What is the future of manufacturing?

As an older tool & die / mold maker I to have been thinking about this very question. The orinaginal poster is in a racing shop, this is about as safe as one can get, as they need rapid turn over. Customer service will win over price / unit eveytime. In the case of large scale manufacturing the accountents have taken over, and a penny saved is a penny not spent. It does not seem to matter that the rework / rejects pile up just get the price per unit down!. I have had to rebuild many a china mold before it was ever shot, but they are getting better and they are buying the high speed maching centers faster then we are and they can press the green button just as well as you can. The ony saving grace the U.S.A. has is service, rapid turnover, and ingenuity. We often say to our selves I am going to do it my way. And sometime it works. They on the other hand are often told that they are going to do it the party way. If I was to start over as a young man I would still be a machinist, it is who I am.
Ah hell... Thanks for letting me ramble.
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I was just curious what you guys think about the future of
manufacturing in this country. You here alot of people say that there
will be no future 10 or 20 years from now. I'm 27 years old and have
been a machinist for 10 years,i was lucky to get a job in a big
machine shop when i was a senior in high school and have been lucky to
work with some of the old craftsman of the machining trade. I
consider myself very lucky to have worked with the people that i have.
I have been a machinist in Winston-cup racing since i was 18 so i am
in a different industry than alot of you guys,buy if i ever was to
decide to leave racing and work for a machine shop again i would like
for it to be in an industry that wasn't on the way across the big
pond. I would like to here from some of the shop owners on this as
well. Are alot of the shops still struggling to get work,and if so
which types of industries are the hardest hit. Which types do you
think will be around for years to come. I love the machining trade
alot,and would like to have my own shop someday(that's my dream
anyway). Are there any of you all that own a shop doing parts for the
racing industry or for custom bike,and car builders? If so how is that
type of business doing,that is what i'm wanting to do maybe 10 years
down the road. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and good
luck to you all.
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If people don't quit buying the junk from across the pond we will all be starving to death. Money talks and if people get back on the buy american plan things might improve. In all actuality I feel there are too many unfeeling and uncaring americans to ever bring things back to any level of manufacturing in this country.
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The general trend is against manufacturing in the USA. I was fortunate enough to get a generous buyout package around the time when my telecom company decided to outsource their manufacturing. The company that they outsourced to promptly moved half the jobs to Mexico.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics would have the numbers on manufacturing employment, but I am willing to bet that they are steadily down.
I think that there will continue to be some manufacturing, especially limited production high-tech type of equipment, or any kind of custom equipment. (Like a stainless steel commercial kitchen, or a racecar).
If I do go back to work in manufacturing, I figure that I may look for a liason job with one of the offshore or out of country manufacturing companies, taking advantage of the fact that I speak Spanish. I am sure that would not win me any friends among the buy American first crowd, as that would be going over to the other side.
Sorry to be so pessimistic, but I see a steady multi-year trend. Maybe we will export software and Hollywood movies and import everything else. ;-). Maybe since we are in the post-industrial age, manufacturing is no longer as important as it used to be.
I was always a manufacturing guy, my father worked in a manufacturing plant, and I never worked in any other environment. However, for me personally it has all worked out, as now I get to play with metal!
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Richard Ferguson
Interesting post. Im a machine tool mechanic and its been a VERY grim 3 yrs for manufacturing.
The medical parts shops seem to be doing pretty good. The aerospace parts have been right in the toilet The general job shops have been hurting, with auctions at an all time high.
"Bottom Line" has caused a BUNCH of work to got to both Mexico, and China. And now a lot of work is going to India and other countries that work even cheaper than China, if you can imagine that.
However.... most of my clients report that requests for quotes are picking up, purchase orders are starting to come in, and in general, things are starting to speed up once again. That for the short term....
In the long term...the outlook is bleak, at least to me and many of the forecasters. The War is requiring new parts, as inventory items are being depleted for all types of machinery, and that will continue for some time. Stockholders/CFOs driven by short term profits will continue to send work offshore.
