Archive for the ‘Manufacturing’ Category

“Eliminate the Trade Deficit” Resonates in Halls of Congress

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

 “You were ahead of the curve on trade.” This was the common refrain heard last week by members of the Coalition for a Prosperous America who attended our annual fly-in to Washington, D. C. We had eight teams of members visiting Congressional Representatives and Senators on March 14th and 15th. As Chair of our developing California chapter, it was my fifth year attending the CPA fly-in, and our simple message of eliminating the trade deficit resonated well in the halls of Congress.

No one could deny that we have a huge deficit as shown on the chart below:

 

The annual trade deficit has reduced our U. S. GDP by some 3% to 5.5% each year, and those reductions compound over time.

There is no historical record of any other country in history running 41 years of consecutive trade deficits. Why is this important? Because every billion dollars of net imports costs 4,500 American jobs according to conservative estimates. So last year’s $502 billion deficit equates to 2.25 million jobs lost.

As a result, our Labor Force Participation is in serious decline. The U. S. is the only G7 nation with a DECLINE in LFPR since 1998 for workers ages 15-64. It peaked at 77.4% in 1998 and dropped down five points to 72.6% in 2015, meaning that over 7 million people dropped out of labor force since 1998.

The remedy recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America is simple: Congress should establish a national goal to eliminate the trade deficit.

Balanced trade over time is the goal of free trade and of fair trade. Balanced trade will re-industrialize our country, enable massive job creation, grow our wealth and effectively neutralize foreign mercantilism. Trade policy must address true drivers of deficit, these countries and their practices. Many of these countries have export-oriented growth strategies in which they rely upon the US market to consume their exports rather than increasing their internal consumption. China, Germany, Japan and other countries pursue net exports through strategic mercantilism, not free trade. Currency manipulation, value added taxes, state influenced enterprises, and other
tactics are used.

The following top 10 countries account for 90% of America’s 2016 goods trade deficit:

Rank Country 1992 Deficit 2016 Deficit Change 1992-2016
1 China -$18B -$355B -$337B
2 Mexico -$6B -$115B -$121B
3 Japan -$50B -$75B -$25B
4 Germany -$8B -$70B -$62B
5 Canada -$15B -$58B -$53B
6 Ireland +5B -$36B -$37B
7 Vietnam $0B -$34B -$34B
8 South Korea -$2B -$30B -$30B
9 Italy -$4B -$30B -$26B
10 India -$2B -$30B -$28B

Note: These figures are based on U.S. Commerce Dept. data subtracting Imports for Consumption from Domestic Exports which are intended to strip out goods that enter and leave the U.S. simply for re-export, without having any significant value added to them inside the U.S.

Currency manipulation and misalignment are key tactics that the above countries use to gain an advantage in trade. Currency manipulation is trade cheating, because it is both an illegal tariff and a subsidy.

Foreign governments intervene in foreign exchange markets by buying dollars. More than 20 countries have intervened in foreign exchange markets to undervalue their currencies in the past ten years. These countries account for one-third of the world economy and two-thirds of the world’s current account surpluses. Gagnon has calculated that “A country’s current account balance increases between 60 and 100 cents for each dollar spent on intervention.”

“The largest loser is the United States, whose trade and current account deficits have been $200 billion to $500 billion per year larger as a result. The United States has thus suffered 1 million to 5 million job losses.” (Bergsten, 2012) The U. S. economy cannot produce jobs and wealth without addressing this problem. The Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes the following solutions:

• U.S. trade enforcement law should treat currency undervaluation as a countervailable subsidy
• Tariffs should be applied against currency manipulators to neutralize their unearned advantage
• Government policy should pursue a dollar priced at equilibrium rather than accept a persistently overvalued dollar
• Trade agreements should include effective controls on currency manipulation and misalignment

Border Adjustable Consumption Taxes (aka VATs) are a tariff by another name. They are allowed under WTO rules and range from 12% to 24% with the average being 17% globally. This means that virtually all foreign countries tax our exports at this average 17% VAT. They subsidize domestic shipments abroad with rebating the VAT to their manufacturers. The U.S. does not have a VAT to offset this advantage.

Consumption taxes are a tax on consumption as opposed to income, wealth, property, or wages. A Goods and Service Tax (GST) and a Value Added Tax (VAT) are consumption taxes. They are usually a tax only on the “value added” to a product, material, or service. Over 150 countries have such taxes, but the U. S. does not.

The U. S. negotiated tariff reductions or elimination in good faith with our trading partners under NAFTA and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, but Mexico instituted a 15% VAT, and Central America established a 12% VAT.

After 40 years of tariff reduction under various trade agreements, other countries replaced tariffs with VATs, but the U. S. did not. Thus, American exporters face nearly the same border taxes as they did in the early 1970s.

To solve this problem, the Coalition for a Prosperous America proposes that Congress implement a border adjustable consumption tax (VAT) and use the proceeds to credit against the payroll taxes paid by all workers and businesses. The benefits would be:

• Reduce the cost of labor in the U.S.
• Give every worker a raise
• Lower the price of U.S. exports
• Levy a tax on imports

In President Obama’s 2016 budget, Payroll Taxes were projected to be 31% of the revenue or $1.11 trillion. If a 12.9% VAT were set, it would produce approximately $1.45 trillion in tax revenue, completely offsetting the revenue from Payroll Taxes. All Payroll Taxes could be eliminated with a credit. With a 15% VAT, other tax reform or domestic production cost reduction could be funded. European Union countries use their VATs to provide another revenue stream to allow them to reduce their corporate taxes to be more globally competitive.

The benefit of giving a Payroll Tax credit out of VAT funds is that it would offset the regressiveness of a VAT by elimination of the regressive Payroll Tax. There would be no impact on prices of domestic goods and services, but prices of imported goods and services would increase. This would incentivize consumers to buy Made in USA products instead of imports. In addition, it would reduce the cost of production for U. S. producers enabling them to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Our Coalition members also encouraged Congress to reinstate the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) that was struck down by an unelected foreign tribunal of the World Trade Organization. Congress caved in to the WTO ruling and passed repeal legislation that exceeded the WTO ruling eliminating COOL for beef and pork, as well as for ground beef and ground pork.

Canada and Mexico want to export their cattle, hogs, beef, and pork to the U. S. without informational labeling that reveals where the cattle and hogs were born, raised, and slaughtered. Right now, meat packers are able to import cattle and hogs and slaughter them to get the USDA stamp. Consumers want to know where cattle and hogs were born and raised, not just slaughtered for reasons of food safety.

Congressional Representatives and Senators need to have the courage to reinstate COOL and vigorously defend our national sovereignty and consumer choice against international interference. COOL legislation enables consumers to Buy American in the grocery store. It prevents consumer deception and empowers consumers to buy food produced under the safety regime of their choosing. It would help to jumpstart America’s ailing rural economy through supporting domestic producers and preventing industry consolidation.

The final message that is critical is that the U. S. must modernize its foreign investment rules to protect American companies that are critical to our national security and economic security. Investors from countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are making strategic acquisitions of U. S. companies and land that threaten our security and future prosperity. These same countries either severely restrict or do not allow 100% acquisition of companies in their country. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) can block incoming investment based upon national security concerns, but not for economic strategy reasons as other countries do.

Congress must update the laws governing foreign investment to include economic security and allow longer review periods, beyond 30 days, for CFIUS to review proposed investments. This would allow more time to gauge systemic threats to U. S. interests in addition to individual cases. The legislation should include a “net benefit” test to encompass American economic interests where proposed acquisitions of companies that are important to future U. S. technology and employment are concerned (both civilian and defense related).

The question now is – Will Congress have the courage to take the bold action needed to eliminate the trade deficit, address currency manipulation, reinstate COOL and control foreign investments? Time will tell.

 

Advanced Technologies being developed at Carlsbad Gateway Center

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

For the last couple of years, I have been the guest of several economic and Chamber of Commerce organizations to visit their region to tour manufacturing plants and write articles about their region’s industries, but two weeks ago, I was invited to visit an industrial park right in my back yard ? the Carlsbad Gateway Center, a Makers’ place with over 80 businesses in a 16.5 acres business park (Carlsbad is 25 miles north of the City of San Diego).

Courtney Rose of Olive PR introduced me to Toni Adamopoulos, Property Mgr. of the business park. She said, “The tenant mix includes innovation, food production, health and wellness, new technology, in addition to standard and warehouse uses. The park’s small spaces, affordable rents, flexible zoning, and wide array of  allowed permitting makes it a perfect location for small, start up, and incubator businesses to get started on their road to success in a welcoming park-like setting. Besides technology companies, the zoning permits storefront businesses such as a bakery, coffee shop, craft beer, and Kombucha beverage.”

We first visited Emcraft Systems founded by Kent Meyer and colleagues in Moscow, Russia in 2012. Kent said, “We started the company six years ago to design, build, sell, and support ARM Cortex-A and Cortex-M System-On-Modules (SOMs), which are micro controller systems programmed with Linux.” Emcraft is a California LLC headquartered in Carlsbad, and with an engineering office in Moscow, near Moscow State University. Emcraft partners met in Silicon Valley in 1998 while working on a Posix real-time operating system, and the relationship has lasted across several companies and cities. Kent continued, “We have about 6,000 customers in 36 countries, all using our system on modules or Linux/uClinux kits. All of our manufacturing is done in the U.S. We use independent contractors instead of having employees, and we form teams to handle different projects for customers.”

He explained, “We are working to highly automate the effort of embedding Linux and ARM microcontrollers for the coming wave of intelligent systems. Our customers use our system on modules to speed their time to market, and we are optimizing the design and manufacturing processes to meet the pricing needs of the market. We have found a way to be very productive with our team of 20 local and remotely cooperating engineering contractors, with our main office and manufacturing based in the US.”

In addition to Emcraft Systems, Kent is involved in local STEAM education. He has worked with local schools and the Carlsbad Education Foundation (CEF) to teach robotics and programming to youth. CEF is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that provides private support for public education programs throughout the Carlsbad Unified School District. The Foundation is also located in the Carlsbad Gateway Center.

We got into a discussion about attracting the next generation of engineers that is too long to cover in this article, but Meyer called the next generation the “Minecraft” generation because of the technological skills and interest learned through the online collaboration and building in that game. He started as a robotics coach over six years ago when his own kids were doing LEGO robotics with the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for fourth to sixth graders, which was funded by the Carlsbad Ed Foundation. After doing that, he said, “We came up with our own little curriculum where the robotics could be used to teach interested kids in a very productive way, while also trying to find entrepreneurial ways to improve the ratio of students to technology to get as close to a one-to-one ratio with tech as possible.”

He said that they recently developed an “IoT Educational Platform” using Chromebooks, Linux, MQTT and Node-Red to see what kids might come up with when taught IoT concepts. The effort culminated in a presentation to the Carnegie Mellon SATURN conference in San Diego, where the kids showed a highly interactive MQTT platform of over 60 nodes all communicating and collaborating (robots, drones, lights, toys, etc) and connected to Skype and email over Node-Red. The effort won Kent and the team the distinction of “2016 Top Embedded Innovator” by Embedded Computing Design magazine. Click on this link to read the interview with Mr. Meyer after the award.

