Archive for October, 2013

Deadly Food Products Coming to a Store Near You?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

For the last several years, there has been one story after another about tainted or even deadly food or ingredients to human and pet food coming from China. The two latest stories were  the jerky treats that caused hundreds of pet deaths and the laundering of honey coming from China by a German importer. However, the majority of Americans are blissfully ignorant of the origin of many of the food products stocked in their neighborhood stores. If they really knew the source of many of the products they buy, they would be horrified. The public outcry would be sufficient to put enough pressure on our elected officials to remedy the situation rapidly.

More than a hundred years ago, there was an exposé of the Chicago meat packing industry in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, followed by many other articles in the Progressive Era publications of the day. There was a huge public outcry. As a result, President Theodore Roosevelt sent labor commissioner Charles P. Neill and social worker James Bronson Reynolds to Chicago to make surprise visits to meat packing facilities. Although the meat packers were tipped off in advance about their visits, they saw enough revolting conditions at the meat packing plants to corroborate the claims of the many articles and submitted a report to the president and Congress.

As a result, the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FMIA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt to prevent adulterated or misbranded meat and meat products from being sold as food and to ensure that meat and meat products are slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions. All labels on any type of food had to be accurate (although not all ingredients were provided on the label). Even though all harmful food was banned, there were still few warnings provided on the container. USDA inspection of poultry was added by the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957.

Also in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act, under which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or USFDA) was formed as an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (abbreviated as FFDCA, FDCA, or FD&C) was passed by Congress in 1938 to replace the earlier Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and gave authority to the USFDA to oversee the safety of food, drugs, and cosmetics. This Act has been expanded to include food coloring, food additives, bottled water, homeopathic products, and foods produced by genetic engineering and natural sources. Genetically modified food is regarded as containing a “food additive” and is subject to pre-market approval by the FDA if the protein added to the food by the genetic engineering process is not “generally recognized as safe.” On May 28, 1976, the FD&C Act was amended to include regulation for medical devices. The amendment required that all medical devices be classified into one of three classes.

The FDA is now responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, cosmetics, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products.

Six years ago, there was the biggest pet food recall in history when a Chinese producer contaminated dog and cat food with melamine, a compound used in plastics, causing the deaths of animals across the United States. The public outcry helped lead to the inclusion of animal food in the Food Safety and Modernization Act, a landmark food safety bill passed in 2010 that was the first major overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety laws since the 1930s. It gave the USFDA more control over food imports as well as broad new powers to set standards to prevent contamination of produce and processed food.

After the latest scandal regarding jerky treats for pets imported from China, the Food and Drug Administration published a proposed regulation on October 29th that would govern the production of pet food and farm animal feed for the first time. This would help prevent food-borne illness in both animals and people.

The problem with passing more regulations for the USFDA to handle is that it is grossly understaffed and underfunded for its complex and growing regulatory mission. The 2012 budget was only $4.36 billion, and the budget request for 2013 was $4.5 billion. About 45%, or $2 billion of the 2012 budget, is generated by user fees. Pharmaceutical firms pay the majority of these fees, which are used to expedite drug reviews.

The USFDA regulates more than 80% of America’s food supply and $1 trillion worth of consumer goods. Much of the expenditures are for goods imported into the United States. While the USFDA is responsible for monitoring a third of all imports, it only inspects less than 1% of food imports at the ports of entry. Many foreign countries such as China don’t have the same or any standards for source inspections that are required for food manufactured in the United States. They don’t have the same regulations against harmful pesticides and environmental pollution. Thus, importers are bypassing all of these inspections and regulations so can sell their products cheaper. This means that when you eat imported foods, you are playing the Chinese food version of “Russian roulette.”

We need to increase funding for the USFDA, and one simple way would be to require importers to pay a fee for screening of imports  to the USFDA for imports that are under its jurisdiction. This would enable the USFDA to add more staff to expand their inspection of imported goods, especially food imports.