A lot of small marginal and even some large marginal machine shops have bit the big one, in the last 3-4 yrs.
There are some other aspects that need to be looked at though. Molds for example, have been going overseas, but the return rate of utter shit has been very high, and the surviving US shops report a lot of rework of bad mold making. I suspect that a lot of folks are simply going to start specing that US shops get the work, even if its initially more expensive as the lead times and fuck up rates with overseas makers is approaching the break point, to keep it incountry.
"Just in time" orders often make it better, though not cheaper to keep the work in the US.
On the other hand..US machine shops have learned to stream line, become more efficient and more competative. Which reduces the costs while keeping the famous US quality pretty good. If the offshore machinists ever get the quality up to par with US shops..US machinist will be in a world of shit.
There is a very active and aggressive movement afoot by various organizations to force the US goverment into keeping parts sold to the Government, made in the US. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is keeping the money at home, but also making sure that critical parts for the military are not being made by a possible future enemy..its a bitch if an Abrams tank needs a critical part, and we have to order it from China, and we are ingaged in some issue with China..... If we get involved in North Korea, and China pulls the plug on trade with the US, critical items will take several years to tool up and make their way into the supply lines.
Ed Huntress on alt.machines.cnc is senior editor for Machining Magazine, and has written a series of articles on the subject, which are very worth reading.
If I was young, and about to start a career, Id personally go into the medical field, Xray, etc etc etc. Our aging population makes this a growth industry, and the future is damned cloudy about machining/manufacturing..shrug.
Please God, let there be another manufacturing boom, so I can make a bit to put aside, and when I retire, not have to make the choice between Kibbles N Bits and macaroni and cheese, and to LET me retire, and not die on the job.
"What do you call someone in possesion of all the facts? Paranoid.-William Burroughs
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If you've got a job in racing, keep it, it's as immune to Chinese competition as you're going to get. I don't blame poor Americans for buying cheap imports, it may be all they can afford. But for middle class and especially rich Americans, it's pretty callous.-Jitney
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Apart from the cost advantages of manufacturing offshore, especially in Asia, there are other advantages. Manufacturing is an area filled with risk and aggravation. Liability, health and safety , staff training, specialist and expensive skills, etc. if you import rather than manufacture, then you miss out on all that and just have logistics and storage to worry about - which you would have had anyway. Warehouse staff are a lot easier to get and cheaper than toolmakers, diesetters, etc. Geoff
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geoff merryweather
Not always. I just got back from Oshkosh and attended the seminars with Richard VanGrunsven on his RV aircraft. Afterwards I got to overhear some of the discussion on his manufacturing parts of his kit in the Phillipines. His problem is that if he gets simple sheet metal work done in the US, his kit is substantial more expensive than the competition and he goes out of business. So he is forced by market economics to go offshore. Quality is not a problem as he can make the Filipinos do the work to a standard. He doesn't do this due to greed and he isn't happy about it but he doesn't see that he has a choice.
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This is topic that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. I design custom automated machines. In Southern Ontario where I live, I would say 90% of manufacturing is somehow tied to the auto industry. Although the Japanese car companies may assemble their cars in North America, their plants create much fewer spin off jobs due to the fact that most of the high value components such as the engine and transmission come complete from overseas.
I can't blame the consumer for buying Japanese cars even though its damaging their own economy because the North American car industry does not even seem to be trying to compete in several important categories. If you want a small fuel efficient car that is not loaded with useless features you pretty well have to buy an import. If you want a car with a diesel engine VW is your only choice. Why can't Detroit design a small car that looks as good as an VW Jetta, why does the Toyota Matrix look cool while the Pontiac Vibe look like a dogs breakfast when they are pretty much the same car. Detroit is certainly not taking the long view when all they try to push is gas guzzling pickups and SUVs.
