An observation on manufacturing in America

I have been commuting on a weekly basis for the past few weeks to a custome
r in the deep south (hint - I've been drinking Jack Daniels in the evenings
). This is an older factory (50+ years) and much of the equipment is of tha
t vintage. The plant is under new ownership and my task is to bring the con
trols on these machines into the 21st century (make them work like they sho
uld).
This was the root of my hydraulics questions (will be addressed this week)
and my billing for travel question (worked out well with the customer).
I spent last week removing two five-gallon buckets of excess wire and relay
s from an assembly machine and replaced it with a single PLC. In the proces
s, I also removed probably another five pounds of accumulated grease, oil a
nd grime.
But that's not the point of this post. Here's something that I saw down the
re: In bringing this factory up to date, they are installing a new bonderiz
er line. This is a rather large (~50' long, 20' x 20' cross-section) tunnel
that treats metal parts with various solutions and temperatures in prepara
tion for application of its finish (paint or powder coat).
The cost of this machine and its installation is well in excess of a millio
n dollars. I spoke with the crew (welders, mechanics, electricians and plum
bers) that was doing the installation and found out that they are busy doin
g new installations of various metal finishing machines across the country,
pretty much all the time. They have taken off a week in the past six month
s.
I'm no economics expert, and I don't really follow general manufacturing tr
ends - except as they directly influence me and my work - but it would seem
to me that the busyness of this crew indicates that the state of the metal
parts manufacturing business in the US must be pretty healthy in order sup
port this sort of equipment procurement.
By the way, this factory has a sign on the employee's entrance prohibiting
guns and knives in the building, and another in the men's room prohibiting
the spitting of tobacco juice on the floor. You wouldn't think you'd need s
uch a sign, but apparently...
Also, according to Google Maps, I could drive there in 9 1/2 hours and slee
p in Hotel Scion, but my customer pays for me to take an Uber to the airpor
t and fly there, and to sleep in a fairly nice hotel. I guess the differenc
e must be that I'm putting a factory together while the Econoline guy is ta
king them apart.
Reply to
rangerssuck
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The month-to-month figures for machinery investment are pretty volatile, but, overall, the state of manufacturing investment is good. You can see how machine tools and related machinery are doing from the graph in the middle of this page:
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Well-run plants and shops are doing quite well around the country. Forming and fabricating are doing a lot better than metal cutting, which has fallen off. A big part of that is new automobile plants in the southeast and upper midwest. We're selling a lot of advertising to the machinery builders, which is a good indicator of their sales projections.
Reply to
Ed Huntress
omer in the deep south (hint - I've been drinking Jack Daniels in the eveni ngs). This is an older factory (50+ years) and much of the equipment is of that vintage. The plant is under new ownership and my task is to bring the controls on these machines into the 21st century (make them work like they should).
k) and my billing for travel question (worked out well with the customer).
lays from an assembly machine and replaced it with a single PLC. In the pro cess, I also removed probably another five pounds of accumulated grease, oi l and grime.
there: In bringing this factory up to date, they are installing a new bonde rizer line. This is a rather large (~50' long, 20' x 20' cross-section) tun nel that treats metal parts with various solutions and temperatures in prep aration for application of its finish (paint or powder coat).
lion dollars. I spoke with the crew (welders, mechanics, electricians and p lumbers) that was doing the installation and found out that they are busy d oing new installations of various metal finishing machines across the count ry, pretty much all the time. They have taken off a week in the past six mo nths.
trends - except as they directly influence me and my work - but it would s eem to me that the busyness of this crew indicates that the state of the me tal parts manufacturing business in the US must be pretty healthy in order support this sort of equipment procurement.
ng guns and knives in the building, and another in the men's room prohibiti ng the spitting of tobacco juice on the floor. You wouldn't think you'd nee d such a sign, but apparently...
leep in Hotel Scion, but my customer pays for me to take an Uber to the air port and fly there, and to sleep in a fairly nice hotel. I guess the differ ence must be that I'm putting a factory together while the Econoline guy is taking them apart.
These guys definitely fit into the "forming and fabricating" area the major ity of their floor space is taken up by presses and welding equipment, thou gh they also do a lot of cnc turning as well.
They are also in the process of adding a magnaflux station in order to meet the requirements of a particular contract. Much of their work is military sub-contracting.
Reply to
rangerssuck
mer in the deep south (hint - I've been drinking Jack Daniels in the evenin gs). This is an older factory (50+ years) and much of the equipment is of t hat vintage. The plant is under new ownership and my task is to bring the c ontrols on these machines into the 21st century (make them work like they s hould).
g guns and knives in the building, and another in the men's room prohibitin g the spitting of tobacco juice on the floor. You wouldn't think you'd need such a sign, but apparently...
If you are close to the Jack Daniels plant take some time to go on the tour . It has been years since I was there. At that time the county was dry and J D's had a special permit so the taster could sample the whiskey.
Dan
Reply to
dcaster
tomer in the deep south (hint - I've been drinking Jack Daniels in the even ings). This is an older factory (50+ years) and much of the equipment is of that vintage. The plant is under new ownership and my task is to bring the controls on these machines into the 21st century (make them work like they should).
ing guns and knives in the building, and another in the men's room prohibit ing the spitting of tobacco juice on the floor. You wouldn't think you'd ne ed such a sign, but apparently...