Next we met with Dr. Robert Boock, CEO/CTO and Co-Founder, of Glucovation. Dr. Boock previously served as the Senior Technical Director of Research and Development at Dexcom where he was responsible for managing the research and development of Dexcom’s CGM membranes and biotechnologies. He was part of the group that developed materials for Dexcom’s SEVEN PLUS. He was a co-inventor of G4 PLATINUM sensor and was a key player in its development and commercialization. He holds more than 44 patents and over 100 pending patents as well as having more than 25 peer reviewed journal articles.

Dr. Boock said, “Our company was formed to develop the most advanced Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that will be affordable to those desiring to monitor their diabetes.” I have several partners, and we are now up to 12 people. They will realize development and work on licensing Agreements. We have signed a deal with a Chinese company and are negotiating a deal with another Chinese company.

He explained, “We are creating a technology that doesn’t require finger sticking. We are trying to develop a simpler but just as accurate method that doesn’t require any action by the user. We want to penetrate the Type II market, which is reaching epidemic proportions. Our product will prevent its escalation. We think that we will have the right product at the right time. Type I is 2% of the population, and Type II has escalated to an estimated 13% of the population. We would rather increase the breadth of our reach rather than make more profit. Outside the U.S., this epidemic of diabetes has the potential to bankrupt countries.”

He continued, “Dexcom and Medtronic are the two biggest players in the continuous monitoring field, which takes a reading every five minutes. They have only penetrated 15% of the Type I population. The future of Type I treatment will be the artificial pancreas (sensors within a pump).

He added, “We can also measure lactate which is a precursor to septic shock, and we could also monitor burning of ketones to know if a person is burning fat when exercising. We are developing a suite of sensors that will monitor five to six of the active metabolites.”

Finally, he said, “We are doing development in cooperation with our licensees, but we are the owner of the core technology. We should be moving into the Chinese market in 2018. The U. S. is more difficult because there is a PMA one-year review cycle after clinical trials, but in China it is only a six-month review cycle. We are doing trials in China, but haven’t started in the U. S. yet.”

Since I am aware of how long it takes to develop any biotech or medical device product before it finally gets to market, I found his last comment very apropos:  “We don’t do it for the money; it’s a calling.”

Our last meeting was with Martin Bouliane, founder and President of R&3D Engineering. He is a mechanical engineer who started his career in 1993 involved in product development. He worked with Cirque du Soleil for a while as a product designer. He was previously the owner of R&3D Engineering in Canada, where the company was primarily focused on consumer product design from 2000-2007. He moved from Quebec, Canada to California in 2007.

Bouliane said, “After moving to California, I worked for two medical device companies before re-launching R&3D Engineering as a U.S. company in 2012. The company was originally focused on medical device design, but some of my customers turned to me to help them get into production. I started working with robots that they purchased from Fanuc. A team from Fanuc visited our company and invited me to become an authorized Fanuc robot integrator. We now focus on custom robotic automation design and fabrication for about 75% of our business, and we have grown to a dozen employees.”

He added, “One of our biggest problems is finding skilled people as we need people who can make things work. We have a customer who makes desalination filters, and we started working with them two years ago and have designed a robot system to move the filters, which were heavy for workers to move around. Some of our local customers have been in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for high volume production of disposables. We are creating a system for one company that dispenses oil, and are building machines to produce the blister pack for the oil.”

He explained, “One of the big reasons for advances in automation is that machine vision has become more and more advanced, so we can program the robots to do inline inspection. We also design and build the peripheral systems to surround the robots. The robot might be only 10% of the system, and we can configure the robot to do multiple tasks. More and more companies are benefiting from integrating robotics and automation into their manufacturing operations.”

This interview was eye opening to me because I had seen very little automation or use of robotics in local companies with which I do business. The main reason is that 97% of San Diego County Advanced Manufacturing businesses are companies with fewer than 50 employees. Another reason is that I do not do business with biotech companies as they do not buy the type of fabrication services I represent. I recruited Mr. Bouliane to speak at our upcoming March Tech San Diego Operations Roundtable event on the subject of the advances in robots, automation, Artificial Intelligence, and machine vision. He will also discuss the future of automation and robotics and give his opinion on whether jobs will be lost or created. There is a wide divergence of opinions on the answer to this question, so it will be interesting to hear his opinion.

EPI Report Claims U.S.-China Trade Deficit Cost 3.4 Million Jobs

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

On January 31, 2017, the Economic Policy Institute released a report, “Growth in U.S.–China trade deficit between 2001 and 2015 cost 3.4 million jobs,” written by Robert Scott.

Scott explained that when China entered into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, “it was supposed to bring it into compliance with an enforceable, rules-based regime that would require China to open its markets to imports from the United States and other nations by reducing Chinese tariffs and addressing nontariff barriers to trade.”

However, Scott wrote, “China both subsidizes and dumps massive quantities of exports. Specifically it blocks imports, pirates software and technology from foreign producers, manipulates its currency, invests in massive amounts of excess production capacity in a range of basic industries, often through state owned enterprises (SOEs) (investments that lead to dumping), and operates as a refuse lot for carbon and other industrial pollutants. China has also engaged in extensive and sustained currency manipulation over the past two decades, resulting in persistent currency misalignments.”

As a result, “China’s trade-distorting practices, aided by China’s currency manipulation and misalignment, and its suppression of wages and labor rights, resulted in a flood of dumped and subsidized imports that greatly exceed the growth of U.S. exports to China.”

He added, “the WTO agreement spurred foreign direct investment (FDI) in Chinese enterprises and the outsourcing of U.S. manufacturing plants, which has expanded China’s manufacturing sector at the expense of the United States, thereby affecting the trade balance between the two countries. Finally, the core of the agreement failed to include any protections to maintain or improve labor or environmental standards or to prohibit currency manipulation.”

These trade policies have resulted in an enormous trade deficit with China. Scott, stated, “From 2001 to 2015, imports from China increased dramatically, rising from $102.3 billion in 2001 to $483.2 billion in 2015… U.S. exports to China rose at a rapid rate from 2001 to 2015, but from a much smaller base, from $19.2 billion in 2001 to $116.1 billion in 2015. As a result, China’s exports to the United States in 2015 were more than four times greater than U.S. exports to China. These trade figures make the China trade relationship the United States’ most imbalanced trade relationship by far…”

He explained, “Overall, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China rose from $83.0 billion in 2001 to $367.2 billion in 2015, an increase of $284.1 billion. Put another way, since China entered the WTO in 2001, the U.S. trade deficit with China has increased annually by $20.3 billion, or 11.2 percent, on average.

Between 2008 and 2015, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China increased $100.8 billion. This 37.9 percent increase occurred despite the collapse in world trade between 2008 and 2009 caused by the Great Recession and a decline in the U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world of 30.2 percent between 2008 and 2015. As a result, China’s share of the overall U.S. goods trade deficit increased from 32.0 percent in 2008 to 48.2 percent in 2015.” Scott notes that the figures in this paragraph derive from his analysis of USITC 2016 data.”

Previously, the U. S. had a trade surplus in advanced technology products, but now we have lost that comparative advantage. Scott stated, “Global trade in advanced technology products… is instead dominated by China. This broad category of high-end technology products includes the more advanced elements of the computer and electronic parts industry as well as other sectors such as biotechnology, life sciences, aerospace, and nuclear technology. In 2015, the United States had a $120.7 billion deficit in advanced technology products with China, and this deficit was responsible for 32.9 percent of the total U.S.–China goods trade deficit. In contrast, the United States had a $28.9 billion surplus in advanced technology products with the rest of the world in 2015.”

Scott stated, “Due to the trade deficit with China 3.4 million jobs were lost between 2001 and 2015, including 1.3 million jobs lost since the first year of the Great Recession in 2008. Nearly three-fourths (74.3 percent) of the jobs lost between 2001 and 2015 were in manufacturing (2.6 million manufacturing jobs displaced).

After explaining how EPI calculated the loss of jobs due to the U.S.-China trade deficit, he wrote, “U.S. exports to China in 2001 supported 171,900 jobs, but U.S. imports displaced production that would have supported 1,129,600 jobs. Therefore, the $83.0 billion trade deficit in 2001 displaced 957,700 jobs in that year. Net job displacement rose to 3,077,000 jobs in 2008 and 4,401,000 jobs in 2015.
That means that since China’s entry into the WTO in 2001 and through 2015, the increase in the U.S.–China trade deficit eliminated or displaced 3,443,300 U.S. jobs…the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by $100.8 billion (or 37.9 percent) between 2008 and 2015. During that period, the number of jobs displaced increased by 43.0 percent.”

Scott states, “The growing trade deficit with China has cost jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and in every congressional district in the United States.” The report calculates job loss by state and Congressional District, stating that “The trade deficit in the computer and electronic parts industry grew the most, and 1,238,300 jobs were lost or displaced, 36.0 percent of the 2001–2015 total. As a result, many of the hardest-hit congressional districts (in terms of the share of jobs lost) were in California, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Arizona, where jobs in that industry are concentrated. Some districts in Georgia, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina were also especially hard-hit by trade-related job displacement in a variety of manufacturing industries, including computer and electronic parts, textiles and apparel, and furniture. In addition, surging imports of steel, aluminum, and other capital intensive products threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs in these key industries as well.”

It was interesting to note that of the top 20 hardest-hit districts, eight were in California, four were in Texas, and there was one district each in Oregon, Georgia, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Arizona.

The three hardest-hit congressional districts were all located in Silicon Valley in California. The 17th District lost 60,900 jobs, the 18th lost 49,500 jobs, and the 19th lost 39,400 jobs for a total loss of 149,800 jobs. His explanation for why this occurred is “Although the San Francisco Bay Area has experienced rapid growth over the past decade in software and related industries, this growth has come at the expense of direct employment in the production of computer and electronic parts.”

In summarizing the lost wages from the increasing trade deficit with China, Scott stated, “U.S. workers who were directly displaced by trade with China between 2001 and 2011 lost a collective $37.0 billion in wages as a result of accepting lower-paying jobs in nontraded industries or industries that export to China assuming, conservatively, that those workers are re-employed in nontraded goods industries…”
In addition, Scott wrote, “According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey covering displaced workers (BLS 2016b), more than one-third (36.7 percent) of manufacturing workers displaced from January 2013 to December 2015 were still not working, including 21.7 percent who were not in the labor force, i.e., no longer even looking for work.”

As I have written in previous articles, Scott concludes, “The rapid growth of U.S. imports of computer and electronic parts from China also represents a threat to national security because it is connected to the outsourcing of U.S. defense products, as explained by Brigadier General John Adams (2015). The outsourcing of the defense industry makes the United States vulnerable to disruption of supply chains for key missile and communications components. Outsourcing has also reduced the quality of military equipment: a congressional report found nearly 1 million counterfeit components in the supply chain for “critical” defense systems (Senate Armed Services Committee 2012). And outsourcing has eroded the capacity of the defense industrial base for cost innovation, knowledge generation, and support for domestic employment (Alliance for American Manufacturing 2016).

