and have show rooms in Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and London. She added, “Reps that go after them work out better. We pay a 12% commission and have show room fees in Los Angeles and Atlanta.”

The meeting handout explained that “reps are individuals you hire in different market locations to show your line for you. They usually carry 12-15 lines. They are paid by commission of the sales they make for you and also often charge a showroom fee.”

An audience member asked where they buy their material. Heather said you need to start with the streets of L. A. (the garment district) to buy smaller lots of material because to buy wholesale, you need to order 60 – 70 yards. She said they started out simple ? solid colors and no trims. She advised, “Always be honest.” [In other words, don't inflate the size of what you may order in the future to get a cheaper price for your small order.]

Neither Barrie nor Heather felt people are willing to pay more just because their lines are “Made in USA.” They both said they have a problem with “knockoffs,” that is, copies of their styles mainly by foreign companies in Asia. I learned that the design of an article of clothing is not something you can patent, so there are no intellectual property rights to protect your designs. You can only trademark your brand of clothing. Thus, manufacturing of clothing is even riskier than the high-tech products with which I am familiar.

It is good to see the manufacturing side of San Diego’s clothing industry resurge after better-known apparel lines of companies headquartered in San Diego outsourced their manufacturing offshore. If boutique apparel companies can be successful making their clothing in San Diego using American workers, then think of the outrageous prices other apparel companies are charging by manufacturing their clothing in offshore countries like China, Vietnam, and India. By their success, Fables by Barrie and Fiveloaves Twofish have exploded the myth that one must manufacture their apparel offshore in order to be profitable. We consumers need to check labels and support companies that are manufacturing in the U.S. and creating jobs for other Americans.

San Diego Inventors Forum Contest Features Breakthrough Technology

August 19th, 2014

The San Diego region is truly a hotbed of ingenuity and inventiveness as evidenced by the 9th annual Invention Contest held by the San Diego Inventors Forum on Thursday, August 14, 2014, at the conference facilities of the Jack-in-the Box headquarters. There were more than 25 applicants for the contest, and five finalists were chosen for the New Technology category, and eight finalists were chosen for the Best Consumer Product category. Each contestant had five minutes to present their new technology or product and one minute to answer questions. At the end of the presentations, the audience of nearly a hundred voted for the best in each category. The winners were:

For Best New Technology:

First Place: David Horrigan, founder of Admiral Fluidics, for his SolidWater™ (or Caudal Prop™) Ship Propulsion System. SolidWater™ is a trademark of Horrigan Labs Corporation, CaudalProp™ is a trademark of Genero Labs Corp (Patent Number US Provisional 61/844,313 PCT Filed)

The benefits of this highly efficient ship propulsion system include: 70% lower fuel use and resultant atmospheric carbon emission, lower horsepower requirement, cheaper engine cost, antifouling, and no rudder needed. The system provides three breakthroughs in technology: Blade design eliminates cavitation; Linkage simplifies Caudal cycle and varies angle of propeller performing like a continuously variable automatic transmission; Assembly design eliminates deflection energy losses.

The next step will be to build a 20 hp, 600 lb. thrust system that is expected to have the thrust force and performance of a 90 hp diesel. There is a big market for this size for use by 30-50 ft. sailboats, most government research vehicles, and commercial fishing boats. The final production sizes of the propulsion system will also include a 2,000 lb. system and a 100-ton system. This propulsion system is truly a paradigm shift in propulsion technology.

The management team has been selected, and Mr. Horrigan envisions having 50 employees when they go into production, with the systems being “Made in the USA.”

Second Place: Carl Yee for his product, Paper Saver Ink (Patent number: 8,328,317)

Paper Saver Ink is a new type of inkjet ink for temporary printing that erases itself over time. This enables the same sheet of paper to be printed over and over again. A document is printed on paper, read or reviewed as normal, and then set aside. The ink gradually undergoes a chemical reaction with the atmosphere and loses its color, leaving behind a blank sheet of paper. When the printer or copier needs more paper, this blank paper is loaded back in, ready to be printed again.

Mr. Yee will be doing a few more months of product development work and then do a Kickstarter campaign for seed funding.

Third Place: Hal Slater for his Geothermal Water Heater

The Geothermal Water Heater is a new, highly efficient water heating design for residences in temperate and tropical climates. The GWHP extracts excess heat from the cold water used throughout the home with a water-to-water heat pump to heat the hot water used throughout the home. The key factors are that: 1) the typical residence uses three to four times as much cold water as hot water, 2) in some climates the cold water is about 15º-20ºF warmer than it needs to be and 3) water-to-water heat pumps are, on average, more than twice as efficient as air-to-water heat pumps. For more information, contact Hal Slater at h...@halslater.com

Other contestants in the Technology category were:

Gary Abramov – Ultra Miniature Defibrillator

The ultra-miniature external defibrillator (two-part set, each the size of a silver dollar) is based on reduced defibrillation energy via bypass of skin resistance. It enables 45 times improvement in weight and size of present external defibrillators. The target markets are military, government agencies and first-responders. Clinical trials are being held to obtain a FDA Class 3 approval.

Paul Moretto, Universal Wind Turbine LLC – Wind Turbine Generation System (WTGS) (Patent Number 7,888,810 B2)

It is vertically shafted and is inspired by jet engine design. It utilizes two turbines connected on a horizontal plan. The incoming wind is directed to the horizontally positioned blades of the turbines through four wind channels thereby increasing dramatically the WTGS power. To increase wind efficiency even more, two systems have been created to ensure rotatable advantages for the WTGS: (1) the top turbine rests on fixed and inverted casters, and (2) the lower turbine, rests and rotates on a bed of viscous liquid. Both systems eliminates friction, vibration, and noise, while increasing the viability of the WTGS’ capability of functioning in low wind speeds, as demonstrated on the Beaufort Scale. The WTGS is a 4-foot high freestanding turbine intended for individual home and commercial application. The company is in the process of working with Riverside County and University of California, Riverside for the modeling and prototype of the WTGS. The WTGS will utilize as many recyclable materials as possible.

For Best New Consumer Product:

First Place: Abel Monzon for his Cover & Vent Register, a collapsing vent register cover (Patent Pending)

This product is an insulated ceiling register cover designed to prevent heat loss and cold drafts when your AC is not in use. It facilitates opening and closing of your register and provides an airtight seal to save energy by preventing thermodynamics from occurring through partially open vents. It also makes opening and closing vents easier than conventional products currently on the market. It has a uniquely designed mounting bracket that will hold this universal cover to the majority of ceiling vents from size 6″ to 12″. It can also be used in place of your existing ceiling register. It has an aesthetically pleasing appearance and installs in just minutes.Further development and testing will be done before launching a website. For further information, you may contact Mr. Monzon at cove...@gmail.com

Second Place: Don Johnson for his Thera Point Focal Pressure Support (Patent pending), FDA Class 1 approved

Thera Point is a wearable provides advanced support with focal pressure therapy to help relieve symptoms of tennis or golfers elbow.Its exclusive 3-way adjustability provides custom fit and improved product performance. Latex free neoprene construction provides thermal benefit. It is washable and suitable for use at work or play. A storage bag included. In trials, participants showed an average VAS pain score reduction from 7.39 to 1.5 after wearing Thera Point for only 2 weeks. It is estimated there are up to 9,000,000 cases of tennis elbow annually… in the U.S.

Third Place: Chris Baker, EBG Design & Manufacture, for his Multi-Vise System (Patented March 2014)

The Multi-Vise System comes in a two-head, three-head, and four-head-vise configuration and can hold objects in any orientation, each vise independent to the other, with multi positions due to the rotating ball clamp.

The system works on the philosophy that it is better to clamp an object securely into a vise and then move and lock the vise into the desired position rather than trying to “fit” a clamp around the objects.