Reply to
Stanley Baer
I also work with automated machinery in Southern Ontario, and while one of my most recent jobs was at Stackpole which is, indeed, automotive, I find that the majority of work for my particular niche is in pharmaceutical or aggregates. I would expect that it would depend on what your field is.
I drive a GMC Tracker. The Tracker that I drive was assembled at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. The vast majority of the parts were no doubt made in Japan, and I doubt that buying a GMC Tracker is fundamentally 'better' for the economy than buying a Suzuki Sidekick (same car), but it seems like buying domestic isn't that different than buying a locally-assembled foreign car. What with GM dropping made-in-China long-blocks into cars... is that really better?
Agreed, they are missing some markets. I bought the Tracker because I wanted a SMALL SUV that was built the way they are, in my opinion, supposed to be built, with a full frame, two-speed transfer case, and solid axles. Good luck finding one, eh?
Pretty much, yeah. Good thing they make good engines...
I heartily agree. Hummer 2? Geez.
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Mike Graham
Just my 2 cents...The future for us will be in niche markets, innovations, high service level. The pendulum always swings both ways although the cycle may be many decades. When will the third world be unionized, have vacations, BBQ's? When will the playing field be level? Free trade? How about FAIR trade? It will come but probably not in our life-time. I just hope our children aren't so dumbed-down and programmed that they miss it.
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Tom Gardner
Here's one of them:
[This is from April. Are there URLs for the others?]
Interesting quote from the article:
"China pegs its yuan to the dollar at a fixed, official rate. The rate is artificially low by as much as 40% according to The US Senate Finance Committee. This gives them an edge in trade. The US and other developed countries want them to float their currency so it will rise, reflecting its real value. But Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, to cite just a few examples, also have artificially undervalued currencies, and they haven't done it by setting official rates. They maintain large currency reserves (China does, too) and they buy US Treasury securities when they can; both measures keep their currencies low, and their exports flowing out. There are many other tricks of the currency-devaluing trade and there's no assurance that simply floating China's currency will make a large dent in our trade balance."
Our aging population can go to Mexico for medical treatment. Many of them can't afford medical treatment here, because their jobs were exported to China before they retired...
Reply to
Ron Bean
If I was young, and about to start a career, Id personally go into the medical field, Xray, etc etc etc. Our aging population makes this a growth industry, and the future is damned cloudy about machining/manufacturing..shrug.
-Many insurance companies are sending X-rays over the wire to Indian radiologists who will diagnose and work for $30,000 vs. an American one that gets $300,000 over here. Much paperwork, such as medical billing, is going over there too. Maybe victory gardens will keep us alive...but wait, most homeowner associations (private democracy, er... Stalinism) prohibit such subversive activity.-Jitney
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As long as we pursue our present trade policies, few manufacturers have a choice. They're locked into a free-trade dogma that says we're just reeds in the current of inevitable trends. It all sounds a lot like Karl Marx and his historic inevitability, only this time the idea that our economic fate is sealed and inescapable is being promoted by multinational corporations and our own government.
As I write this I'm listening to Commerce Secretary Don Evans on C-Span talking about how many opportunities China's market is providing for us. After interviewing a number of people in government on this subject over the past few months, my feeling is that they're all utterly clueless -- or they don't care that U.S. manufacturing is taking a beating. I believe it's some of both.
Ed Huntress
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Ed Huntress
We've published two, and both are now accessible from
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The third one is being written.
-- Ed Huntress (remove "3" from email address for email reply)
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Ed Huntress
OK, I see the links now. The other one is at:
Those opportunities seem to be more ideological than real.
Several people have suggested linking imports to exports, dollar for dollar. It would be difficult to enforce, and certain special interests would scream bloody murder, but I think they'd actually pick up more domestic business than they'd lose in foreign business. Every country in the world wants to export more than they import, but that's not a realistic expectation.