Foreign Direct Investment by American companies in factories in China has also played a key role in the growth of China’s manufacturing sector and “the shift of manufacturing production and jobs from the United States to China since China entered the WTO in 2001.” Scott notes that “China is the largest recipient of FDI of all developing countries (Xing 2010) and is the third-largest recipient of FDI over the past three decades, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom.” He wrote, “For many years, foreign-invested enterprises (both joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries) were responsible for roughly two-thirds of China’s global trade surplus…However, due to China’s indigenous innovation policies and other measures that have pushed out foreign investors, often through forced takeovers and illegal theft of intellectual property, this share has fallen sharply to only one-third in 2015…”

However, the most serious consequences of the U.S.-China trade deficit are:
• The United States net international investment position (NIIP) declined from -$2.3 trillion in 2001, before China joined the WTO, to $-7.2 trillion in 2015 (BEA 2016b).
• Each year that the United States runs a trade deficit is a year that it must borrow from abroad to finance this excess of consumption over domestic production.
• The United States ran a trade surplus in nearly every year between 1946 and 1975, and by 1975 had become the largest net lender in the world.
• The United States has run increasingly large trade deficits in every year since 1976, and has become the world’s largest net debtor.

In summary, Scott stated, “The U.S.–China trade relationship needs to undergo a fundamental change. Addressing unfair trade, weak labor, and environmental standards in China, and ending currency manipulation and misalignment should be our top trade and economic priorities with China. It is time for the United States to respond to the growing chorus of calls from economists, workers, businesses, and Congress (Scott 2014b) and take action to stop unfair trade and illegal currency manipulation by China and other countries.”

According to my calculations, our trade deficit with China and other countries since 1994 when NAFTA went into effect has added up to nearly $11 trillion dollars. President Trump has set the goal of reducing the trade deficit. I say we need to eliminate the trade deficit by implementing the smart trade policies recommended by the Coalition for a Prosperous America that address all of the trade misalignment issues mentioned in the EPI report.

ToolingU-SME Report Reveals Manufacturers Are Not Addressing Skills Gap

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

In 2011, I attended the imX Expo (interactive manufacturing eXperience) in Las Vegas when Tooling U-SME ” announced their Mission Critical: Workforce 2021 initiative and “sounded the alarm that the future success of manufacturing is at risk by the end of the decade if industry does not address the growing skills gap.” The event was sponsored by SME (formerly the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA).

At that event, Tooling U-SME, “the world’s leading provider of training and workforce development solutions for manufacturing companies and educational institutions,” introduced a free one-of-a-kind “Workforce 2021 Assessment” tool for companies to use to assess and gauge their company’s performance because they had identified that there would be a critical shortage of skilled workers by 2021 that would threaten the future of manufacturing in America. “By answering a short series of questions about a company’s knowledge retention, readiness of future skill requirements, and the status of employee development programs, a company is able to assess their ability to meet current and future workforce challenges.”

In a September 5, 2016 commentary in The Hill contributor Grant Phillips wrote that the National Association of Manufacturers found there are “600,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing primarily due to a lack of skilled labor. It is this skills mismatch that plagues the US labor market…”

On September 8, 2016, ToolingU-SME, released a report that showed the progress towards achieving the goal of the Mission Critical: Workforce 2021. Based on five years of insights from the Workforce 2021 Assessment tool, the report states, “the results are not encouraging. Responses show there has been little advancement. While it’s not too late, companies must take action now to ensure a healthier next decade.” The report quotes from report, “The Skills Gap in US Manufacturing: 2015 and Beyond” by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, which states, “Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs remaining unfilled.”

ToolingU-SME Vice President Jeannine Kunz wrote in the cover letter, “only a very small number of worldclass organizations are prepared for the extreme talent gap predicted by the year 2021. Some of these companies started planning years ago to address the coming labor shortage. Others were forced to take reactionary steps when faced with a shrinking employee pool. Regardless, they started formal training programs, introduced apprenticeships, built relationships with educators and more…At Tooling U-SME, we are concerned that more manufacturers aren’t taking action since this has a big impact on the long-term health and competitiveness of the industry as a whole. There is a false sense of security among many manufacturers who are not recognizing these future challenges or investing in the development of their workforce today.”

The companies that responded to the survey fall into five categories:  procrastinator, strategist, role model, and visionary.

The procrastinators nearly make up the majority of the respondents because 49% said that “their company has not begun assessing their manufacturing employee’s current skills against skills they will require in the future.” In fact, only “1 out of 20 (5%) acknowledge conducting a complete assessment of all staff.” Since “nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (88%) said their company is having problems finding skilled works in manufacturing,” you would think there would be more urgency to address this problem. This problem will only get worse because “14% of respondents say they will lose a full quarter (25%) or more of their workforce to retirements in the next five years.”

The highlights of the report are:

  • “Key findings from responses to the survey from manufacturers of all sizes
  • Insights on business pains, such as hiring needs, training resources, mentoring and talent development
  • Best practices to immediately start ensuring your workforce is ready for the next decade”

The key findings are:

  • “Less than one-third (29%) of respondents would characterize their company’s talent development as good or excellent”
  • “30% say their company has no community involvement (internships, co-op, etc) to help develop the proper skills of their incoming workers.”
  • “54% don’t budget for employee development”
  • “33% say their job-related training options are minimal”
  • “88% say their company is below average when it comes to offering outside resources to upgrade the skill sets of employees”

While 74% agree that training needs in the organization impact a wide range of levels throughout the company…3 out of 4 (75%) say their company does not offer a structured training program on manufacturing skills. In addition, “less than half (45%) say their company has personnel designated to manage training and employee development.”

The report identifies issues related to the skills gap that need to be addressed immediately:

  1. Incoming employees — finding them
  2. Incoming employees — training them
  3. Incumbent workers — upgrading their skills to keep up with changing technology

With regard to finding manufacturing employees, I commented that we need a national manufacturing database of skilled workers when I gave my presentation on how to solve the skills shortage to the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Many workers that have been laid off due to transferring manufacturing offshore or plant closures have no idea where to go to find a new job in manufacturing. They take lower-paying jobs outside of manufacturing because they can’t uproot their family on the chance they could find a job at a manufacturer in another city.

The ToolingU-SME report urges manufacturing to establish training programs for both incoming workers and incumbent workers to upgrade their skills. The report identifies the following six steps for companies to take to get started immediately:

  1. “Build a business case for learning with senior management. Involve the right stakeholders in discussions and tie learning to performance so you can measure the results later. It is important to set expectations, get buy in and gather support for the program early on.
  2. Define and update your job roles with the required knowledge, skills and abilities needed to build strong performance on the job. This competency-based learning approach will lead to the positive return on investment (ROI) your stakeholders expect.
  3. Build career progressive models, showing growth from entry level to more senior levels. This modeling effort will improve employee engagement and retention, and allow the alignment of skills to pay.
  4. Benchmark incumbent employee competencies through knowledge and skills-based assessments to determine gaps in performance and build a training strategy to address them.
  5. Design a custom competency-based training curriculum using blended learning that consists of online and on-the-job training as well as other performance support.
  6. Ensure performance standards are measurable and trackable. These standards will validate you ROI investment.”

What struck me is that all of these steps are integral to a company becoming a Lean Company. They are nearly identical to the requirements of “Talent Development” that are incorporated into the journey of transforming a company into a Lean company. It would appear that from this survey that the majority of manufacturers have not begun their journey to becoming even a Lean manufacturer, much less a Lean Company.

My recommendation is to start by using the free Assessment tool of ToolingU-SME. Then you can decide what steps to take next. If your workers need specific manufacturing skills certification, then check out the classes offered by ToolingU-SME, either online or on-site.

Another source for training is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP), which is “a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of America’s small manufacturers. The nationwide network consists of manufacturing extension partnership centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. MEP provides companies with services and access to public and private resources to enhance growth, improve productivity, reduce costs, and expand capacity.” Locate your nearest MEP here. The MEPs have a variety of training programs that are available at reduced cost to manufacturers. The California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) is the designated MEP for California, and they offer training in Lean manufacturing and many other subjects that would incorporate the above steps.

In California, companies can apply directly for a training grant from the Employment Training Panel (ETP) to help defray the cos of training or they can join an active ETP Multiple Employer Contract (MEC).

Many community college systems around the country offer training in specific manufacturing skills. California also has nine Centers for Applied Competitive Technology funded by the Chancellor’s Office of the Community College system, which provides training in specific manufacturing skills as well as Lean Manufacturing.

A number of community colleges actually use the ToolingU-SME courses instead of developing their own curriculum. I have discussed some of the training offered at community colleges in California and other states in previous articles I have written. You can peruse these articles under the Training and Workforce Development categories on my website:  www.savingusmanufacturing.com.

As more manufacturing is reshored to America, it will be even more critical to have the skilled workers we need to make American manufacturing great again. Do not procrastinate any longer on addressing this important problem.

Cincinnati’s Cintrifuse Connects Entrepreneurs, Big Companies and Tech Funds

Monday, December 12th, 2016

During my visit to Cincinnati earlier this month, I had to pleasure of meeting key people from Cintrifuse and a few of the regional accelerators. The website says Cintrifuse is “Where Dreamers, Disruptors and Doers Connect” because “the world needs innovation. Entrepreneurs, BigCos and Tech Funds need each other. An active network ensures they can connect. And at the heart of that network is Cintrifuse.”

At Cintrifuse, I met with Wendy Lea, who has been CEO since 2014, and Eric Weissmann, Director of Marketing. Ms. Lea is “an accomplished Silicon Valley executive with deep experience in marketing, sales, and customer experience.” Ms. Lea serves on several boards, including Corporate Visions (San Francisco) and Xyleme (Boulder) as well as still being the executive chair of Get Satisfaction (San Francisco.)

Ms. Lea said, “Cintrifuse was born to answer this question: What will it take to create a thriving startup ecosystem in Cincinnati? Cintrifuse is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that exists to build a sustainable tech-based economy for the Greater Cincinnati region. Our purpose is to advocate for entrepreneurs leading high-growth tech startups– attracting, inspiring, and supporting them on their journey. The goal of Cintrifuse is to lower starting costs of business, especially businesses with the potential for high growth and that are disruptive technology. The Cincinnati Business Committee wanted to see how they could be relevant and formed Cintrifuse in partnership with the City of Cincinnati and EY. They wanted their kids to be able to come back to Cincinnati. The Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund is at $57 million and invests in VC firms outside of the region with the understanding they (VCs) create a regional engagement plan. There’s no stipulation that they invest in Cincinnati startups, but just be involved in the ecosystem. This includes reviewing deals, participating in events, and meeting our Limited Partners (LPs) most of whom they would love to meet with anyway – Procter & Gamble, Kroger, the University of Cincinnati, etc.”