Ideal for holding and positioning objects securely for; gluing, painting, cutting and cleaning, etc. Once the object(s) are in position, the entire assembly can be tilted and swiveled due to a fifth ball clamp, giving much flexibility to the operator. The system is also available with attachments designed to support and hold printed circuit boards – making it the ideal platform for printed circuit board assembly, soldering and testing, etc.

Other contestants in the New Consumer Product category were:

Les Robbins – Snow Guard is the first windshield cover that protects your automobile’s windshield from snow and ice as well as the side view mirrors. It has a universal fit with flexible mirror gloves.

Patrick Trusio – Wall Hanging Wafer Device to simplify alignment, placement and fastening of items such as framed art, pictures or wall hangings. It is an injection molded thermoplastic device to simplify alignment, placement and fastening of items such as framed art, pictures or wall hangings. Self-adhesive backing bonds the device to back of an item. A slot allows a pushpin to be inserted and nest firmly in place. Exerting pressure forces pushpin into wall affixing item to wall. Slot allows item to be lifted off pushpin and removed from wall.

Harry Katcher – The Car Cubby – The Car Cubby is a portable, collapsible, washable car storage system. It holds your grocery bags in place while you drive.

Allen Young of Tallac LLC – VIER Compact and Secure Lock (Patent Pending)Vier is a compact high security lock that use two locking bodies and two shackles. When disassembled, the four pieces fit into a bag the size of a burrito and weighs only 3 1/2 lbs. This hardened steel lock would replace a conventional U-lock. Vier just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. For further information contact Allen at alle...@gmail.com.

Coral Bergman – Signwinder™ (Patent Pending) – a stretchable elastomeric fastener for attaching signs to posts, fences, light poles, etc. to increase visibility of such signs as real estate open house and garage sale signs by raising them to well above the line-of-sight.

The San Diego Inventors Forum will start its 10th year next month. I am honored to be on the steering committee for the Inventors Forum to meet San Diego’s inventors and assist them towards successful entrepreneurism. During the course of our monthly meetings, we essentially provide the inventors with a course in entrepreneurism. As part of our informal curriculum, I give a presentation on how to select the right manufacturing processes for their new product. We look forward to another great year!

How Multinational Agribusinesses are Attacking Country of Origin Labeling

August 5th, 2014

If you have bought any packaged meat recently, you may have noticed a new type labe:  a Country of Origin label that may list up to three countries under the categories of “born, raised, and slaughtered.” Consumer groups have long advocated for Country of Origin labeling, but not everyone in the food supply chain is pleased.

On July 22, 2014, Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA presented a webinar, titled “Country of Origin Labeling: How Multinational Agribusinesses Are Attacking This Law” to members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) and sponsoring organizations.

He explained that County of Origin Labeling is not new. The Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 was passed by Congress to prevent adulterated or misbranded meat and meat products from being sold and to ensure that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. It required labels on imported meat, but the USDA considered imports of non-retail-ready meat products to be of domestic origin once they passed a U.S. safety inspection, so origin markings were not maintained. The USDA also considered imported livestock to be domestic after its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service inspects and releases these animals. USDA inspection of poultry was added by the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957.

The Tariff Act of 1930 required that every imported item must be conspicuously and indelibly marked to indicate to the “ultimate purchaser” its country of origin. Products were exempt if they were too difficult or economically prohibitive to mark. The list of exemptions included livestock, “natural” or raw agriculture products such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries.

Mr. Bullard stated that Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was included in 2002 Farm Bill. It covered muscle cuts of beef, lamb, and pork; ground beef, ground lamb, and ground pork; farm-raised fish and wild fish; perishable agricultural commodities (fruits and vegetables); peanuts.

However, Mr. Bullard explained that this requirement applies to retailers (grocery stores), but not restaurants or if sold by retailer not required to be licensed under PACA (Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act), such as specialty markets, fish markets, butcher shops or roadside stands.

The USDA rules for COOL exempt “processed” versions of the foods, so that the following are exempt:

  • cooked, roasted, smoked or cured (even teriyaki flavored meat)
  • combined with one other ingredient

Most nuts sold in grocery stores are roasted, so they aren’t labeled. Ham, bacon, sausage and other products in the pork section of the meat case are exempt because they are smoked or cured.

However, he started that there was an 11-year delay in writing the rules for USA Label for USA-born, raised, and slaughtered beef. The multinational agribusinesses and their trade organizations like the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) fought hard to stop Implementation of this label. They convinced then Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to support their efforts to keep consumers in the dark.

Congress’ FY 2004 appropriations bill delayed COOL for everything except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until Sept. 30, 2006. Congress’ FY 2006 appropriations bill further delayed COOL for everything except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until Sept. 30, 2008.

Just days before the 2009 presidential inauguration, on Jan. 15, 2009, USDA issued its final rule on COOL. It allowed packers to commingle a single foreign animal during a day’s production and then label the entire day’s production as “Product of U.S. and Canada and/or Mexico.”

Despite the quid pro quo, on May 7, 2009, both Canada and Mexico filed actions with the World Trade Organization (WTO) alleging COOL violated U.S. obligations under various WTO agreements.

In 2012, the WTO faulted COOL and ruled (in part):

  • Violates Article 2.1 of the WTO TBT Agreement because COOL’s recordkeeping and verification requirements impose a disproportionate burden on upstream producers and processors, because the level of information conveyed to consumers through the mandatory labeling requirements is far less detailed and accurate than the information required to be tracked and transmitted by these producers and processors.
  • These same recordkeeping and verification requirements “necessitate” segregation, meaning that the associated compliance costs are higher for entities that process livestock of different origins resulting in a detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of imported livestock.
  • The COOL labels contain confusing and inaccurate information.
  • The regulatory distinctions imposed by the COOL measure amount to arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination against imported livestock, such that they cannot be said to be applied in an even-handed manner. Accordingly, we find that the detrimental impact on imported livestock does not stem exclusively from a legitimate regulatory distinction but, instead, reflects discrimination in violation of Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement.

On May 24, 2013, the U.S. informed the Dispute Settlement Board that on 23 May 2013, the USDA had issued a final rule that made certain changes to the COOL labeling requirements that had been found to be inconsistent with Article 2.1 of the TBT Agreement. The U.S. was of the view that the final rule had brought it into compliance with the DSB recommendations and rulings.

This rule reversed their concession of 2009 to consider comingled livestock as a U.S. product. The new implementing regulations require the label to show the Country of Origin for the production steps of born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S.

This effectively ended the deceptive practice of commingling that previously allowed meat exclusively from U.S. animals to be mislabeled as if it were meat from multiple origins, such as the inaccurate label: “Product of the Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Mr. Bullard said that the benefits of this regulation are:

  • Optimizes U.S. Value-Added Supply Chains
  • Prevents industry consolidation
  • Prevents consumer deception
  • Enhances competition
  • Provides synchronous information (between consumer and packer/retailer)
  • Facilitates more accurate price discovery
  • Provides consumers with more choices
  • Empowers consumers to make informed decisions
  • Provides food safety proxy for expression of nationalism/patriotism

However, Canada did not agree that the changes brought the U.S. into full compliance. In its view, the changes were more restrictive and caused further harm. On August 19, 2013, Canada requested the establishment of a compliance panel. Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand reserved their third-party rights, followed by Australia, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. On September 27, 2013, the compliance panel was composed. On 26 March 2014, the Chair of the compliance panel informed the DSB that the compliance panel expects to issue its final report to the parties towards the end of July 2014 (not issued as of this date.)