You may be thinking that the U. S. Consumer Protection Agency is recalling food products that are determined by the USFDA to be contaminated or toxic, but you won’t find any food products listed if you go to their site to see the list of the products recalled for the month. This agency recalls manufactured products such as appliances, electrical goods, and toys, etc. The USFDA website lists all of the food, drug, and cosmetic recalls. No country of origin information is listed on the USFDA website. The Consumer Protection agency website has been revamped this year to make it more difficult to find out where a product is manufactured. Previously, you would see the list of products recalled, and the country of manufacture would be listed with the description of the product and why it was recalled. Now, it is a two-step process. On the first page, you see an image of the product and the reason why it was recalled, but no country is listed. You have to select finding products by country of manufacture to get the list for a particular country, such as China. Now, it would be more difficult to come up with how many products are coming from China compared to other countries.

The best solution for this problem would be for Congress to pass a law requiring country-of-origin labels for all human and pet food products similar to the nutritional information labels now required on packaged food products so consumers can see where their food is coming from. San Diego entrepreneur and businessman, Alan Uke has proposed what he calls a “Transparent Label.” in his book, Buying America Back:  A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity. He wants such a label for all manufactured products, which would include food for humans and pets. He feels that it is important for consumers to “see the last place where the product was manufactured” and “to discern what portion of its components came from other places.” In the case of food, it should include country-of-origin for all of the major ingredients so that consumers would be able to make decisions on whether or not they want to buy a product based on the origin of the major ingredients.  Mr. Uke also recommends that consumers be provided the country of origin information they need at the point of sale whether at a store or online.

He points out that the current information provided on country of origin labels is “misleading, incomplete, inaccessible, or all of these…In order to support our economy and American industries, we must have easily accessible, clearly communicated, and truthful information about a product’s entire origins.” We desperately need to have such a “Truth in Origin” label.

Hundreds of American pets have been poisoned and died by tainted food products from China. American children have already been harmed by dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in toys. How many Americans must die from tainted Chinese products before Congress acts?

Decline in Capital Investment is Threat to American Innovation

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

In early October, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation released a report titled “Restoring America’s Lagging Investment in Capital Goods,” by Luke A. Steward and Robert D. Atkinson. The report analyzes trends in private sector investment in capital goods over the last three decades, investigates the causes of the current decline, and proposes policy reforms designed to spur increased investment growth. The authors warn that this serious decline in capital investment over the last decade is a key threat to economic growth.

The authors state, “Private capital investment is the primary means through which innovation, the key driver of economic growth, diffuses throughout the economy.” Business investment in equipment, software and structures grew by only 0.5 percent from 2000 and 2011 compared to an average of 2.7 percent between 1980 and 1989 and 5.2 percent per year between 1990 and 1999.

The authors make a strong case about why capital investment matters in developed, knowledge-based economies like the United States. While innovation powers long-run economic growth, the mere act of innovating is not sufficient to grow an economy. Innovation must diffuse through the economy by being adopted by other companies that seek to improve productivity or the quality of products or services. It is the purchase of machinery, equipment, and software by companies that is capital investment that spreads the innovation throughout the economy.

“Capital investment acts as a diffuser of innovation because innovation is embedded in new investment”  Industrial equipment such as engines, metalworking machinery, and materials handling equipment; transportation equipment like trucks and aircraft; construction machinery, agricultural or mining equipment are now “infused with highly advanced technologies, and each new generation is better than the last.”

After a comparison of neoclassical economies and neo-Keynesian economies with innovation economies such as the United States, they conclude that innovation economies require high rates of capital investment in order to be utilized. This innovation economy is also referred to as “the new growth theory, in which investment in new machinery, equipment and software spreads innovation. By high rates of investment, they do not mean a high amount of equipment, software and structures. They “mean that the capital stock is refreshed and replaced with newer and more productive machinery, equipment and software.” They write, “The value of investment is not in acquiring more machinery and equipment; it is in acquiring newer and more productive equipment… A high rate of investment enables innovations to swiftly spread through the economy, bestowing their economic benefits upon their users.”