She said, “We own and manage a 38,000 sq. ft. building in the economic area known as “Over the Rhine.” We got the building mortgage free, but put $17 million into improving the building. We opened in 2012. We provide services to 285 members companies – advisory services (such as mentoring and office hours), connections to talent, funding, and customers, as well as operating co-working space in downtown Cincinnati. We are part accelerator, part incubator, and part co-working space to move a company to the next ‘Lily pad’.

Ms. Lea added, ” The ‘headroom’ at Cintrifuse is wide. There is a strong appetite for new technology, new ideas, and disruption. Cintrifuse is a census taker – 300 startups are on our database across industries. We have brought is $160 million into the region for their startups, and we give them lots of exposure to VCs. One of our success stories is Everything But the House, which started in Cincinnati. They just raised $41 million, and Cintrifuse made the introduction to their investors.”

She explained, “Cincinnati has more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else outside of San Francisco Bay area, so we created a Customer Connections program to share information between large companies and small companies. Our Customer connections program is taking 15 startups to Israel to present “innovation briefs.”

She would like to see Cintrifuse expand all over the world similar to TechStars in Boulder, CO with which she was involved when she lived in Boulder. She said, “Tech Star is the largest global network in the world with 28 centers, and their graduates have created 800 companies. Cintrifuse hosted their   reunion of graduates called FounderCon in the fall of 2016.”

The next day, I met Jordan Vogel, now V. P. of Talent Initiatives with the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, who worked for Cintrifuse for three years as director of the entrepreneurial ecosystem., He gave me more background information on Cintrifuse, saying, “It was created by Cincinnati Business Committee, composed of the top 30 CEOs in region and  the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, composed of about 100 CEOs of somewhat smaller companies. When Chiquita left, the leaders became concerned and asked “What does the future look like? What should it be? They decided they needed to promote the next P&Gs of the world. Entrepreneurship was the key. They commissioned McKinsey & Company to conduct a comprehensive study on what would make the Greater Cincinnati region more attractive to startup entrepreneurs and outside investment. The study revealed the region’s strengths and gaps. Cintrifuse was formed to leverage the strengths and fill in the gaps. There are four universities in the region, but there was no path to commercializing technologies being developed”.

He added, “Funding was needed, so they created a fund of funds. They raised $78 of which $57 million went into a syndicate fund. To be part of the syndicate, Venture Capitalists had to commit to take a look at startups and be committed to engage with two to four trips per year to the region to meet with entrepreneurs. The purpose was to create a food chain.”

According to its StartupCincy Resources page, “Cincinnati lays claim to one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems between the coasts.” Home to The Brandery, one of the nation’s Top 10 accelerators; HCDC, the #1 incubator in the State of Ohio; CincyTech, one of the Midwest’s leading seed-stage investors; Queen City Angels, a private, seed-stage venture capital investor ranked #2 in the nation; four universities committed to innovation; and now the country’s only faith-based accelerator – there is a ton of innovation activity in this town!”

The Cintrifuse webpage lists the following accelerators as collaborative partners:

  • ArtWorks CO.STARTERS (formerly SpringBoard) “is a nine-week business development program that helps aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs examine assumptions and turn business ideas into action.”
  • Bad Girl Ventures “is an educational and micro-finance organization dedicated to inspiring and supporting women entrepreneurs in all the key elements of their business.”
  • The Brandery “is a seed stage startup accelerator ranked as one of the top programs in the United States. It runs a 4-month program in Cincinnati, Ohio, focused on turning your great idea into a successful brand driven startup.”
  • First Batch ”It is a five-month accelerator that is the first business accelerator in the nation to focus on scaling physical product companies using local manufacturing. Cincinnati’s long history as a center for consumer products, branding, and manufacturing make it THE place for growing a business creating and selling tangible goods.”
  • MORTAR was started by three minority community members in the downtown area called “Over the Rhine.” “It is called ‘Mortar’ because people are the mortar between the bricks of the buildings and the founders believe that the neighborhood’s residents have the potential to create booming enterprises – just footsteps from their homes.”
  • Minority Business Accelerator – “its mission is to help accelerate the development of sizable minority business enterprises and to strengthen and expand the regional minority entrepreneurial community. It works with companies under $1 million in revenue to connect them with large companies who want to diversify their supply chain.”
  • Ocean is a faith-based “accelerator for startup growth by focusing on the purpose that drives founders…and their companies.”
  • UpTech “is designed to attract and accelerate entrepreneurs who have the next big idea to make the world a better place. Its mission is to create an informatics industry in Northern Kentucky. It is especially well suited to support entrepreneurs who benefit from our partnership with the NKU College of Informatics.”

It lists the following incubators in the Cincinnati region, which also collaborate with Cintrifuse:

  • bioLOGIC is a life sciences incubator.
  • Hamilton Mill “is a Southwestern Ohio small business incubator for green, clean, water, digital and advanced manufacturing technologies. Conveniently located between Cincinnati and Dayton in the original pioneer town of Hamilton, OH.”
  • Hamilton County Development Center (HCDC) “is a nationally recognized startup incubator in Southwest Ohio that helps entrepreneurs launch successful innovative businesses. It just spun off an accelerator called Pipeline for water product development.”
  • The Northern Kentucky ezone (NKY ezone) – “It works collaboratively with several organizations that provide funding assistance to fast-growth, high-tech companies. Its team will work with you in assembling the necessary information, plans, and presentations to apply for these opportunities.”

Over dinner at Cintrifuse, I met with the heads of three of the accelerators, Matt Anthony and John Spencer with First Batch and JB Woodruff with Uptech. Two entrepreneurs also joined us for dinner, Konrad Billetz, CEO of Frameri, and Paul Powers, CEO of Zoozler LLC and Physna LLC. Frameri makes the world’s first interchangeable prescription frame and lens system. Mr. Billetz was previously part of the Brandery four month accelerator program in 2013. He said, “We got $20,000 as part of the program, and then we did an Indiegogo crowdfunding and got about $100K to get into full production. We were on Shark Tank in 2015, but we turned down the deal we were offered. We found a lens manufacturer in Dallas, TX, but still do some production in-house.

Mr. Powers said, “Physna is a member of Cintrifuse. I started Physna in December 2015, and we are developing software that will lead the revolution in 3D printing. I am also the CEO of Zoozler LLC that is about two years old. Zoozler is a tech development company (including websites, apps, digital marketing and media) and has an initiative for local startups requiring help in tech development.”

I connected with Matt Anthony by phone after I returned from my trip to find out more about First Batch. Mr. Anthony said, “I founded the accelerator in 2013 to overcome the gap between a well made early prototype and being able to make the first batch of product at manufacturing scale. Over the next four years we grew the program to educate and connect entrepreneurs to overcome the additional hurdles to scale, including legal, marketing, distribution, and more. We’re unique nationally in that we’ve focused on utilizing the strength of our local manufacturers, which tied with the heritage in physical consumer products and branding make for a perfect set of resources to grow new physical product companies. We operate out of a 10,000 sq. ft. maker space on the 4th floor of a former brewery, located in the “Over the Rhine” area. The program itself is five months of rigorous learning from regional experts, product testing, development, one-on-one mentorship, and $10,000 in funding to get into actual production. Companies must all come in with a working prototype and an understanding of their business to really get the most of the five short months. Some of our companies have been making their product for years and are looking to expand their production beyond themselves. The goal of the program is to get the companies into the first stage of production and actually selling products in order to set them up for future growth and funding.”

For example, one of their companies, Textile House, used the funding to make a couple hundred garments for their fall fashion line. They already raised an additional round of funding through a Kiva micro loan to bring their spring line to market in early 2017.

 

He added, “We started out with two companies in 2013, four in 2014, five in 2015, and six this year. We started this year in June and our 2016 class just culminated in a Demo Day on November 9th. We try to check in with graduates to continue to ensure growth, and about half of the companies each year choose to stay on as members of the maker space.”

When I asked him to describe how their program works, he said, “After an open application, our companies are selected through a series of interviews that end in a final juried selection. Once the program starts our cohort meets as a group twice a week, and one-on-one at least once, often with speakers, manufacturer visits, branding support, and other individual consultation sprinkled in between. We start the week on Monday mornings reviewing business concepts and readings, ranging from learning more about the types of entrepreneurial personalities via E-Myth, and later how to start prototyping and quickly testing product ideas via Lean Startup and marketing channels via Traction. We are primarily funded through grants and donations of time and materials, and don’t currently take an equity position in our companies. We look to help grow companies by connecting to resources down the line from ECDI, Queen City Angels, Cintrifuse, even other accelerators.”

With so many accelerators and incubator programs to nurture startup companies, Cincinnati is off to a good start to achieve its goal of re-industrializing the Cincinnati region. Other cities in the United States that were formerly major industrial centers would do well to follow the example of Cincinnati in setting a goal of re-industrializing their city to create more higher paying jobs and restore prosperity.

 

Cutting Edge Technologies Power Cincinnati Industries – Part 2

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

T, sensDuring the second day of my visit to Cincinnati, Ohio November 1st – 4th, I had the pleasure of meeting with Tony Canonaco, CEO, and Tom Rosenberg, Director of Marketing, at Balluff’s North American headquarters based in Florence, Kentucky.

Mr. Canonaco said, “With over 50 years of sensor experience, Balluff is a leading global sensor specialist with its own line of connectivity products for every area of factory automation. Our global headquarters is based in Germany, and our North American headquarters was established in Florence, KY in the early 1980s. Our products include  a wide variety of sensors, mechanical limit switches, rotary and linear measurement transducers, machine vision and RFID systems, and distributed modular I/O network solutions.  Our products are involved in making the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) work.”

As we toured the plant, I saw their sensors being used right on their own production and packaging lines, as well as for inventory control of finished goods. With IIoT’s promise of total visibility, we saw a great example right on their plant floor. IO-Link technology, an advanced point-to-point connection technology, was integrated into all their automated systems providing operators and management a continuous view of the process. With faster response to workload variations, Balluff now has a much leaner operation. Lean examples were also evident in their single-piece flow work cells. Products were produced in a surprisingly small footprint with high efficiency.

Mr. Canonaco said, “Many of our internal transitions towards Lean began during the recession in 2009. It was during this time, we realized that in order to better compete in the future, we needed to eliminate all types of waste and raise the level of productivity of the company. In addition to the change in their own mindset, we accelerated our New Product releases that focused on Automation and Sensing Solutions to help our customers shrink the size of their control panels, reduce their engineering time, and speed up troubleshooting on their machines. We started our journey to become “Leaner” and our customers were provided with new products to help them realize performance and productivity machine enhancements as a result of the recession. Nearly a decade later, this path has proven to be a win-win for us and our customers.”

An additional customer-focused effect of their Lean journey is with one of their most watched metrics inside of Balluff ? On Time and In-Full Delivery to the customer promise date. They consistently plan to achieve greater than 97%.