In the meantime, the WTO and multinational Agribusinesses continued to promote global supply chains. The World Trade Organization has been working on the “Made in the World” initiative for years. The WTO’s Made in the World initiative is part of a process of “re-engineering global governance.” On February 26, 2013, Former WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, said, “Fewer and fewer products are actually ‘Made in the UK’ or ‘Made in Switzerland’, and more and more are ‘Made in the World.’”

According to Mr. Bullard, the multinational agribusinesses and their allies have used every front to defeat COOL: U.S. Federal Courts, the U.S. Congress, industry propaganda, and the WTO.

COOL has been attacked in Federal Court by the American Meat Institute (AMI), National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), National Pork Producers Council, American Association of Meat Processors, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, and the Confederacion Nacional De Organizaciones Ganaderas.

The arguments they used were:

  • COOL violates their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech.
  • COOL improperly prohibits them from “commingling.”
  • The “Born, Raised, and Slaughtered” labels are not authorized by the 2002 COOL statute amended in 2008.
  • There is no substantial governmental interest in informing consumers where the meat they buy for their families was born, raised and slaughtered.

Thus far, the U. S. Courts have upheld COOL: the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia denied the Preliminary Injunction request, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the District Court judgment. However, on April 4, 2014, the appeals court vacated its judgment and issued an order for the case to be heard en banc regarding the narrow issue related to the First Amendment, and a decision is pending.

The multinational agribusinesses have tried to eliminate or weaken COOL in each of the past three U.S. Farm Bills, but failed in their effort to include language to weaken COOL by allowing a “North American” label. They did succeed in adding anti-COOL language in House Agriculture Appropriations Committee report language.

In conclusion, Mr. Bullard explained that the main reason why COOL is under attack is the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice and USDA have failed to enforce U.S. antitrust laws and market competition laws against multinational meatpackers. In addition, unrestrained mergers and acquisitions, and the lack of enforcement of anticompetitive practices have accorded U.S. multinational meatpackers oligopolistic market power in U.S. meat markets (four firms control about 85% of beef market). As a result of this market power, meatpackers can and do discriminate against whomever they choose, including the countries of Canada and Mexico.

He said that COOL is the most pro-producer, pro-consumer, and pro-competition legislation to be passed by Congress in a long, long time, and it must be preserved.

 

STEM Education Matters to our National Security, Innovation and World Leadership

July 22nd, 2014

Over the last 230 years, the United States became a global leader, in large part, through the genius and hard work of its scientists, engineers and innovators. Today, a little over 4% of the workforce is employed directly in science, engineering, and technology. Yet, this small group of workers is critical to economic innovation and productivity.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are widely regarded as critical to be competitive in the global economy. A growing shortage of science-based talent in our workplaces and universities represents a serious problem for our nation. Expanding and developing the STEM workforce is a critical issue for government, industry leaders, and educators. However, comparatively few American students are pursuing educational majors in STEM career paths.

If we want to attract today’s youth to careers in science, engineering, mathematics, and high-tech manufacturing, we need to show them the variety of career opportunities that exist in these industries. We need to change their perceptions about what the manufacturing industry is like and help them realize that manufacturing careers pay 25-50 percent higher than non-manufacturing jobs, so they will choose to be part of modern manufacturing.

As I have written in past articles, we need to reacquaint youth with the process of designing and building products from an early age and provide them with the opportunities to learn in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Experts agree that we need to restore shop classes to our high schools and establish apprenticeship programs to improve the image of manufacturing careers and portray manufacturing careers as fun and exciting.

The SME (formerly Society of Manufacturing Engineers) “Making Manufacturing Cool” program and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) “Dream It. Do ItTM” program are helping to expose our youth to the modern manufacturing environment and change the image of manufacturing to one that is “cool” and full of exciting career opportunities.

These new programs are building on the work of the non-profit organization, Project Lead The Way®, which has been working since 1997 to promote STEM curriculum for middle and high school students during the school year, along with the Gateway Academy, which is a one- or two-week day camp for 6th – 8th graders that includes team-building exercises, individual and team projects, and utilizes the latest technology to solve problems.

However, none of the above programs are geared specifically to girls, and it is an even bigger challenge to attract girls and young women to technical careers. Studies have shown that when role models and mentors are provided to girls, they are more likely to follow a similar career path.

Now, there is a new program in development by Invincible Enterprises, ME, Inc., an online and mobile app that provides Role Models, a Game Plan and Mentoring options to encourage teens to create a life of fulfilling rewards by enter thriving careers in STE@M industries. Helping with ME, Inc. are advisors with significant workforce, career development, empowerment, and business expertise. The program incorporates a PLAYBOOK for Teens, created by Cari Lyn Vinci & Carleen MacKay, which is available in print and digital format at Amazon.

In the PLAYBOOK, girls can meet fascinating women in STE@M (the “@” stands for “art”) and follow the “plays” of successful young women to help them create their own “Dream Career.” The PLAYBOOK is dedicated to the smart, talented teenage girls who will become the future business owners and leaders in STE@M industries. It will also provide a tool for organization and corporate partners to use to solve their future talent pool problems.

Permission was granted for me to share the following two role model stories:

Allison Goodman’s story – Allison is a young woman with a talent for stretching her limits. Allison, an electrical and computer engineer at Intel, is a pro at solving new problems by creating new, patentable ideas. She is particularly interested in increasing computer speed to help people connect and share data faster than ever before. To accelerate getting information around the world so it feels instantaneous, Allison creates products that are a combination of writing software programs and electrical components that together try to predict what we want to accomplish with our computer.

Her story began when she started to sort out and prioritize the different things that she found interesting. She tried, but couldn’t find that “one thing” that was most important to her. Allison’s father helped by telling her he would pay for ONE year of school – but only if she studied engineering. Since this was the only deal offered, she accepted it and left home for college.

Allison came to appreciate her father’s wisdom. It helped her become self-reliant. Knowing she had to pay for the balance of college, Allison applied for scholarships and soon discovered that scholarships in engineering were not as difficult to get as she had once thought. While Allison had initially struggled to find the “one thing” she wanted to do, she now realizes that the opportunity to study hands-on engineering opened her eyes to a number of options that she had never considered.

Today, Allison finds challenges and opportunities at Intel. She has been able to change roles every few years and her technical talents have led to positions in project management and customer service. Imagine. Allison has travelled to 22 countries on behalf of Intel, has met interesting and dynamic people, continues to learn about the world, and finds that new opportunities are always around the next corner. Fantastic!

Adrienne Huffman’s story – This story tells the tale of a curious young girl who found that computer engineering and electrical engineering both challenged her curiosity. What to do? She graduated from Florida A&M University with two degrees: a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a B.S. in Computer Engineering. Then, she topped off her Bachelor’s degrees with an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State.

In college, Adrienne was active with the National Society of Black Engineers. They provided encouragement and a venue to develop her leadership skills. Adrienne was inspired by members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, an organization she later joined. Adrienne identifies with the motto of Dr. Paulette Walker, the 25th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Powerful words of inspiration to young women who, in addition to their commitment to academic learning, must develop strong senses of self-worth in order to reach their goals.

Adrienne’s academic interests developed along the way. She, like so many people, began pursuit of a career in computer engineering but found that her interests shifted as she learned. Early influences included her parents who taught her the valuable lessons she lives by today. Notably, they taught her “in order to achieve success, you have to continue to push through hard moments.”

Today, Adrienne is a Hardware Engineer at a Fortune 100 company. Her career has rewarded her with a very comfortable lifestyle even as hard work continues to challenge her. She is very active in community focused, professional organizations, and travels frequently. She takes some time and money for herself and enjoys shopping as a self-directed reward strategy. Many wise people believe that it is this balance of learning, working hard, giving and taking that is the most powerful argument for achieving a life well lived.