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Ron Bean
Yes, The Peg. Funny how no one in Congress complained about that peg when it changed from 5.0 yuan to 8.2 in the early/mid nineties. Maybe because Our currency was lower at the time. since then, the dollar has surged and now looks at the Chinese RMB as being the evil culprit.
China can float their currency, but does anyone expect them to do so for anyone elses benefit or for their own? Lets be realistic. We dont change our currency for South America's benefit, now do we? (we just bail them out with loans).
The Chinese RMB if floated would more than likely appreciate against most major currencies in the near term. But there are many parts of the Chinese economy that is not ready to assure a solid footing. Case in point is the banks. They have a huge percent of non performing loans. This could easily lead to a crash in their currency far worse than what we see now. it has only happened Time and time again all over the world these past 15 or so years. If you read their economists views, they are trying to be cautious.
Both Taiwan and Hong Kong also peg to the US dollar. This was done out of a need for stability. If HongKong removed the peg today, their currency would probably devalue.Taiwan Just might also, since so much of their mfg is moving to the mainland.
The answer to the original post is "innovation". Should we innovate, we will survive. If we do not,most of our mfg will perish. What is the logic in having toothpicks made in the USA. Many of you will agree that there is no such logic. Well, why should it stop at toothpicks? Lets face it, even satellite manufacturers are all having their systems built and launched in China. If they can build satellites cheaper, what makes anyone think they cant do automotive, machine tools, or anything else between toothpicks and Satellites? One amusing thing about the satellite issue was the blame in the USA was actually put on Clinton in the 90's for giving satellite technology to China. It wasnt Clinton, It was Loral, Boeing and all the rest who needed China to be competitive. They freely gave this information to the Chinese and even lobbied for the right to do so. A few were even fined by Uncle Sam in later years for "giving too much". It is comical. These companies were desperate and still are for that matter.
If we do not innovate, the USA mfg environment will be relegated to small niche markets, and products of conveience. For example, items that are big and heavy, with little dollar value, will cost too much to ship by containers, so they can make them in Mexico or here in the USA. Items that need JIT delivery schedules within a weeks time will also have a good chance to stay.
But the best way for us to "break out" of this cycle is to innovate. we did it with IT in the 90's. Now we just need to find that next engine of growth and innovate. I would nominate energy as being the best all around possibility, with the greatest potential. Cheap energy independence would affect every single industry in the country and the world. Only we would be the masters of a a new technology. The possibilities are limitless.
Now would you like to donate 500 billion to my cause? Best spent 1/2 trill you ever saw.
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It's likely a lot of us will never retire. The US unions that haven't bargained away their jobs have secured some pretty impressive retirement packages- that you and I get to pay for. Something like $400 of every new Chrysler vehicle sold goes to paying retirement benefits. Ford and GM price out at about $200 per vehicle. Railroad benefits border on the obscene, as do older airlines. Union truckers do pretty darn good, too.
Please God, when I die on the job, let me fall into a chipper and leave one hell of a gory mess for someone to clean up.
Reply to
Carl Byrns
Things will get much, much worse and then they will get even worse.
Mass production will cease to exist in the United States.
Due to high speed global communications and transportation social darwinism will accelerate.
Human beings, like any organism, are driven to survive and reproduce.
Survival may mean working for a pittance as in many third-world countries or, for those fortunate enough, working with technology and making somewhat more than a laborer.
Reproduction means there will be even more people competing for resources and someone to do your job for lower pay.
The only guaranteed method of economic sucess is to exploit other people. I point to Enron, Worldcom, and Aurthur Anderson as examples. Even Bill Gates has his share of skeletons.
And if anyone thinks that economic considerations did not play a major role in the U.S.A.s recent foreign adventuring, I have some nice beachfront property in Nevada to sell you.
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It is worth noting that Rome was not a great manufacturing power, but they did rule the known world. That position brought the citizens of Rome great wealth by controlling the flow of natural resources and the delivery of goods and services.
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Gary R Coffman

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