When I asked if they had a problem of finding people to hire with the right skills, he responded, “Finding people with the right skills and the right mindset is always a challenge and makes all of the difference. We require production associates for manufacturing as well as engineers who work in technical sales, marketing, support, and operations. We are involved with local work force development efforts to help ourselves as well as surrounding manufacturing neighbors. Balluff is an active supporter of National Manufacturing Day to highlight the attractiveness of manufacturing as a career choice. This has proven to be very popular with local middle and high schools. We utilize co-op students from select universities and have started our own Technical Sales Training program for recent college graduates that focus on how to best help manufacturers apply automation in innovative ways.”

We have our own accredited laboratory and a quality management system certified according to ISO 9001:2015 to form a secure foundation for optimized added value for its customers.

Our products increase performance, quality and productivity around the world every day. They satisfy prerequisites for meeting demands for greater performance and cost reductions on the global market. We deliver state-of-the-art solutions no matter how stringent the requirements may be.”

Our last plant visit was to TSS Technologies, located in West Chester, Ohio where we met with CEO, Marc Drapp, followed by a tour of the facility. TSS Technologies provides complex electro-mechanical assemblies and turnkey contract manufacturing solutions to the aerospace, life sciences, energy, semiconductor, solar, sports, consumer, automotive, as well as food and beverage sectors. TSS also builds automation equipment for themselves and other companies.

Mr. Drapp said, “TSS Technologies has been in business for over 65 years and is family owned and operated. We have a machining facility totaling 110,000 square feet and an assembly facility totaling 210,000 square feet. We have approximately 225 employees. We are ISO 9001:2008 and 13485:2003 Certified, as well as AS9100C Certified and won the GE Healthcare Excellence award.”

As we toured the plant, we saw examples of many of the above products being assembled or being staged for assembly for a couple new products coming online. Contrary to most contract manufacturers, Mr. Drapp likes to get involved with early stage companies to help them get into batch production and ramp up to full production. We saw a complete “bakery” producing shelf-stable pretzels that is an example of working with a start-up company to ramp up into full production within his facility. We each gratefully accepted two packaged pretzels and shared one when we returned to the conference room.

When I asked Mr. Drapp how the Great Recession had affected them and what they did to recover, he said, “The recession was tough on our company, especially our machine shop. We lost a lot of contract machining work to our customers that brought the work back inside their plants. On the other hand, it really allowed for us to right size our operation and allow for us to be more nimble in the coming years.

We capitalized on the tough times by reorganizing our structure and tightening our manufacturing processes. This allowed us to become more lean and efficient. Ultimately allowing us to come out of the recession quicker and better able to respond to customer needs.

The recession really allowed for us to take a look at TSS and what we wanted to be. It allowed us to focus on the right customers for our business. It also allowed us to focus on the right areas for growth. From a lean perspective, we have always practiced lean manufacturing. The recession didn’t really change that.”

From these stories, we can see that cutting-edge technologies and unique capabilities have been the key to these three companies surviving the Great Recession and now thriving. The rebuilding of manufacturing in the Cincinnati region is being  helped by the innovative technologies being developed at the University of Cincinnati and the other three regional universities and colleges. The collaboration of public and private entities and far-sighted leaders will enable Cincinnati to achieve their vision of re-industrialzing Cincinnati to create jobs and prosperity.

Cutting Edge Technologies Power Cincinnati Industries – Part 1

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

During the first day of my visit to Cincinnati, Ohio November 1st – 4th, I had the pleasure of meeting with key personnel from the Intelligent Maintenance System Center (IMS) at the University of Cincinnati:  Dr. Hossein Davari – IMS Center Post-Doctoral Fellow, Patrick Brown – IMS Center Program Director, Chao Jin – IMS Center Graduate Researcher, and Michael Lyons – IMS Center Program Coordinator.

Prior to my visit I had been provided with background information on how the University of Cincinnati evolved into what it is today:  “The Ohio Mechanics Institute (OMI), parent name of the College of Applied Science, was founded in 1828 as a private educational institution and the first school west of the Alleghenies dedicated to technical education.” This struck me because this was about the same time as the Lowell Machine Shop in Lowell, MA first started producing interchangeable parts for firearms sold to the Springfield Armory. I did not realize that Cincinnati was industrialized so early in the Industrial Revolution period.

“OMI operated exclusively as an evening college until 1901 when day courses on a pre-college level were added. In 1919 the day courses were revised into collegiate programs…In 1958 the college designated separate names for its day and evening operations, the day school became the Ohio College of Applied Science (OCAS) and the evening school was named the Ohio Mechanics Institute Evening College (OMIEC). The college merged with the University of Cincinnati in 1969 and offered programs in the engineering technologies and related areas with the aim of preparing individuals for careers as engineering technologists, engineering technicians, and managers in industry. The college began offering bachelor’s degrees in the early 70s. The name of the college was changed in 1978 to the OMI College of Applied Science and was shortened to the College of Applied Science in 2000.

In 2009, the UC Board of Trustees approved the creation of the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS)… [to integrate] two predecessor colleges —The College of Engineering and The College of Applied Science… During the late 50s…advanced studies in engineering and research became the focus…to strengthen the college’s focus on graduate education. A joint project with the Engineer’s Council for Professional Development (ECPD), and local industry provided opportunities for young professional engineers to pursue graduate degrees without leaving their jobs. Both colleges and the City of Cincinnati have shared long and productive partnerships…through cooperative education assignments, research funding and graduate placement…”

Dr. Davari told me that the “IMS Center is a leading NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) that consists of the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan and Missouri University of Science & Technology.”

He said, “The Center has over twelve years of experience in developing and delivering Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) solutions for a wide-range of applications. The IMS Center’s mission is to enable products and systems to achieve and sustain near-zero breakdown performance, and transform maintenance data to useful information for improved productivity and asset life-cycle utilization. Since its inception in 2001, the Center has conducted over 100 successful industry and NSF supported projects, and has attracted over 80 members from all across the globe. The IMS Center was recently identified as the most economically impactful I/UCRC in NSF’s recent study titled Measuring the Economic Impacts of the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program: A Feasibility Study. According to this study, the Center delivered its members $846.7 million in combined benefits over the last ten years.”

Dr. Davari explained the work of their Masters in Science and PhD students, “Graduate students in the IMS Center focus on developing innovative technologies and tools for health assessment, degradation monitoring and prognostics of machinery. Graduate students work both towards conducting fundamental research along with developing specific tools to address the needs of the industry. Graduate students get the opportunity to work closely with industry members ranging from manufacturing to energy and transportation applications. With a unique set of skills and experience in the field of Prognostics and Health Management (PHM), they continue to develop innovative tools and technologies and bring value to both industry and academia. The IMS Center researchers have also won the PHM Society Data Challenge five times since 2008. It is an annual competition organized by the PHM society and is open to researchers in academia and industry worldwide.”

Dr. Davari stated, “In 2012, National Instruments awarded the Prognostics Innovation Award to IMS Center for the development of Watchdog Agent Prognostics toolkit. Watchdog Agent consists of a set of algorithms and tools developed for degradation assessment and failure prediction of machinery and processes. The toolbox has been implemented in various industrial applications and has been commercialized by National Instruments as an additional toolbox for the LabVIEW software package.

I told him I could see how important preventing failure is healthcare because a failure could result in serious harm to a patient and even be fatal. When I asked him to explain what a “Digital Twin is, he said, “It is a digital representation of the physical system, generated by data-driven and physics-based models. IMS Center has developed a Cyber-physical Interface, through which the data is being collected from a machine continuously. This data is then processed and converted to machine health information using tools in Watchdog Agent toolbox. This health information is used to make informed decisions for optimum maintenance and near-zero breakdowns. It also continuously seeks for possible variations in the machine performance and provides insight into the current performance of the machine compared to its past performance, or its peers doing the same job. Digital twin basically connects the physical world to cyber world for improved visibility and transparency in machine operation.” He later forwarded me a link to a video describing IMS technologies.

Next we visited the Ceramic Matrix Composite Laboratory at GE Aviation and met with Jon Blank, Composite Matrix & Advanced Composite Section Leader, and Perry Bradley, Communications Leader, GE Aviation, followed by a tour of the lab.

From the material I was provided in advance, I learned that advancing the use of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) has challenged industry for decades. In my day job as a manufacturers’ sales rep for fabrication companies, I had represented a company doing ceramic injection molding and a company making pre-preg layup composite parts for airline interiors in the 1990s. I was aware of the ultra-lightweight and super-heat-resistant properties of CMCs and knew that companies were investing millions to try to win the race to mass-produce this engineered material.

We first toured the Leaning Center where all the engine models GE has produced were on display. It was inspiring to me to see that advancements in technology incorporated into these successive generations of engines. Since I have previously represented companies that produced forgings and investment castings, I understood how advances in metals technology, particularly the use of Titanium, had reduced weight and improved the efficiency of engines. Since Solar Turbines in San Diego was one of my customers, I was aware of their work in the development of using ceramic molded parts in small turbine engines. However, when I saw the complexity of shape and size of the CMC turbine blades that GE Aviation is now making, it was astonishing.

Mr. Blank told me that “For more than 20 years, GE scientists in the U.S. and worldwide have worked to develop CMCs as a differentiating technology in large gas turbines for power generation, and in jet engines for commercial and military jet planes. Now their big bet is paying off as GE leads the charge to industrialize CMCs for large engine applications. GE leads the world in introducing CMCs into the hot section of jet engines and gas turbines and is creating the vertically-integrated supply chain necessary to mass produce CMC components.”

He explained why CMCs are critical to advancing the jet propulsion and power generation industries. “Components made of CMCs allow gas turbines and jet engines to run hotter, and thus more efficient. Ultra-lightweight CMCs also reduce weight throughout the engine, leading to higher fuel efficiency. CMCs in gas turbines and jet engines contribute to lower emissions and improved environmental performance. They create a significant economic advantage. CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, manufactured through a highly sophisticated process, and further enhanced with proprietary coatings. They are one-third the density of metal alloys and one-third the weight.”

He continued, “CMCs are more durable and heat resistant than metal alloys, allowing the diversion of less cooling air into the engine’s hot section, and thereby improving overall engine efficiency. By using the cooling air instead in the engine flow path, the engine can run more efficiently at higher thrust. The average rate of technology progress for turbine engine material temperature capability increased 50 degrees per decade. With the use of CMCs, GE will now increase the temperature by 150 degrees in this decade, 3x the traditional rate. The benefits of CMCs are a 10% thrust increase and increased temperature using 2400F CMCs.”

He said, “In 2009, GE Aviation ran the first CMCs in the hot section of the F136 military engine. The CMCs were structural shrouds that direct air in the high-pressure turbine section, the hottest area of the engine. The results encouraged us to pursue CMC components with its next-generation commercial jet engines. GE worked to expand its overall CMC production capability. In 2012, Nippon Carbon (NCK) of Japan, a producer of composite fibers, formed a joint venture with GE (25% ownership) and Snecma (25%) called NGS Advanced Fibers, which produces fibers for CMC components such as the CMC shrouds. The next year later, GE Aviation expanded CMC “lean lab” operations in Delaware to develop new CMC components and the plant in Asheville, North Carolina was selected as factory to mass produce CMC components. Their lab was established in 2014, and in 2015, the Huntsville, Alabama factory was selected to produce CMC building-block materials [fiber and tape.]”