At the end of each story, the Playbook Role Models share heart-felt advice for girls to apply to their career path. Then, questions are asked of the reader to help them take the first step to writing their own playbook.

In the “Afterword,” Ms. Vinci and Ms McKay wrote, “Although the young women you read about come from diverse backgrounds and were born with various talents, dreams and personalities, they share several important characteristics. First, they look at life as a year round school. They embrace the role of “student” beyond their formal education. Committed to growth, these ladies are aware and open to the possibilities the world offers. Second, they understand that success is not fast or easy. Failure at the beginning is common and they used early “unsuccessful outcomes” as part of the learning process. They said YES to opportunities and added life experiences to their playbook of skills. Third, these young women took responsibility. They understand, “IT’S UP TO ME TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT TO LIVE.” Based on a future they dreamed of, they developed the skills necessary to take control and design the lives they want. And, existing resources didn’t determine their success. They succeeded because they believed in themselves. It was their courage, willingness and determination that led them to be exceptional rather than average.”

Utilization of the Playbook for Teens will help teenage girls see that STEM career paths offer enormous opportunities for them to create the life they want to live. Perhaps SME, NAM and Project Lead The Way® would benefit from incorporating the Playbook for Teens into their programs.

Trade Deficit Would Shrink with Stroke of a Pen

July 15th, 2014

Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the U. S. has generated the highest trade deficit in the world and the largest in the world’s recorded history. If you add the annual trade deficit in goods as shown on the Census Bureau website, the total is a staggering figure of -$10.347 trillion.

The United States now has a trade deficit with 88 countries according to data in the book, Buying Back America. Some deficits are small, but some are enormous. Our top six trading partners of Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and South Korea represent 64% of our total trade deficit. In 2013, our total trade deficit in goods was $688.4 billion, of which China represented 46% at $318.4 billion. However, our 20-year total trade deficit with China since 1994 is a staggering -$3.287 trillion.

Now, the current Administration wants to cover up the evidence of the damage to our economy by changing the rules of how a manufacturer is defined instead of responding to the American public’s demand to know where products are manufactured so they can have the freedom to choose whether or not to buy “Made in USA” products.

On June 24, 2014, Robert E. Scott, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research for the Economic Policy Institute, conducted a webinar for the Coalition for a Prosperous America: “The Factoryless Goods Production Controversy (Foreign Goods Production) – How proposed government rule changes would classify foreign goods as U.S.-made.”

He explained that an Economic Policy Classification Committee (ECPC) formed by the Office of Management and Budget is proposing a Factoryless Goods Production (FGP) and Global Value Chain (GVC) rule to artificially inflate manufacturing production and reduce the trade deficit. This change would result in shrinking our trade deficit and growing our manufacturing output with the stroke of a pen, without adding any more real jobs or production.

The ECPC was formed to make recommendations for revising the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), created in 1997 as a unified Industrial classification system for the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Traditionally, all production chain tasks were performed in one factory, in multiple factories of one firm, or by subcontract suppliers to that firm, as is the case for companies like Northrop Grumman that makes Unmanned Aircraft Systems in San Diego.

In the last 20 years, improvements in communications, technology and transportation, as well as global trade agreements and foreign investment in plants haveallowed product design, development, and manufacturing to be performed in different locations, including offshore in China and other Asian countries.

This has enabled a company to control production without directly performing any manufacturing process or transformation task in one of their facilities; e.g. Apple, Nike, AMD, and fabless semiconductor manufacturing. In fact, the top five semiconductor firms in 2013 were fabless companies: Qualcomm, Broadcom, AMD, Mediatek, and Nvidia. These companies focus on innovation, product development, marketing, and sales rather than manufacturing tasks.

There are currently three types of establishment classifications:

Type of Establishment Characteristics  
Integrated Manufacturer (IM)  Performs all the tasks of the production chain
Manufacturing Service Provider (MSP) Performs transformation tasks but does not perform production management tasks (may purchase inputs) 
Factoryless Goods Producer (FGP) Does not perform transformation tasks but performs all production management tasks (may or may not own parts)

These current classifications require the statisticians to choose where to put the FGPs and how to count production. They now have the choice of classifying them as wholesalers, manufacturers, or split based on the location of the transforming company.

Currently, Apple and Nike are classified as wholesalers since they do not perform any manufacturing transformation tasks in the U.S. This accurately reflects the fact that both Apple and Nike have offshored their manufacturing to China.

Under current policy, when a company like Apple ships component parts to China to be assembled in a Chinese factory (e.g. Foxconn) and then sends the product back to the U.S. to be sold here, the value of the imported iPhone minus the value of the exported parts counts as a net U.S. import of manufactured goods.

Under the ECPC proposal, Foxconn, now called a “manufacturing services provider,” would not be described as having manufactured the iPhones but as having provided services to Apple.

An additional concern is that the ECPC proposes to treat some goods exported by foreign factories as U.S. manufactured exports. For example, currently, when Apple ships iPhone parts to China to be assembled by Foxconn and then ships the finished product to another county, Apple’s export of these parts to China counts as the only U.S. export.

But, the ECPC proposed rule would classify the engineering, marketing and profit to Apple as U.S. production. A fully assembled iPhone sale to another country, such as Japan or a European Union country, would count as a “U.S. manufactured goods export,” less the cost of any imported parts.

The justification for this is that while China manufactured and exported the iPhones, they count as U.S. manufactured exports because they were under the control of a U.S. brand. This would create an artificial increase in U.S. manufactured exports and cover up the real U.S. manufacturing trade deficit.

Thus, if a U.S. based company offshores manufacturing work, much of it would be classified as U.S. production. Further, imported products from foreign contract manufacturers hired by a U.S. company will no longer be a “goods import” but rather a “manufacturing services import.” This means that products from Flextronics in Mexico, which makes components in Mexico for U.S. firms that are shipped to the U.S., would no longer be considered a “goods import” but a “services import.”

In addition, the ECPC proposal would result in a miraculous overnight increase in the number of U.S. “manufacturing” jobs. White-collar employees in firms like Apple would be re-branded as “factoryless goods producers” and counted as “manufacturing” workers. The change would also create a false increase in manufacturing wages, as many of the new-to-be-counted “manufacturing” jobs would be designers, programmers and brand managers at “factoryless goods producers” like Apple. As a result, reported manufacturing output would jump, as revenues from firms like Apple would be lumped in with the output of actual U.S. manufacturers.

This proposal would deceptively shrink the size of the reported U.S. manufacturing trade deficit while artificially inflating the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs. It would obscure the erosion of U.S. manufacturing, undermining efforts to improve the trade and economic policies for our country.

This proposal is fraudulent and would distort U.S. trade, labor, and gross domestic product statistics that show the need for a developing a manufacturing strategy in the U.S. The offshoring of U.S. manufacturing under years of bad trade policies should not be undone with a data trick.

The proposal from the Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC) to redefine U.S. manufacturing and trade statistics must be stopped. Only manufacturing performed within the U.S. should be considered U.S. goods production. If manufacturing occurs in another country, it simply is not U.S. production.

On May 22, 2014 the Office of Management & Budget solicited comments on these proposed revisions. You also can view the notice for this proposal in the Federal Register. The comment period ends July 21, 2014. You may email your comments today to John...@census.gov to keep the “factoryless goods” proposal from becoming a reality. Or, to make taking action even easier, you can click here to customize and submit a pre-drafted comment provided by the Coalition for a Prosperous America.

Manufacturing Thrives in San Diego’s North County Region

July 8th, 2014

On the morning of July 1st, the San Diego North Economic Development Council (SDNEDC) hosted a North County Manufacturing Executive Roundtable at the City of Vista Civic Center. Over 100 professionals were welcomed by County Supervisor Dave Roberts and Lee Morrison of Bank of America. Bank of America and The Eastridge Group of Staffing Companies sponsored the Roundtable.