JD's had a special permit so the taster could sample the whiskey.
Looking at the map, it's like a five-hour drive. I've seen a show about it on TV, and it does look like a cool place. maybe if I'm down there for a lo nger stay I could give it a look over a weekend.
Reply to
rangerssuck
tomer in the deep south (hint - I've been drinking Jack Daniels in the even ings). This is an older factory (50+ years) and much of the equipment is of that vintage. The plant is under new ownership and my task is to bring the controls on these machines into the 21st century (make them work like they should).
ing guns and knives in the building, and another in the men's room prohibit ing the spitting of tobacco juice on the floor. You wouldn't think you'd ne ed such a sign, but apparently...
Oh yes,, talking about drinks is a long ways away from talking about taking building and trades classes at votechs, community colleges or unions. With drinking, you don't need someone straight out of a S.T.E.M. (Science, Tech nology, Engineering or Mechanical) college program with a 4 or more year f ancy degree or diploma right along with you screaming and yelling at the pr imitive nature of the businesses that you've worked at for years (like that , I guess). With drinking here on the weekends, it just has to be you. Its that simple. Those wine/liquor tasting events are nice. (especially when tipsy-time arrives)
Reply to
mogulah
You don't need the sign to keep the sensible people from doing dumb things -- you need the sign so that when a dumbass follows his natural inclinations and you fire him, he won't be able to come back at you as easily.
That's good news. Something that I've been expecting to happen "sometime" for the last twenty years or so is for wages in China to come up to the point where jobs will come back here. It seems to be happening, albeit gradually.
Reply to
Tim Wescott
This is "re-shoring", the flip side of the off-shoring that went on the last 20 years ago. We are getting a little more competitive, and those places with the dirt-cheap labor (India, China, Vietnam) are getting more expensive. It is wonderful news!
Jon
Reply to
Jon Elson
Yup. The minimum wage in Beijing is 18.7 Yuan an hour, or $2.85. China sets minimum wages by districts and in Guangxi Province it can be as low as 9 Yuan, or $1.36 an hour. Vietnam minimum wage is $0.65/hour, Indonesia - $0.53, India - $0.31
It may be a while before manufacturing starts to flood back :-(
Reply to
John B.
Manufacturing of cheap trinkets may never come back, and maybe that shouldn't happen. But, manufacturing of higher-quality stuff has been coming back for some time, and seems to have accelerated in the last 2 years or so.
I'm not in a real position to see it, but I do see a lot of anecdotal tidbits that do indicate this is a real trend.
Jon
Reply to
Jon Elson
The costs to get high-quality stuff on the dock in the US is a large multiple of the minimum wage "over there". When you get to the point where the money spent getting your hands on it from China is more than the money spent getting your hands on it from the shop next door (with, presumably, much higher wages to the workers), then if you're smart you'll switch to the shop next door.
Reply to
Tim Wescott
Gunner Asch on Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:43:08 -0700 typed in rec.crafts.metalworking the following:
Twenty years ago, it might have penciled out to ship a barge to China to get work done there rather than to have it done in US - or even Canadian - yards. But no more.
At one time, it was cheaper/cost effective to send laundry from San Francisco to Hawaii by sailing ship. It isn't that way any more.
tschus pyotr -- pyotr filipivich "With Age comes Wisdom. Although more often, Age travels alone."
Reply to
pyotr filipivich
My guess is that like Japan after WW II the quality of Chinese goods will improve. Way back when "Made in Japan" was a synonym for "cheap junk".
As an aside, there was a Japanese song dating back to probably the 1930 titled "A celluloid doll from America" describing a doll that was pretty but flimsy :-)
Reply to
John B.
One of the things said to be a cause for the Great Depression was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act which raised US tariffs to historically high levels, intended to protect domestic products from the competition of cheaper imports.
Reply to
John B.
I don't know the, up to the minute, shipping cost, but in general TEU shipping is in the neighborhood of $1.00/cu. ft., Shanghai - San Diego.
Reply to
John B.
ng building and trades classes at votechs, community colleges or unions. Wi th drinking, you don't need someone straight out of a S.T.E.M. (Science, Te chnology, Engineering or Mechanical) college program with a 4 or more year fancy degree or diploma right along with you screaming and yelling at the primitive nature of the businesses that you've worked at for years (like th at, I guess). With drinking here on the weekends, it just has to be you. I ts that simple. Those wine/liquor tasting events are nice. (especially whe n tipsy-time arrives)
I do not understand your post. I just said taking the tour at the Jack Dan iels distillery was worth doing. And that I did not know what the situatio n is now, but when I was there many years ago there was no drinking. The county was dry.
Driving 5 hours to take the tour is not my idea of being close. When I wen t , I was working in Huntspatch. Lynchburg was about 40 miles away.
Dan
Reply to
dcaster
Just to clear up a misunderstanding, nearly all of our trade deficit in manufactured goods ($720 B) can be attributed to cars ($200 B) and other consumer goods ($500 B). On industrial goods, we're pretty close to even, although in capital goods (manufacturing equipment) our net exports are around 10% lower ($60 B) than our net imports.
The effect of wage differentials show up mostly in cheaper consumer goods, not in things made by the shop next door.
Reply to
Ed Huntress
And Thailand is now out sourcing to Vietnam and starting to take a big interest in Burma :-)
Reply to
John B.

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