As we toured the lab and watched a couple of parts being made, he said “We have now established a fully-integrated CMC supply chain in the U.S. involving CMC raw material production in Huntsville, research and low-volume production here in Cincinnati, the CMC Lean Lab in Delaware, and CMC mass production in Asheville.”

Mr. Bradley said, “The LEAP engine for narrow-body aircraft will enter airline service in 2016 with CMC shrouds [18 shrouds per engine] in the high-pressure turbine section. This is being developed by CFM International, which is a 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma of France. By the end of the decade, GE will introduce the GE9X engine for the new Boeing 777X under development. This engine will also feature CMC components in both the combustor [inner and outer liner] and high-pressure turbine sections [stage 1 and 2 nozzles, and stage 1 shrouds]. ”

He also said, “GE Aviation continues to run an advanced military engine through the U.S. government-sponsored ADVENT program with CMCs in the combustor and turbine sections – demonstrating the highest core temperatures in jet propulsion history. In 2014, GE Aviation successfully ran CMC turbine blades – a high-speed rotating part – in a F414 military demonstrator. This is a huge breakthrough for GE in pursuing the use of CMC in rotating parts because up to now, CMCs have been limited to static parts in an engine.”

Mr. Blank concluded, “This is all part of GE Aviation’s continuing efforts to further mature CMC technology for future commercial and military engines. The demand for CMCs is expected to grow tenfold over the next decade.”

We ended day one with a meeting with the directors of several accelerators/incubators and a few entrepreneurs in these programs in the region, which I will cover in a future article. I already covered meetings I had with key leaders in my first article last week on “Cincinnati focuses on Re-industrialization to Create Prosperity. Part two of this article will cover the companies I visited on day two of my visit.

Cincinnati Focuses on Re-industrialization to Create Prosperity

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Last week, I spent two and a half days in Cincinnati, Ohio as the guest of Source Cincinnati, an independent, multi-year national social and media relations initiative that works to enhance perceptions of Cincinnati as a world-class Midwestern region. I met with Julie Calvert, Executive Director, during my visit, but my personal guide and host was Paul Fox, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Proctor & Gamble and “Executive on Loan” to Source Cincinnati for a year.

From Mr. Fox, I learned that Cincinnati is the third largest city in Ohio and had such interesting nicknames as “Porkopolis” in the past because it was the largest pork packing center in the world and the “Queen City of the West,” for its ideal location on the Ohio River and its rich culture and heritage of a predominantly German population who settled Cincinnati in the late 1700s.

After arriving late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Fox and I had dinner with David Linger of TechSolve, and Scott Broughton, Center Director for Advantage Kentucky Alliance at the WKU Center for R&D at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. TechSolve is a 30-year old consulting firm that is a State of Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partner (MEP) affiliate, and Advantage Kentucky Alliance (AKA) is the MEP for Kentucky. Mr. Linger just took over the reins as President and CEO on September 1, 2016 after Gary Conley retired from 20 years of service.

Mr. Linger, said “There are about 2,500 manufacturers in the Ohio region of metropolitan Cincinnati, and Cincinnati used to be known as the “Machine Tool Capital of the U. S.”, but very few machine tool companies exist today, including its most well-known machine tool company, Cincinnati Milacron,” after its machine tool line was sold to Unova. TechSolve provides manufacturing and health care consulting. It has a focus and strength in process improvement, machining, and innovation — applying these skills to help businesses find long-term solutions and promote problem-solving cultures.

Mr. Broughton said, “AKA is a not-for-profit partnership that provides assistance and training to help manufacturers of all sizes grow, improve their manufacturing and business strategies and processes, adopt advanced technologies, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve competitiveness. Manufacturing in Eastern Kentucky was mainly related to the coal mining industry, and two-thirds of the companies have gone out of business. We have focused on helping the remaining manufacturers to understand their core competencies to market to new industries, such as aviation and automotive. Our services include:  business growth services, continuous improvement services, and workforce solution services.”

On Wednesday morning, we had breakfast with Laura Brunner, President/CEO, and Gail Paul Director of Communication Strategy of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. She told me that the Port Authority was established by the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 2001 and is the second largest inland port covering 26 miles from the Indiana/Ohio border. In 2008, the Port Authority was reformed and empowered to take a leadership position in regional economic development. It is a quasi-public agency that operates collaboratively with dozens of economic development, community and corporate partners.

Ms. Brunner presented me with a report prepared for me, titled “Manufacturing in the Greater Cincinnati Region. As background, “The Port Authority leverages its infrastructure strengths and development-related expertise to design and execute complex projects to improve property value, catalyze private investment and promote job creation.”

I was astounded when she told me, “The Cincinnati region has lost 67% of its manufacturing jobs.” The report states, “Manufacturing was a primary component of Cincinnati’s economy until its peak in 1969 when 43 percent of the workforce in Hamilton County was employed in manufacturing jobs. Today, lower-wage service-providing jobs far outnumber manufacturing jobs by about 7:1…From 1969-2015, the number of people employed in manufacturing decreased from 146,000 to 48,000.”

She said that the Port Authority Board of Directors has established a vision to transform Cincinnati to prosperity by 2022 through “repositioning undervalued properties and re-building neighborhoods.” The report she gave me states that the strategies for success are:

  • “Industrial Revitalization – redevelopment of 500 acres of underutilized industrial land along key transportation corridors
  • Neighborhood Revitalization – transform ten communities for lasting impact, including residential properties and commercial business districts
  • Public Finance Innovation – cultivate a nationally-recognized public finance program that supports economic and community development efforts

The projected Return on Investment for these strategies is:

500 industrial acres redeveloped 10 revitalized communities
8,000 new jobs 300 quality homes
$565 million in annual payroll 50 commercial acres with 400K SF
$550 million in capital investment 130 new businesses
$8 million in income taxes Increased property & income taxes
$14 million in real estate taxes Improved lives of residents

In June 2015, the PGCDA Board approved establishment of the industrial and neighborhood strategy, development of internal resources, communication strategy, and the financing and fundraising plan to support the strategies.”

The report states, “The proposed redevelopment of approximately 2,000 acres of industrial land through Hamilton County for Manufacturing uses will have a considerable impact on the Greater Cincinnati Region.”

The first sites for the Redevelopment Pilot program have been selected, and the first funds have been obtained for acquisition of land parcels, demolition/remediation of existing buildings, and site preparation. The first site is assembled and is scheduled to open in 2017.

In the meeting with Ms. Brunner and Paul, I was also provided a “Manufacturing Attractiveness Study” by Deloitte Consulting LLP presented on October 3, 2016 to the Greater Cincinnati Port Development Authority, TechSolve, and Cushman and Wakefield.

The study states, “The current lack of easily developable real estate (cleared, access to utilities, free from environmental concerns, etc.) in the Cincinnati area likely puts the city at a significant disadvantage for attracting manufacturing investments.

The Port Authority’s operations focus on transportation, community revitalization, public finance and real estate development makes it especially well-equipped to evaluate and address opportunities to redevelop and reposition sites formerly occupied by industrial operations.”

The Port Authority seeks “to achieve the following objectives:

  • Analyze the last 5 years of manufacturing deployments in the Ohio Region (Ohio and surrounding states)
  • Understand trends in urban manufacturing through case studies
  • Identify demand-side location factors that drive location decisions in the advanced manufacturing, food and flavoring, and Bio-Health (Life Sciences) industries
  • Understand the strengths/ weaknesses of Cincinnati as business location”

In analyzing the Manufacturing Investments for the Ohio Region from 2011-2016, the study revealed:

States # of Project Announcements Capital Investment Jobs Created
Indiana 350~ ~$13.4 ~37,000
Ohio 271 ~$17.6 ~34,000
Kentucky 230 ~$9.0 ~24,000

“Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky saw the most number of project announcements along with largest amounts of capital investment over the past five years.”

“The majority of the manufacturing investments in Ohio over the past 5 years are spread throughout rural areas within commutable distances of large metropolitan areas (Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Akron and Cleveland.) Based on FDI data, 14 manufacturing projects were announced in Cincinnati within the past 5 years.”

The Deloitte study stated “Advanced manufacturers are highly interested in labor quality and availability as well as minimizing risk related to site development and neighboring use concerns.” The two highest factors are: “Labor Quality and Availability (engineers, technicians and operators) and Real Estate (Site readiness, Capacity and availability of utilities, and Neighboring use/pollution). Labor quality, labor availability and supply chain tend to be the key drivers for food industry in making location decisions.

The study showed that “A 1-hr drive time from downtown Cincinnati allows access to a significant labor force, with over 2.5 million in population.” The manufacturing industry represents 14.34% of the Cincinnati Metro economy. Persons with Associate degrees (20.12%), Bachelor degrees (11.97%), and graduate degrees (8.42%) represent 50.51% of the population, and another 45.71% of workers have a high school diploma (26.08%) or some college (19.63%).

Other advantages are: “When compared to the states surrounding Ohio, Ohio has a relatively low average industrial electricity price;” and “Cincinnati is located right in the heart of the most utilized truck routes in the country and has a relatively low percentage of roads requiring significant maintenance when compared to nearby states…”

The summary findings of the report were:

  • “Cincinnati has an advantage in the presence of industrial engineers, machinist and tool/ die makers, as well as a large supply of lower skilled production workers, giving the area a talent proposition to attract manufacturing deployments
  • However, a key driver of the evaluation process for manufacturing deployments is developable sites… Cincinnati currently lacks suitable real estate options to entice most manufacturing operations
  • Given Cincinnati’s availability in key manufacturing skill sets and low/average cost in several talent segments, an investment program to prepare site options would enhance its ability to attract manufacturing investment.”

Our next meeting was with Kimm Coyner, V. P. Business Development & Project Management of REDI Cincinnati, which was spun out of the Cincinnati Chamber in 2014 with the support of Jobs Ohio. REDI Cincinnati covers 15 counties ? five in Southwest Ohio, seven in northern Kentucky, and three in Southeast Indiana, through which the Ohio River runs in the center.

Ms. Coyner said, “REDI is solely focused on new capital investment and attracting and expanding manufacturing to create good paying jobs. We have 165 public and private members. Our team identifies opportunities to attract businesses to the region by developing relationships with companies and new markets – domestically and across the globe. We provide connections to the resources that take startups to the next level and grow existing businesses. We connect companies to the region’s assets, advantages and business leaders to secure Greater Cincinnati’s place as one of the world’s leading business centers.”

She told us that railroads were the key to industrial development of the region in the 19th Century to provide transportation beyond the river. She said, “While Cincinnati arguably stayed too long in the manufacture of carriages and missed out on being a primary automotive manufacturing center like Detroit, we remain a major tier 1 supplier to that industry with hundreds of manufacturers and a significant talent base. We have five key industry clusters:  Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Food and Flavorings, BioHealth, and Shared Services. Advanced Manufacturing is made up of automotive, aerospace, chemicals and plastics and additive manufacturing/3D printing. Our region is the #1 supply state to Boeing and Airbus. We have nine Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Cincinnati, and four of the nine are manufacturers: AK Steel Holding, Ashland, Kroger and Procter & Gamble.”