The authors show that a second reason why “capital investment matters is that it has substantial ‘spillover’ benefits—that is, benefits not just for the firm making the investment, but also for the rest of society…Many economists acknowledge that investments in the production of innovation (such as R&D) have spillovers, and that this is why policies like the R&D tax credit are important. But fewer recognize that investments in new machines, equipment and software also have spillovers.”

The report continues with an analysis of capital investment trends, focusing on information processing equipment and software (IPES). While IPES assets grew at the very rapid rate of 681 percent compared to the next highest, transportation, at 69 percent from 1980 to 2011, the growth rate of even IPES stagnated in the decade of the 2000s.

The authors conclude: “This stagnation means that business investment rates are actually falling relative to the size of the economy…As a share of GDP, fixed investment was higher in the early 1980s—around 13 percent of GDP—than in any subsequent year. In 2011, fixed investment accounted for less than 10 percent of GDP. Given that it is investment that drives productivity growth, these statistics are sobering. Out of all the fundamental components of GDP—consumption, investment, government, and net exports—a fall in the relative magnitude of investment is the most worrying in terms of future economic performance.”

While equipment investment is far more important than investment in structures (buildings), in 2011, “the number of new manufacturing structures is no longer keeping pace with the depreciation of existing manufacturing structures, which, in turn, means that the real quantity of manufacturing facilities in the United States is shrinking…Between 2001 and 2011, the net stock of manufacturing structures fell by more than nine percent, a fall which, given investment’s continued decline, will also undoubtedly continue.”

A decline in value of manufacturing structures in the United States is only a symptom, not a driver, of a decline in the international competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector. The decline of “investment equipment and software investment is more of a driver of competitiveness, and thus its decline is far more ominous.”

Total business investment in equipment and software grew in the 1980s, boomed in the 1990s, and then stagnated in the 2000s. Between 1980 and 1991, equipment and software investment increased by 37 percent compared to just 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. This means that investment in equipment and software is falling relative to the size of the economy just like total investment.

The picture looks even worse when the IPES assets are removed from total equipment assets, leaving only assets such as industrial machinery and transportation equipment. “Instead of merely stagnant growth, non-IPES investment has declined over eight percent since 2000.”

The next section of the report compares investment in equipment and software by industry, showing that “the composition of investment went from being spread over a broad base of sectors, especially in the 1990s, to being concentrated in a few select sectors in the 2000s.” Industries such as trade and transportation, health, and management and professional services expanded slightly. “Manufacturing led in the 1980s and 1990s but was displaced in the 2000s by finance and real estate, much of that made in the ramp up to the financial collapse of 2008.”

Not only did business investment stagnate in the 2000s, but investment is “now much more concentrated in a few select domestic-serving services industries, and industries that once powered U.S. investment growth and global competitiveness are now falling behind,” such as computers and chemical products.

The investment trends in the computer and electronic products industry are even worse than other manufacturing sectors:  “a 36 percent decline in equipment and software investment since 2000.”

The authors propose two possible reasons for the causes of investment stagnation:

  1. Decline in the competiveness of U.S. traded-sector businesses on the global market that has been occurring, particularly over at least the past decade
  2. “Short-termism”—the obsession with the upcoming financial report rather than long-range planning—that pervades publicly traded businesses facing stockholder pressures

Numerous other reports have described the U.S. competitive decline over the past decade so this report just summarizes a few of the key points that have been made in other reports and previous articles I have written. The end result is that the United States has lost its attractiveness as a production location for manufacturing, and when those businesses move offshore to other countries, they take their investment along with them. In addition, fewer foreign firms are making investments here in the United States. Thus, investment declines in one industry sector after another.

With regard to “short-termism,” the authors mean “the pressure on companies by Wall Street to achieve short-term profits has all too often come at the expense of long-term investment.” In other words, executives are willing to “delay new investment projects in order to meet short-term earnings targets, even if it meant sacrifices in value creation.”