In an interview prior to the event, KPBS Morning Edition anchor Deb Welsh spoke to Carl Morgan, CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council. Morgan said. “Manufacturing is alive and well in San Diego’s North County.” He said the manufacturing executive roundtable would discuss why companies chose to locate and stay in the region. Ms. Morgan asked him what North County’s six key industry clusters are, and he responded that “the sports and active lifestyle, clean technology, biotechnology and medical and informational technology “are doing very, very well” besides the craft and brew industry.

Reo Carr, executive editor of the San Diego Business Journal, moderated the panel, which also discussed such topics as reshoring of manufacturing, environmental concerns, filling the gap between education and manufacturers’ need for skilled labor, sufficient, accessible transportation, and the economic incentives that are and should be available.

The six panelists were: Clark Crawford, VP Sales and Business Development, Soitec Solar, which manufacturersconcentrated photovoltaic (“CPV”) solar modules; Christine Jensen, special programs coordinator at Mira Costa College, which offers classes in biotechnology, engineering, and machining; Jeffrey McCain, CEO, McCain, Inc, a pioneer of advanced traffic control equipmentas well as a contract manufacturer; Michele Nash-Hoff, President, ElectroFab Sales and Chair, California Chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America; Chris Roth, vice president, Lee & Associates, the Nation’s largest broker owned commercial real estate services firm.; and Martin Wood, CEO, Delkin Devices, the largest US memory card manufacturer.

Crawford said that when his company (Soitec Solar Industries headquarted in Grenoble, France) decided to set up another manufacturing plant in the U.S., they were wooed to come to many states, including Texas, but they chose to move to California because California’s GO-Biz worked with them to identify possible site locations around the state and to define all statewide incentives that could be available to their company. GO-Biz participated in several rounds of site selection tours that helped to qualify the final locations, out of which they chose San Diego. They were able to get the former Sony building in Rancho Bernardo before it went on the open market. When fully operational, Soitec will directly employ 450 and indirectly support 1,000 jobs.

The other reason they chose California is that it is the largest market for solar energy, and California offers good financial incentives for residents and business to convert to solar energy.

Crawford mentioned that GO-Biz also worked with the California Employment Training Panel (ETP) staff to help qualify Soitec for training funds to help their company train and prepare employees for the high-skilled jobs at their newly established factory in San Diego. During my subsequent phone interview, Mr. Crawford told me they were awarded $300,000 in training funds by the California ETP, and they provided over 15,000 training hours to their San Diego employees. They completed the training in early April 2014.

When asked why his company stays in California instead of moving to another state, McCain said, “California is currently the 8th largest economy in the world. A tremendous amount of our business, current and future, will come from this economy. Even though it is still difficult to find qualified employees, it is my experience that California is rich in qualified workforce, compared to other states.”

He added, “Our success depends greatly on the advantages of our workforce in Mexico. However, over the last 20 years, I have come to realize the culture in Mexico makes it difficult to do manufacturing that requires ingenuity and innovation. We will typically do our first articles and fixturing and any automation type manufacturing in the U.S. When it comes to labor intense, higher volume products, we can turn it over to the plant in Mexico where they can be very successful producing quality products. That allows the company to compete successfully, not only in the U.S. but also against offshore companies. The operation in Mexico, just over the last two years, has allowed us to grow our U.S. side, which has nearly 200 employees.”

In contrast, Martin Wood, stated, “We are solicited often by other States to move our manufacturing facility and jobs to NV, TX, FL, AZ and others. While it would be disruptive, in all cases, it would be like handing employees and the company a raise. Lower or zero State taxes is a big incentive to move. “

“While previous offers were less appealing, they are becoming more and more sophisticated involving real estate and grants, development and hiring help, and of course, no taxes for an extended period or permanently. Any business that is truly run for profit above all would be foolish to not at least consider these offers. We try not to let it consume us, and only entertain them on an annual basis. Right now, California edges out other states in our analysis, based on a number of support, service availability, and quality of life issues, but the gap is narrowing.”

“People in City, County and State Government should be aware this poaching is going on, and try to find a way to bring advantages to manufacturers in California and incentivize them to stay. We know we bring high paying employment wherever we go, and our customers are based worldwide. I see no reason these offers will not continue and expect them to get more and more appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I love California and my family is firmly entrenched here, but to truly own and manage a manufacturing business, you must make hard decisions and be right most of the time.”

Roth stated “the quality of life here in Southern California is a great incentive for companies to continue operating here even though [manufacturing companies] are not receiving the same type of incentives from the local and state governments.” This was one of the major points made in explaining why manufacturers tend to stay in California, despite the sometimes harsh business environment. Roth also stated that a key decision factor in contemplating company relocation is the difficulty entailed in moving employees and their families.

I commented that a company is more than a product; it is also the people who formed and comprise the existing company, and many times, employees aren’t willing to relocate to another state, and the company loses people key to its success. This is often what happens when an out-of-state company buys a San Diego regional company. Key employees don’t move with the company, and the acquisition becomes “buying a product” rather than “buying a company.” In addition, I pointed out that over 90% of California’s manufacturers are less than 100 people, and their customers are most local obtained through word of mouth and referrals. If they decide to move the company, it would be as if they started a new company from scratch.

When Reo Carr asked the question about reshoring, I explained that it started because of quality issues and expanded because of increases in wages in China over the last few years. I mentioned that China and other Asian nations don’t honor U.S. patent laws, which leads to intellectual property theft, hurting U.S. companies in the long run. The other panelists added their opinions as to why outsourcing manufacturing to China is becoming of a thing of the past (increasing wages, quality control, and logistics problems and problem-resolution) and why America is benefiting from the shift to returning manufacturing to America.

McCain confirmed that the contract manufacturing division of his business is benefitting from regional companies returning manufacturing to America.

In answer to the question about the impact of environmental and other regulations, I pointed out that we have been outsourcing our pollution to China and other Asian countries to escape the costs of regulation here. The consequences of industrialization with environmental regulations has been horrific for China and India, which I described one of the chapters in my book (Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can) When asked about the environmental regulations that apply to his plant in Mexico, Mr. McCain said that Mexico is quickly catching up with the U. S.

A question from the audience about the shortage of local, trained machinists led into a discussion about two connected issues: workforce training and mass transit. Ms. Jensen shared that colleges are shifting in the programs they are now offering in an effort to meet the needs of employers. Mira Costa has both certificate and Associate degree courses in biotechnology, engineering, and manufacturing skills such as machining. She encouraged the companies to check with their local community colleges to inquire about the various programs available. I shared that there are now four high schools that provide up to two years of training to be a machinist and that for years and years, the San Diego Community College District has provided machining and welding training, as well as other manufacturing skills.

Wood said, “it is hard to find people to fill the positions they need, because most of [the blue collar laborers] live further south, in South County.” Crawford seconded that comment, saying that workers are coming from points south, as well…even from Mexico. McCain added mass transportation needs to improve to deal with the issue of where employees are traveling from to accommodate the job availability.

I pointed out that San Diego doesn’t have a “hub” center of manufacturing where everyone is going to work. The industrial business parks are scattered around the county (mainly in 13 of the 18 cities in San Diego County). Mass transit doesn’t work well for this type of region, and I don’t know how feasible it would ever be for mass transit to get workers coming from across the border to these scattered business parks.

In conclusion, the panelists shared that for the time being, the advantages of doing business in California outweighed the disadvantages. The biggest draw is still the quality of life the region offers, as well as the great weather. I shared that the successful company that stays in San Diego has a high dollar, high value, low to mid volume product, which has proprietary technology and lower labor content. When this type company does a Total Cost Analysis of doing business in San Diego/California, it pencils out positively. Crawford agreed that doing this kind of analysis is what enabled them to make the decision to locate Soitec in San Diego.