I was subsequently emailed a list of the top ten employers, nine of which are manufacturers:

  • Kroger 21,646 employees
  • GE Aviation – 7,800 employees
  • AK Steel Holding Corp. – 2,400 employees
  • United Dairy Farmers – 2,029 employees
  • Ford Motor Co. – 1,650 employees
  • Mubea NA – 1,360 employees
  • Bosch Automotive Steering – 1,300 employees
  • Intelligrated Inc. – 1,100 employees
  • Hillenbrand Inc. – 1,080 employees
  • Milacron LLC – 1,020 employees

She added, “We participated with JobsOhio in a booth at the IMTS show in Chicago and focused on promoting Cincinnati as a site destination to companies from Germany.” She noted that Cincinnati has the second largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich, Germany. I told her that we have a strong German-American club in San Diego that puts on a good Oktoberfest featuring a band they bring from Germany.

It is obvious to me that Cincinnati leaders recognize the important role that manufacturing plays in a local and state economy. I had mentioned to everyone I met that manufacturing is the foundation of the middle class, and if we lose manufacturing, we will lose the middle class. Cincinnati learned this lesson the hard way, but I am confident that their new vision to re-industrialize Cincinnati will create good paying jobs for residents and restore prosperity to the Cincinnati region.

I was honored to be invited to give a presentation on “How to solve the skills shortage and attract the next generation of manufacturing workers” that was based on several articles I have written in the past four years (all are available at www.savingusmanufacturing.com under Workforce Development category). If Cincinnati’s leaders achieve their vision, more skilled workers will be needed. Specific recommendations I made were: (1) start to engage youth in middle school through summer camps, and robot contests (2) provide career technical pathways in high schools and community colleges, plan a Maker Faire, promote establishment of a Maker Place, and become more involved in future Manufacturing Day (www.MFGDAY.com).

These meetings provided so much information that I will devote my next article to my visits to local manufacturers:  GE Ceramic Matrix Composite Laboratory at the GE Aviation plant in Cincinnati, Balluff North America in Florence, KY, and TSS Technologies in West Chester, OH, as well as the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems at the University of Cincinnati.

 

Coalition for a Prosperous America Summit Discusses How to Grow Economy

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

On October 13, 2016, the “Southern California Manufacturing Summit” was held at the Wedgewood Center in Aliso Viejo. The summit was hosted by the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), with SDG&E/Sempra Utilities as the major sponsor, along with a long list of non-profit organizations, regional businesses and associations as sponsors and partners. The purpose of the summit was to learn and discuss how we can use Southern California’s advantages to re-grow manufacturing and create good paying jobs through smarter policies on trade, taxes, and the economy.

CPA is a unique alliance of manufacturing, agriculture, and labor working for smart trade policies and represents over three million households through our member associations and companies.
Since nearly all of our sponsors provide services that benefit manufacturers, we modified our format from previous summits to provide opportunities for our sponsors to tell about their services to promote networking among attendees.

Our first speaker was Greg Autry, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, who discussed “National Security Concerns with the Current U.S. Trade Regime.” Among the highlights of his presentation was his statement, “There are national security concerns with trade agreements. An economy that builds only F-35s is unsustainable – productive capacity is what wins real wars. Sophisticated systems require complex supply chains of supporting industries. They require experienced production engineers, machinists, and more.”

He recently prepared a report analyzing the competition and found that we are now outsourcing most of our space-related technology. He said, “NASA awards contracts for launch vehicles to Boeing and Space X, but chose to buy Russian lower stage engines. We have to choose if we are going to have a supply chain for the space industry. We cannot rely on China to produce what we need for our military and defense systems.

He added, “The International Space station was funded by the U. S. to the tune of $100 Billion of the $120 Billion that it cost. We should not be relying on Russia’s Mr. Putin to launch our satellites and space vehicles and provide us a seat to get to the international space station.”

Autry stated, “If you own stock in Alibaba, you actually own stock in a holding company in the set up in an offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands, and the real owner behind Alibaba is the Chinese government. In contrast, he said, “It was the wealth he created at Amazon that enabled founder Jeff Bezos to now lead Blue Origin, which was selected by the United Launch Alliance to finish development of a new engine to replace the Russian made RD-180 rocket engine used by ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket.”

He pointed out that the Germans had the best technology in WWII, but didn’t win because we out produced them. Productive capacity is what wins wars. We wouldn’t be able to do the same for a future war as China has become the shop floor for too many American manufacturers. Take the U.S. F-22 airplane vs. the Chinese J20 airplane. We have 187 F-22s, and we stopped producing them because they were too expensive. China has several hundred J-20s, and they are still producing them.

He warned, “China has been an aggressive nation for thousands of years – it’s how the country grew from a small nation state. China has expanded their claim to territorial waters to include territory claimed by all of its immediate neighbors — Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, Japan and even New Zealand and Australia. China’s threat to these countries could eliminate getting supplies from Vietnam, Taiwan, and Korea, where companies are located that are now part of our supply chain for the military and space industry. We are going to lose our supply chain for the military and defense industry because the people in the State and Commerce Departments don’t talk to the Defense Department.”

After his presentation, July Lawton, President of The Lawton Group/TLC Staffing, explained that her company provides temporary to permanent staffing solutions for engineering, manufacturing, information technology, as well as the more traditional human resources, accounting, administrative, marketing, and healthcare positions.

Nicholas Testa, Jr., CFPIM, CSCP, CIRM, is founder and CEO of Acuity Consulting, Inc. a firm specializing in supply chain and operations management and systems consulting and training. He is president-elect of the APICS Orange County and described the types of supply chain education and training that APICS provides to its manufacturing industry members.

Economist Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn’t Work” was the next speaker. A few highlights of his presentation were: “Free trade is trade without restrictions. Economic rivalry is taking place every day. There is rivalry for wealth and power. We live in America, and it does matter where you live. America’s trade deficit is averaging $500 B/year. Free trade is part of the cause of poverty, as well as family breakdowns. Free trade mostly destroys jobs. We are looking in a decline of quality rather than quantity of jobs. De-industrialization is occurring. Many major American companies are not American any longer; they are owned by foreign corporations. Boeing is losing manufacture of airplane wings to Mitsubishi. There is not a single airplane that doesn’t rely on parts from other countries.”

He stated, “Free trade simplified means there must be something good for both parties. Free trade is only one sided by the United States because many countries practice mercantilism. Trade is being manipulated to benefit our trading partners. The Euro currency has been manipulated to reduce the value of the currency of Germany to be lower by balancing it out with the economies of France, Italy, Spain, and Greece. The U.S. is being forced to compete with the state capitalism of Europe and Asia.”
He added, “Free traders say that trade deficit doesn’t a matter, but trade deficits mean that we consume more than we produce. David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage did not work when it was created and doesn’t work now. A nation needs some protection. Protectionism is really the American way. Alexander Hamilton was the founder of American protectionism. The U.S. had a protectionist policy until after WWII. Every country has done protectionism to succeed. He showed a chart showing the history of tariffs in the U. S.

 

 

 

 

 

He concluded, “After WWII, free trade became a policy because of the politics to win the Cold War. It is crumbling now because of politics. There are dangers in protectionism, but there are dangers in doing nothing. Treaties or trade agreements are basically about protecting property rights. The World Trade Organization has failed to enforce terms of current trade agreements and will not do any better with the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.”

After the morning break, I provided a brief overview of California manufacturing prior to moderating our panel of manufacturers. California is the 8th largest economy in the world, and if it were a country, it would be equal to France. California lost 33.3% of manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2009 compared to 29.8% nationwide, and lost 25% of its manufacturing firms.

I pointed out that even with its unfavorable overall business climate, California still ranks first in manufacturing for both jobs and output. However, since the Great Recession, California lags in manufacturing job growth at a 3.6% rate compared to the national 7.2% rate and a GDP growth rate in manufacturing of 11.2% in California compared to a 22.6% GDP growth in the U. S. as a whole.

On the positive side, California leads the nation in R&D and number of patents issued, and
California companies received $78.4 billion of VC dollars in 2015 (57% of U.S. total – up from 51% in 2010).

Mexico, Canada, China, and Japan are the top four export markets for California, and California represents 11% of total U. S. exports. California ranks second behind Texas in all exports, but
California ranks first among all 50 states in agricultural exports estimated at $13.6 billion per year. California is the biggest U. S. producer of nuts, dairy, ice cream, and wine. The top high tech export is computers and electronic products, which equals 26.1 % of all the state’s exports. Transportation goods are the second top export, consisting of airplanes, ships, unmanned vehicles, and underwater vehicles.

Besides the good weather, Southern California’s advantages are:

• Gateway to Pacific – two major ports – Long Beach and San Diego
• Major hub in western U.S. for air, rail roads & waterway transportation
• Skilled, educated workforce for ALL occupations
• Research Institutions and Universities
• Large inventor/entrepreneur pool
• Hundreds of business Incubators and Accelerators
• Angel investor networks
• Venture capital networks
• 18 Foreign Trade Zones
• Employment Training Panel funds for employee training
• Workforce Investment Boards

There is also an abundance of business resources in Southern California, such as the California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (designated California MEP), two Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies, several Small Business Development Centers and Economic Development Agencies, as well as many Chambers of Commerce and Business Councils.

I concluded with mentioning the opportunities we have to improve the California business climate, change our national tax and trade policies, return manufacturing to U.S. through reshoring, connect regional manufacturers with other U. S. suppliers, increase collaboration between manufacturers and community college to address workforce and skills gaps, and educate community/youth about career opportunities in manufacturing.

After my presentation, the following three panelists shared their stories:

James Hedgecock, Founder and President of Bounce Composites, which designs, engineers, and manufactures high-quality, durable composite goods for multiple industries, including wind energy, automotive, aerospace, and sporting goods. He shared that the company started out producing their own patented design of stand up paddleboards, but it has been tough to compete with offshore companies because of unfair trade practice. He said it was especially difficult to export to Mexico and Europe because Value Added Taxes (VATs) are added to the price of their products, making their product more expensive.

Robert Lane and Dave Mock, principals of Lane OPX, shared how they help companies optimize excellence through blending Lean Six Sigma principles, strategic business initiatives and participative management philosophies to grow organizations, and inspire high performing, motivated teams. By leveraging their deep experience in manufactur9ing, team dynamics, leadership development and organizational design, they have been able to power the turnaround of small to large companies. More recently, they have been able to help manufacturers return manufacturing to America from overseas.