Atkinson and Steward urge policymakers to put in place new policies to encourage the private sector to restore investment rates and stem the decline and stimulate new investment and productivity growth. They recognize that the first step to addressing market short-termism is for Congress and the Obama administration to acknowledge and take the problem seriously, and the next step is to begin a detailed analysis of the problem. They recommend the following actions:

Establish a Task Force to Study Market Short-Termism and Recommend Policies to Ameliorate It ?  The White House should establish a task force, led by the National Economic Council, bringing together members of the Council of Economic Advisers and the Treasury Department, to study the causes and nature of short-termism and draft a set of recommendations to ameliorate it. “The task force should analyze all potential options for reigning in market short-termism, ranging from changes to tax law to corporate governance solutions to encouraging changes in the U.S. corporate cultures within business schools, corporate boardrooms and ‘Wall Street.’”

Establish a Tax Credit for Investing in Equipment and Software ?  Congress should enact an investment tax credit (ITC) to provide a 35 percent credit on all capital expenditures made above 75 percent of a base amount. The ITC would be modeled on the Alternative Simplified Research and Experimentation Tax Credit (ASC).

This report proves that as investment declines, economic growth declines, and as economic growth declines, the capital available for investment and demand for new investment declines. If this trend continues, innovation will slow, competitiveness will continue to decline, and productivity growth will weaken. I agree with the authors that “it is essential that policymakers make challenging this problem a top priority. The authors’ policy recommendations may not be the only solutions to the problem, but “many countries have similar policies in place already—they will at least put the United States on a more equal f

Fall Trade Shows Provide Nearsourcing and Reshoring Opportunities

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Since there is no IMTS show being held in the United States this fall, and FABTECH, to be held November 18-21, 2013 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL is a long way from southern California, the best opportunities to attend a manufacturing trade show for southern Californians are:

Design-2-Part Show – October 9-10, 2013 – Pasadena Convention Center

WESTEC – October 15-17, 2013 – Los Angeles Convention Center

The Southern California Design-2-Part Show attracts thousands of design engineers, manufacturing engineers, managers, and buyers to meet local and national job shops and contract manufacturers to source custom parts, components, and services. With over 175 exhibiting companies, this year’s show will be D2P’s largest show ever in Pasadena.
The show in Pasadena is one of eleven Design-2-Part Shows owned by the Job Shop Company that either have or will take place in 2013 in major manufacturing hubs within the United States. The show policy since inception over 38 years ago has been to exclusively feature job shops and contract manufacturers with manufacturing operations in the United States. Companies that do not have facilities in the U.S. are not permitted to exhibit.
I will be presenting a seminar titled “Returning Manufacturing to America Using Total Cost Analysis,” on October 10, 2013 at 11:30 am at the show. The one-hour session is free to all show attendees of the Southern California Design-2-Part Show.

The Job Shop Company’s press release states:  “Ms. Nash-Hoff’s presentation will cover how supply chain dynamics, labor costs and fuel costs are changing the status quo. She will present a true understanding of the “Total Cost of Ownership” (TCO) concept including what most executives miss when analyzing TCO. The highlight of the presentation will be several real case success stories of companies that have returned work to the U.S. from offshore suppliers and the lessons that are learned from these real world practitioners.”

“Having Michele Nash-Hoff speak at our design and contract manufacturing show is a perfect fit,” said Jerry Schmidt, President of the Design-2-Part Shows. “Attendees can hear Michele justify bringing work back to the states and then they can walk the show floor and find the high-quality U.S. suppliers they need to solve their challenges.”

“Michele Nash-Hoff is President of ElectroFab Sales, a manufacturers rep agency, and author of Can American Manufacturing Be Saved—Why We Should and How We Can. Her blog articles appear on the Huffington Post and Industry Week magazine’s blog.” For the past two years, “Ms. Nash-Hoff has been speaking on behalf of The Reshoring Initiative, a nonprofit, industry-led organization dedicated to bringing work back to the U.S. from overseas. The Initiative is achieving its goals by helping manufacturers recognize that local production or sourcing may actually reduce their TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of purchased parts and tooling. The Reshoring Initiative was founded by Mr. Harry Moser who was named to Industry Week magazine’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2010 for this work.