While it is hard to compete against the incentives and low or no taxes of some other states, we may have fewer companies making the decision to move out of California if more companies did this type of analysis. Of course, it would be even better if the governor and legislature actually proposed and passed legislation that would benefit manufacturers instead of adding to their costs of doing business in California.

 

California’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Summit Explores Potential Industry Growth

June 17th, 2014

The California UAS Summit held on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 in San Diego brought together thought leaders from government, trade organizations, military, academia and a diverse mix of private sector companies to explore how California can continue to be a world leader in unmanned aircraft systems and be positioned to support businesses in this industry while helping facilitate the FAA’s initiative to integrate UASs into National Air Space in a safe and responsible way, while allowing for innovation and the development of new and exciting uses.

Besides exploring the challenges facing the UAS industry and the economic and jobs impact to the state, the summit participants considered how to balance regulation with innovation and advance safety and security.

California is a Center of Excellence in the development, manufacturing, and testing of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. From industry leaders General Atomics, Kratos Defense Solutions, and Northrop Grumman’s Center for Unmanned Systems headquartered in San Diego, as well as The Boeing Company and AeroVironment in Los Angeles County, major UAS companies have a history in California. With the addition of numerous small and emerging companies throughout the state, like 3D Robotics and AirCover Solutions, California is the world leader in taking UAS into the commercial space, developing innovative systems and advancing capabilities in preparation for integration.

Even though California ranks as the #1 UAS region, it was not chosen as one of the designated test sites by the Federal Aviation Administration in December 2013. The six selected operators are: the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Geographic and climatic diversity were key requirements for the selection, and the test sites were to begin operation within 180 days of the announcement to conduct research to help the FAA develop regulations and operational procedures for the safe integration of UAS into national airspace.

The coalition to develop an UAS Test Range in California was headed up by already established entity called the California Unmanned Systems Portal (Cal UAS Portal), based in Indian Wells. The coalition expanded in April 2013 to include the AUVSI San Diego Lindbergh Chapter, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council (EDC), the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), the Imperial County EDC, County of Imperial, Holtville Airport, Indian Wells Valley Airport District (IWVAD), and defense contractors including General Atomics, Cubic Corporation, and Epsilon Systems Solutions, Inc. The proposed UAS Test Site would have extended from the NAS China Lake/Edwards Air Force Area, West to the Pacific Ocean, South to the Mexican border and East to the Arizona border.

Currently, UAS are being used around the word in categories from A to Z, such as: aerial imaging/mapping, agricultural, Border Patrol surveillance, disaster management, environmental monitoring, law enforcement monitoring, oil and gas exploration, telecommunication, TV news coverage, sporting events, moviemaking, weather monitoring, and wildfire mapping.

The summit’s keynote speaker was Gretchen West, Executive Vice President, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) was. She said that AUVSI was started 42 years ago, has 30 chapters, and publishes two magazines, Mission Critical and Unmanned Systems, as well as a UAS directory and Robotics directory. AUVSI is active in public policy advocacy in Washington, D. C., and there is an Unmanned Systems Caucus in the House and Senate, as well as a Congressional Robotics Caucus.

She gave a brief overview of the UAS industry, and said that the FAA integration is the key to expanding opportunities for UASs in the U. S. The bill mandating that the FAA safely integrate UAS into national airspace passed in February 2012, and safe integration is supposed to be completed by September 30, 2015. Until then, commercial applications of UAS are prohibited in the U. S. The selection of the site for the UAS Center of Excellence will be made in March 2015.

One of the major problems for the UAS industry is the negative — and incorrect — public perception of drones as immoral killing machines or intrusive spy machines hovering at our windows. Because of this misperception portrayed by the news media, several states have outlawed use of UAS by either private citizens or law enforcement or both, and several other states have pending legislation. These bans would prohibit use of UAS for many of the above listed applications and would inhibit the growth of commercial usage of UAS.

Three panels of speakers followed Ms. West. Panel #1 was “Large Industry – Manufacturing and Production – Economic impact, jobs & industry growth.” The panelists were:

RADM Christopher Ames (USN Ret), director, international strategic development, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. – he said that there have been 17 variants of General Atomics’ Predator over the past 20 years, logging over 2.8 million flight hours. The challenge is to have access to U. S. national airspace. GA-ASI is developing and testing an air-to-air sense and avoid system.

VADM Jerry Beaman, (USN Ret), president, Kratos Defense, Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems Division – he said his company is focused on a jet powered UAS that will fill the high performance, high altitude market. Key features of their UASs will be ability to operate in a contested airspace and a GPS denied environment.

Albert Bosco, business development, unmanned airborne systems, The Boeing Company – he said, “UAS aren’t a panacea, so need to decide how, when, and where to use them.” UAS use by First Responders, environmental monitoring, and infrastructure monitoring may be major areas of focus.

Carl Johnson, vice president, unmanned systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation – he provided the highlight of this panel by showing the video of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk X47B landing successfully on an aircraft carrier.

Panel #2 was “Commercialization of Small and Medium UAS – Balancing privacy with innovation combat aerial systems division.” The panelists were:

Jill Meyers, senior manager, 3D Robotics – she said that while their headquarters is in Berkeley, they have engineering support in Sam Diego, marketing and video production in Austin, Texas, and manufacturing in Tijuana, Mexico. They have three “copter” models and an airplane, and have a DIY community of 54,000 active users of Droneshare in the Cloud. There is an innovation evolution occurring on autopilot software through their open source development.

Roy Minson, senior vice president and general manager, AeroVironment, Inc. – he said that AeroVironment makes small unmanned systems and have seven vehicles in the Smithsonian. He announced that this was the day the “FAA grants the first-ever over-land restricted type certificate to AeroVironment Puma AE UAS for use in day-to-day operations at the BP-operated Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope,” and that BP had selected AeroVironment for 3D mapping and other services at their North Slope operations over a multi-year period. AeroVironment flew a Puma AE drone on its first commercial flight Sunday to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in the U.S., according to the FAA. Using the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities, in an effort to save time, improve safety and increase reliability in the sensitive North Slope environment.

Nelson Paez, CEO, DreamHammer – he said that Dreamhammer has developed an “operating system” for UAS, and their Drone OS has open applications built-in for specific industries.

Steven Bishop, Business Development, INSTU – he said that INSTU is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing that started as a company looking for tuna and now has two unmanned vehicles, the Integrator, and Scan Eagle, as well as ground control stations, and a UAS launcher, Skyhook. They also provide field operation and logistic services, payload, and training. They did a demo with Conoco in the Arctic in 2013.

Cliff Johnson, CEO, CTJ & Associates, LLC – he said that CTJA Unmanned Systems Engineering doesn’t sell into the U. S. at all; all of their customers are international. Their manufacturing is conducted in Portland, Oregon, but systems integration is done in San Diego. They have four vehicle platforms that utilize solar turbines, and the solar power is stored in ultra capacitors so the vehicles can fly up to 14 hours at night.

Panel #3 was “Campus Research and Development – Advancing technology for safety and security.”The panelistswere:

Charles Johnson,Senior Advisor for Unmanned and Autonomous Systems, Armstrong Flight Research Center – he said that the Armstrong Center has been working under contract to help the FAA review and analyze data to develop the rules for commercial use of UAS in the U. S.

Dr. Jason Miller, Senior Research Officer, Cal State University Channel Islands – he said that there is great interest at his campus in using UAS to monitor the Channel Islands, study the humpback whale, and study wildfires.

Dr. Vibhav Durgesh, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cal State University Northridge – he heads up the aerodynamics lab that could provide airfoil data for UAS manufacturers.