Mr. Wei-Yung Lee, CEO of Carlsbad Technology Inc. was our final panelist. Based in Carlsbad, California, Mr. Lee said that Carlsbad Tech was founded 1990 and is a subsidiary of Taiwan’s leading YungShin Pharmaceutical Co. The company began as a contract manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals and has become an industry leader in manufacturing and distribution of generics, supplements, and medical devices. He said, “We have 150 employees and 15 are well-trained chemists. We have the capacity to produce 60 million capsules and 400 million tablets per year. Last year, we Launched our Comfort Vision™ contact lenses in the USA and have sold over 1 billion units in Asia. We are striving to become a global health bridge, bringing a world of innovative health products to the markets that need them. ”

After the panel, Jill Berg, President of Advanced Test Equipment Rentals, told about the products and services of her company. They rent, lease, and sell a large selection of test and measurement equipment and other types of lab equipment to companies all over the world. She announced that her company was hosting a San Diego Test Equipment Showcase on October 18th.

Then, Chris Marocchi, Field Operations Manager of California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), explained that his organization is a non-profit consulting organization that just won the competition to provide Manufacturing Extension Program services for all of California. These services provide innovation and growth strategies along with operational enhancements to foster profitable growth for California companies. MEP services include: innovate new products, open new markets, improve workforce skills, increase product quality and reduce costs through Lean training, increase energy efficiency and green production, and optimize supply chain performance.

After our lunch break, I presented information on Lean Six Sigma Institute (LSSI) as neither of the principals was able to attend and I had obtained my Yellow Belt Certificate in Lean Six Sigma from LSSI in 2014. LSSI is boutique-style training and consulting company that uses training and coaching model to guide companies to manage Lean Six Sigma change, develop internal leaders, and sustain the results. LSSI’s is headquartered in Chula Vista California, but has satellite offices located in nine countries and employs over 60 expert consultants worldwide. Lean and six sigma principles and tools apply to virtually any process, and LSSI has successfully helped clients implement Lean Six Sigma in a variety of industries, such as manufacturing, retail, and healthcare.

Our key note speaker for the summit was Michael Stumo, CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, speaking on “Growing SoCal Manufacturing.” Mr. Stumo stated, “CPA is a true coalition
of manufacturing, agriculture, labor, Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Conservatives, and Independents. Our members are: Trade Associations, companies, farm organizations, Labor Unions, and individuals from all walks of life. Our non-Agriculture industries are: manufacturers, steel, tooling and machining, electronics, textiles, copper, aluminum, etc. Our mission is to balance trade and produce more in America to reclaim American prosperity.”

Mr. Stumo explained that there is a difference between service jobs and manufacturing jobs. According to Investopedia, “Examples of service sector jobs include housekeeping, psychotherapy, tax preparation, legal services, guided tours, nursing and teaching. There are very few “tradable” service jobs. By contrast, individuals employed in the industrial/manufacturing sector might produce goods such as cars, clothing and toys.”

He said, “There is also a difference in income and purchasing power between manufacturing and service jobs. When considering what industry sectors to prioritize for workforce and economic development efforts, it is important to look beyond basic employment numbers. This is because, while a sector might have a lot of jobs, it might not actually be producing a lot of income for the region, which is also very important for overall economic health and vitality.”

Mr. Stumo stated, “The problem is that as more manufacturing jobs leave, more productivity leaves as well. Unlike manufacturing, service-sector jobs have strict limits in terms of productivity. For example, a live performance of Beethoven’s 5th requires the same amount of performers/employees as when it was performed early in the 19th century. Compare that with the production of almost anything manufactured — the number of workers now required to produce a bolt of fabric, for example.”

He added, “There is a regional ripple effect of service vs. manufacturing jobs. At $4.4 trillion in total sales, manufacturing is by far the biggest income generator in our nation, despite a fairly rapid decline in employment. Yet, manufacturing still manages to far outperform all other industries in terms of pure income creation. Manufacturing generates more income per worker and has much bigger ripple effects, creating much more impact in a region while helping to raise wages in lower-productivity service sectors.”

He asked the rhetorical question, “What’s wrong with a service economy? He answered, “It shrinks manufacturing employment as well as the manufacturing sector’s ability to prop up wages. A labor market that loses wage pressures of high-productivity manufacturing industries will settle at wage rates lower than markets where this wage-boosting effect is present. Economic development policy makers should be careful about shunning manufacturing or other production sectors in favor of service sectors. This is a problem because 66% of U. S. workforce is without a four-year college degree.”

He concluded stating, “America is at a crossroads. We are losing an economic competition against other nations whose mercantilist strategies are destroying our manufacturing jobs, critical industries, and our standard of living, our national security, the security of our food supply, and our children’s futures. For the U. S. to become prosperous again, our future strategy must include the following:

• National Priority of Balanced Trade
• Strong enforcement
• Stop new trade agreements to force a re-think.
• Neutralize currency manipulation
• Tax reform with VAT/consumption taxes
• Consider tariffs to neutralize imbalances

We have a choice. We can continue our current trade and tax policies or we can develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that retains and reinforces our leadership in innovation, locates investment and production in the U. S. and raises employment by creating good paying jobs.”

As chair of the California chapter of CPA, I hope you will join our efforts to make America prosperous again.

Lean Transformation Saves Aluminum Trailer Company

Monday, October 17th, 2016

On the second day of the Lean Accounting Summit, August 26th, The ATC story was the Keynote, presented by Steve Brenneman, President, and Duane Yoder, Production Manager.

Their story was so impressive that it justified being told in an article instead of a brief summary in my previous article about the summit. Steve titled his presentation, “It’s a lean life!” His definition of lean is “using the scientific method to continuously improve the business and other related parts of the entire value stream. Also, it is a complete change of the way that we work as human beings. We go from individual heroes to strong teams.”

From the ATC website, I learned that ATC is a privately held company with eleven owners, 9 of whom “are involved in and manage every aspect of the company…Each owner contributes to the company in almost every phase of the business by doubling their duties as both Owner and CEO, CFO, Production Manager, Engineering Manager, Sales/Marketing Director.” The company was founded in 1999 and is located in Nappanee, IN, within Elkhart County, which is touted to be the Trailer Capital of the U. S. for RVs and Cargo Trailers.

Their website states, “ATC is one of the only manufacturers who can build all models and custom trailers in, both, steel and aluminum…This can range from a barebones 5’ x 8’ trailer up to a mobile command center fully fit up with dual slide outs, custom finishes and 60 KW power generation. ATC produces a wide array of trailers to meet every customer request.”

ATC is very vertically integrated in their manufacturing processes, as the website states, “Our system of material handling and placement on the production floor ensures that your workers’ time is spent building your trailer and not searching for material, tools and fixing errors. By fabricating and building components on site, we eliminate the overhead costs that come from outsourcing. Every hour spent and piece of material used is transparent and reflected in the pricing you are quoted.”

This is where ATC is now, but they have come a long way since the economic crash in the fall of 2008 that led to a near collapse of the trailer and RV industry in 2009. ATC owned a window manufacturing company, Nappanee Window, that provided windows for their trailers, as well as trailers and RVs made by other companies.

Because of the steep industry downturn, Steve said, “We had to shut down Nappenee Window in 2009 and sell off the assets. We had also built ATC up from scratch in 1999 to $26 million business in 2006. From 2007 to 2009 sales dropped 60%, and we were in survival mode.”

This dire situation led to a serious examination of where they were headed. Steve said, “We had only dabbled with lean previously. After reading Lean Thinking, we saw all of our mistakes at Nappenee Window and saw many of the same issues at ATC, but now we saw them through lean eyes.”

Steve said, “We had relied heavily on tribal knowledge, and as a result our average vendor was paid 25 days late. We had negative equity, and we only did five raw material inventory turns/year. We started practicing lean and changed to building a standard line of trailers.

Duane took over as presenter and explained that they separated into three lines based on work content and complexity of the trailers:

  • Line 1 (Raven)
  • Line 2 (Midline)
  • Line 3 (Custom/Large).

Duane said, “We set up three Value Stream teams, composed of trailer design, Inside Sales, Value Stream Leader, and the Value Stream team members. We created a lean office for each value stream. Steve and I became a leader for two of the value streams. We now have five value streams and are trying to change the mindset of everyone.” Then, he shared the following slide showing their Value Stream reorganization:

atc-value-stream-chart

 

 

When Steve took over again as presenter, he said, “We were profitable the first year after starting to practice lean. Our sales went from $10 million in 2009 to $42 million in 2015, and our net income has grown dramatically as well. Our inventory turns tripled from 2010 to 2014. Our long term debt has dropped by over 50%.”

Steve said, “After seven years of hard work, we have:

  1. Improved flow – went to one building from two
  2. Cleaned up the mess
  3. Did 5S for maintenance department
  4. Established a supermarket/material supply system
  5. Use a Materials/Kanban to all lines
  6. Changed to Value Stream Management since 2012

We are working with Joe Murli (CEO of The Murli Group). We follow Joe’s definition of a Lean Management System – “everybody, everywhere, every day comes together in small teams and reflects on how we did yesterday, where the waste was, and how we can do better today.”

In the Murli Group’s Lean Management system, True North is the unifying, overarching purpose for the entire organization and keeps the individuals and organization all pulling in the same direction. True North equals:

  • Zero Defects
  • 15% Productivity Improvement year over year
  • 100% value-added activity
  • 100% on time delivery
  • Respect for People

“We use visual controls on the shop floor. Standard work was the most difficult to do. We developed a Leader Standard Work Bus schedule.

From January 2015 to February 2016, we reduced labor time from 181 min down to 84 minutes for our simplest trailer (Line 1). On our Open Utility line, we reduced labor minutes from 360 min. in January 2015 to 248 minutes by mid April 2016. We use “kitting” and improved cell arrangement to eliminate as much walking as possible.

With regard to talent development, we are training leaders to lead in a new way. We do daily reflection team leader meetings at end of day. There are five tier 2 meetings per day, two tier 3 meetings per day, and one tier 4 meeting per day.

The change took nine months ? three months longer than we had planned. It took four years to gradually switch over to Lean accounting. It is simple and just makes sense to lean organizations. Now we get P & L weekly.”

In an interview after the summit, I asked Steve a few clarifying questions:

In answer to why they chose to transform their company into a Lean company instead of using some more traditional turn-around methods, he said, “Lean just seemed like a better way to think about operational excellence. It was more of a method rather than just trying harder or doing what everyone else was already doing. It felt right for some reason.”

When asked what was their biggest stumbling block in their Lean transformation, he said, “We tried to do too much too fast before allowing people to start to understand these new concepts with us. We tried to just be the experts and do the thinking for everyone.”

In answer to my inquiry about how becoming a Lean company changed the culture of the company, he replied, “Lean has really helped us to have a unified concept that everyone could get behind. It provided a common framework that we could point out to people as to where we were headed and why.”

Finally, I asked what have been the biggest benefits of becoming a Lean company, and he replied, “We get to involve everyone in the process of making things better. Then, we all get to share in the proceeds. I like that a lot. It seems to fit within my view of how the world should work.”

Hearing stories like this is one of the reasons I enjoy attending and presenting at the Lean Accounting Summit put on by Lean Frontiers. It is another example of how transforming into a Lean Company can make the difference between success and failure as a company. Have you made this transformation? If not, start learning and practicing now!