Admission to the Southern California Design-2-Part Show is free to qualified industry professionals. For more information or to register for the show, visit

If you don’t live in southern California, don’t miss one of the other regional Design-2 Part shows still coming up. The rest of the fall schedule is:

Marlborough, MA            October 30-31

Covington, KY                November 20-21

WESTEC 2013 – October 15-17, 2013 – Los Angeles Convention Center

WESTEC is produced by SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineering.) Now, SME connects all those who are passionate about making things that improve our world. As a nonprofit organization, SME has served practitioners, companies, educators, government and communities across the manufacturing spectrum for more than 80 years. Through its strategic areas of events, media, membership, training and development, and the SME Education Foundation, SME shares knowledge to advance manufacturing. SME works together to make the future through exciting, interactive face-to-face events such as tradeshows and conferences, SME events serve as the manufacturing industry’s vital conduit. SME creates opportunities for people to showcase innovation, share knowledge, grow their businesses and build relationships

WESTEC has always been the West Coast’s “can’t miss” event, a technology showcase that helped generations of manufacturers grow their businesses. WESTEC is the region’s definitive manufacturing event and returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center Fall 2013 redefined and with renewed commitment to area industry.

The show is a true manufacturer’s think tank where creativity, vision, and strategy join forces to spotlight the promise of groundbreaking products for vital global markets. This is where you can meet experts who can help apply cutting-edge equipment, make sense of lean methods, and manufacture with composites, titanium, or other advanced materials.

WESTEC is where collaboration starts – a place to network, form relationships, and build partnerships. It is where technology takes center-stage, putting new developments, integration, and solutions right into your hands.

WESTEC is a showcase for the latest innovations from the leaders in manufacturing and where you can experience the people, technology and innovation that are redefining the future of manufacturing. Many technology breakthroughs of recent decades were unveiled at WESTEC.

The very latest technologies – from software, cutting tools to multi-tasking machines will be on display from top international equipment manufacturers. Plan to participate in WESTEC by registering at

Another opportunity for manufacturers in the San Diego region to find local vendors is provided by CONNECT’s Nearsourcing Initiative, which focuses on assisting San Diego companies in need of outsourcing to take a closer look at our region’s local outsourcing cluster. The program includes workshops that educate our region’s innovation entrepreneurs on the benefits of contracting with local manufacturers, including reduced time to market, increased innovation and reduced risk and costs; and to assist San Diego innovation companies in need of outsourcing to Innovate Locally, Grow Globally – to connect and contract with qualified San Diego production resources.

The program ensures that business is not offshored unless necessary and keeps economic growth and job creation in our local region—which can be found in these case studies. The program also includes initiatives to market San Diego’s production capabilities and help local supply chains network, innovate and compete internationally. You can find more details on the program as well as access to the San Diego outsourcing community through The Connectory and the CONNECT Resource Guide.

The CONNECT Nearsourcing Initiative is led by a Steering Committee of Production Cluster leaders including Sharp HealthCare, D&K Engineering, Althea Technologies, Pharmatek Laboratories, Invetech, DD Studio, Leardon Solutions, BioLaurus, Solekai Systems, Clarity Design, the East County Economic Development Council, which owns and operates the Connectory – a database of 5,600 local production companies, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and intellectual property experts from Sheppard Mullin and Sughrue Mion.

There will be a Nearsourcing trade show in conjunction with the Connect with CONNECT networking event on October 30, 2013 from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the offices of Knobbe Martens Olsen & Bear, 12790 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130. You may register at

I urge you to take the time to attend one of these events this fall if you are in the San Diego/southern California region. Now is the time to get on the bandwagon early to find local sources to “nearsource” or “reshore” by bringing back manufacturing to America. Hope to see many of you at one of these events!