Brandon Stark, Mechatronics, Embedded Systems and Automation (MESA) Labs, University of California Merced – he said that they see UAS as toolset for solving large problems, and they have a fleet of small unmanned platforms that monitor water and air quality, take soil samples, and other types of environmental monitoring.

Dr. John Kosmatka, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department, University of California San Diego – he said that UCSD actually developed a UAS for the City of Napes, Italy and conducts research in applications, science missions, and sensor development.

“A lot of people are familiar with UAS in some of the military applications,” said Treggon Owens of Aerial Mob. “What they may not be familiar with is the first responder and rescue and agriculture. So, there’s a numerous amount of platforms – it really goes beyond what people usually think of a UAS. And that’s when you get into commercial applications.” Aerial Mob is one of the growing number of companies using new technology invented by the military. The company displayed thrilling images of UAS flights at the summit.

”It’s as big as our own imagination, really,” said Kevin Carroll of Connect. “The applications for unmanned systems are endless. It’s not going to supplant the existing world,” continued Carroll. “What it’s going to do is augment this world. And you’re looking at 17,000+ jobs in California. And these are very high-paying jobs, advanced manufacturing jobs. And then you look at the economic impact – it’s around $14 billion when you go out 10 years as they integrate the airspace.”

The panel discussions showed that the UAS industry is at a crossroads facing significant challenges in business, government, and law. The U. S. industry faces competition from foreign countries, many of whom have a more positive business climate. There are severe limitations in the civilian market in the U. S. until the FAA integration is complete. The challenges faced on the governmental side are: slow-to-develop rulemaking by the FAA, inconsistent support from federal, state and local authorities, and troublesome legislation at the state and local level that threatens to hamper the industry. Finally, there are many legal challenges facing the UAS industry: A near total ban on “commercial” drone operations, defined as any non-recreational use, unclear standards for designing, building and operating UASs, and undeveloped liability standards paired with unproven insurance products.

The current forecast is that California’s UAS industry is expected to create 18,161 jobs within a decade of airspace integration, which would have an estimated $14.37 million economic impact. However, this forecast would be reduced if California becomes one of the states that ban use of UAS by private industry and law enforcement. Now is the time to voice your support for the UAS industry to your elected representatives in California.

Free Trade is the source of our Trade Deficit and National debt

June 3rd, 2014

We all like to get something for free, so free trade sounds good. The question is: do we even have free trade? No, we do not. What we call free trade isn’t “free,” and it isn’t “good,” at least for most Americans. At best, it benefits large, multinational global corporations that have manufacturing facilities located in other countries. At its worst, it is the primary source of our trade deficit and loss of good paying manufacturing jobs, leading to an escalation of our national debt.

Brian Sullivan, Director of Sales, Marketing and Communications of the Tooling, Manufacturing & Technologies Association says, “We should rename ‘free trade’ because it isn’t free and it isn’t fair. Since it’s trade that’s regulated in favor of multinational special interest groups, why don’t we call it for what it is: How about ‘rigged market trade’ or ‘turn your back on your fellow countrymen trade’ or ‘throw American workers out on the street trade.’”

For more than the first 150 years of its history, the United States was a protectionist country in order to protect its fledgling manufacturing industries and then gain preeminence as an industrial nation in the 20th century.

After World War II, the U.S. switched from protectionism to free trade in order to rebuild the economies of Europe and Japan through the Marshall Plan and bind the economies of the non-Communist world to the United States for geopolitical reasons.

To accomplish these objectives, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was negotiated during the UN Conference on Trade and Employment, reflecting the failure of negotiating governments to create a proposed International Trade Organization. Originally signed by 23 countries at Geneva in 1947, GATT became the most effective instrument in the massive expansion of world trade in the second half of the 20th century.

GATT’s most important principle was trade without discrimination, in which member nations opened their markets equally to one another. Once a country and one of its trading partners agreed to reduce a tariff, that tariff cut was automatically extended to all GATT members. GATT also established uniform customs regulations and sought to eliminate import quotas. By 1995, when the World Trade Organization replaced GATT, 125 nations had signed its agreements, governing 90 percent of world trade.

In 1994, GATT was updated to include new obligations upon its signatories. One of the most significant changes was the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO.) The 75 existing GATT members and the European Community became the founding members of the WTO on January 1, 1995. The other 52 GATT members rejoined the WTO in the following two years, the last being Congo in 1997. Since the founding of the WTO, a number of non-GATT members have joined, and there are now 157 members, including China. The main countries still outside it are Iran, North Korea, and some nations in Central Asia and North Africa.

A major benefit for GATT and WTO members was the reduction or elimination of tariffs. However, while the U. S. and other member countries complied with this provision, over the years, the other 156 members have replaced their tariffs with Value Added Taxes (VAT), which range from a low of 10% to a high of 24%, averaging 17%. The U. S. is the only member country that doesn’t have a VAT.

A VAT is a border adjustable consumption tax on goods and services. This means that virtually all of our trading partners tax our exports with their VATs, when our goods cross into their country, and rebate their VATs when their companies export. VATs are essentially a tariff by another name. Our trade agreements, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and KORUS do not address VATs, and the WTO rules allow VATs. This means that U. S. companies are at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, so that so-called free trade has become “unfair trade” for U. S. companies.

According to Alan Uke’s book, Buying Back America, the United States now has a trade deficit with 88 countries. Of course, some deficits are small, but some are enormous, such as China. Our top six trading partners are: Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. These six countries represent 64% of our total trade deficit, but China alone represents 46% of the U. S. trade deficit of $688.4 billion. Our 2013 trade deficit with China was $318.4 billion, and we are on track to equal that in 2014.

Some may claim that we are still the leader in advanced technology products, but this is no longer true. The U. S. has been running a trade deficit in these products since 2002, which has grown to an astonishing average of $90 billion per year since 2010.

So how do our trade deficits add to the national debt? One way is that many products, especially consumer products, which were previously made in the U. S., are now made in China or other Asian countries, so we are importing these products instead of exporting them to other countries. The offshoring of manufacturing of so many products has resulted in the loss 5.8 million American manufacturing jobs and the closure of over 57,000 of manufacturing firms. These American workers and companies paid taxes that provided revenue to our government, so now we have less tax revenue and pay out benefits to unemployed workers, resulting in an escalating national debt.

Let us consider whether or not our most recent trade agreements have been beneficial to the U. S. The Korea U. S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) went into effect on Mach 2012. The Office of the   U. S. Trade Representative for the Obama Administration touts, “Since the Korea agreement went into effect, U.S. exports to Korea are up for our manufactured goods, including autos, exports are up for a wide range of our agricultural products, and exports are up for our services.” However, the reality is that our imports continued to exceed our exports, and the U. S. trade deficit with Korea jumped from -$13.62 billion in 2011 to -$20.67 billion in 2013, which is a 64% increase in only one full year.

The U. S. has fared better with CAFTA-DR, the Central America-Dominican Republic trade agreement, which was signed on August 5, 2004. The trade balance with Costa Rica went from a plus of $188.2 million in 2005 to a deficit of $4.7 billion in 2013, but the Guatemala and Honduras trade balance went from deficits of $302 and 495 million to surpluses of $1.642 billion and $2.97 billion. The Dominican Republic trade balance stayed positive, growing from $115 million to 1.97 billion. If you balance out the deficits and surpluses, the U. S. comes out ahead for these countries.

Now we are faced with the prospects of an even more encompassing trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), for which the Obama administration has conducted negotiations behind closed doors through the offices of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk without any involvement with Congress.

Eleven nations have participated in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. Because the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others have expressed interest.

What makes this agreement of even greater concern is that President Obama is seeking Fast Track Authority under the Trade Promotion Authority. Both Democrat and Republican Representatives in the House have expressed concern over delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy to the Executive Branch. I won’t repeat the points I have already made in my previous blog articles published last year on the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and granting the president Fast Track Authority; however, I urge you to read my January article, “We Must Stop Fast Track Trade Authority from Being Granted!

Beyond stopping Fast Track Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being approved, we need to focus on achieving “balanced trade” in any future trade agreements. Until we change the goal of trade agreements, we should refrain from negotiating any trade agreement. The last thing we need is to increase our trade deficit more than it already is. In addition, we need to pass legislation addressing the predatory mercantilist activities of our current trading partners, such as currency manipulation, product dumping, and government subsidies. We should consider comprehensive tax reform that includes a border adjustable tax to address the unfair advantage caused by the rebate of VAT taxes. We should enact countervailing duty laws and County of Origin labeling on all manufactured products, including food.

I urge you to call your Congressional representative and Senators now to urge them to oppose granting Fast Track Authority and approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Columbus Castings has learned how to survive and thrive in challenging marketl

May 20th, 2014

The metal casting industry has been one of the hardest hit by competition from China and India, but some companies have been able to survive and even prosper despite the combined onslaught of intense offshore competition and the Great Recession. That has now put them in the position to benefit from reshoring trend. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Megan McCuan, Communications and Development Coordinator, of Columbus Castings in Columbus, Ohio, which is the largest single site steel foundry in North America.

Columbus Castings manufactures steel castings for the freight and passenger rail cars, locomotives, mining equipment, industrial magnets, construction equipment, agricultural equipment, and other heavy industrial industries. They produce high-quality industrial castings from 100 to70, 000 pounds. The company has about one million sq. ft. of space in 14-15 buildings, covering an area of 90 + acres, including 22 acres under roof, with access to 19 miles of rail. Columbus Castings currently has 695 employees, and most employees have long time experience. Some of their employees have been there for as long as 30-50 years.

The company’s roots date back to 1881 when the Murray-Hayden Foundry, a small iron foundry, served a growing agricultural based economy. The business flourished when it began manufacturing iron couplers for the infant rail industry and in 1891, the name was changed to the Buckeye Automatic Car Coupler Company.

As the American rail industry expanded, the operation was relocated to a larger facility, and the name was changed to the Buckeye Malleable Iron and Coupler Company to reflect its new emphasis on iron couplers. As the American rail industry growth boomed through the early 1900’s, the demand for iron couplers soon exceeded capacity, and the business moved to the present day location in 1902.

As the industry demand for stronger, tougher products, the foundry changed to steelmaking and the name of the business was changed to the Buckeye Steel Castings Company. In 1967, Buckeye Steel became the flagship company of Buckeye International Inc., which was formed as a parent company for purchasing other non-foundry related businesses. Buckeye International was acquired by Worthington Industries Inc. in 1980, in a stock for stock merger. Buckeye Steel remained an operating subsidiary of Worthington Industries until 1999, when it was sold to Key Equity Capital in a leveraged buy-out. Buckeye Steel operated as a stand-alone entity until December 2002, when bankruptcy was filed after the double blow of a weak freight rail market in 2000 followed by the devastating economic effects of 9/11 and the intense competition from China, which proved too much for the debt burdened business.

That could have been the end of the story, but the former President of Worthington Industries, Don Malenick, had different idea. Don had recently retired after 40 plus years from Worthington, where he had held the position of President for the final 26 years. He had an in-depth understanding of the potential value of the facility and also maintained his love for the steel industry in the Central Ohio area. He assembled a team of investors to purchase the assets of the business out of bankruptcy, as well as a team of veteran railroad foundry men to start the new business.

The new entity, Columbus Steel Castings, was based on a business model designed to be the lowest cost and highest integrity supplier of cast steel products in the industries it serves. The business was formed with a “pro-employee”, “union-free” philosophy, created to engage its employee’s talents to the fullest. When the business does well and makes a profit, then all eligible employees share in the success. As a “Pay for Performance” company, the wage and salary compensation is based on an employee’s contribution to the bottom line. Employees are incited to work hard as a team and find ways to do their jobs better, faster and safer.

The company experienced a slight upturn in their rail business from 2004 to 2007, while their industrial market was slow and steady. In 2008, Protostar Partners, LLC purchased Columbus Steel Castings and renamed the company Columbus Castings.

Their rail business slowed in the fall of 2008 after the economic crash that led to the Great Recession in 2009-2010. The demand for freight cars dropped during the recession, and they had to lay off employees.

In 2011, they implemented a new sales plan and focused on their quality and on-time delivery. They responded to the shift of their customers from coal cars to tankers for natural gas in 2012 when the natural gas industry boomed in the upper Midwest. They are currently marketing more to tank car customers and featuring new materials for sand castings for this market.

Richard T. Ruebusch took over as President and CEO in 2012 after having held numerous senior level executive level positions that included 14 years experience at global foundries. In order to be more competitive in the global economy, the company became ISO 9001:2008 Certified. They also started lean manufacturing training as both Mr. Ruebusch and their V. P. of Operations, Randy Parish, have extensive lean manufacturing backgrounds. As a result of implementing lean, the company has achieved a 30% improvement in cycle times and reduced their lead times. Columbus can now produce and ship average components in less than 12 days, ad large components take only around nine weeks.

While, China is still a big competitor for rail car components, the company is getting some work back from offshore. As oil prices increased, costs to ship massive steel castings from China reduced profit margins for their customers and long deliveries became a disadvantage. Columbus can produce and deliver high-quality steel castings in less time than it would take to ship them from overseas. Ms. McCuan said that Caterpillar had a factory in India and brought the work back to the U.S. in 2012, and Columbus was able to get part of the reshored business.

In November 2013, Columbus landed the largest order in its 130-year history. The deal with Nippon Sharyo USA Inc. for railcar undercarriages could be worth up to $70 million to the manufacturer and added more than 50 jobs at the foundry. Nippon’s end customer is Amtrak, which is in the midst of an extensive replacement of its passenger railcars. “If they exercise all their options, this will keep us at full capacity until 2021,” CEO Rick Ruebusch said. “In addition to the Nippon deal, the manufacturer also has orders from additional Amtrak suppliers CAF USA and Hyundai Rote Co. for the same railcar components.”

Columbus utilizes “green” practices, such as thermal sand reclamation, and the company has two new design projects: one of which is a new “knuckle” that is a rail component that goes on the end of rail car to fasten it to another car. They are also working on reducing the weight of parts without reducing performance.

Their “Open Door” policy assures every employee an opportunity to voice his or her concerns about the business and their employment. The company’s management knows that their business is only as good as their people, and the development and recognition of the best people will assure continued growth and improvement of the company in the future.

Mr. Ruebush said, “The main factor contributing to the success of our company since recovering from the Great Recession was becoming a diverse manufacturer. In past times, our company was too focused on freight rail. We are building business levels in our industrial business unit, as well as in our mass transit (passenger rail) business as demonstrated with the recent largest order in the company’s history with the announcement of our $72MM contract with Amtrak and Nippon Sharyo.”

It certainly looks like Columbus Casting is well on its way to achieving its goal of being the best large steel casting company in the world. If the U. S. had a national manufacturing strategy that supported American manufacturers to help them become winners in the global trade wars, more American companies would be able to achieve the same kind of worthy goal for their industry. We need a strategy for prosperity for American-owned businesses and not just the large multinational corporations. It’s time for our elected leaders to address the predatory mercantilist trade policies of foreign countries, such as currency manipulation, product dumping, government subsidies, and intellectual property theft that put American manufacturers at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. This is the only way we will be able to create the higher paying manufacturing jobs we need to grow our middle class and reduce our trade deficit and national debt.