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Interview: The Manufacturing Economy, From The Trenches

Steve Kline is the Director of Market Intelligence for Gardner Business Media (publisher of  Modern Machine Shop and other media serving manufacturing since 1923). Steve’s work at Gardner gives him a unique perspective on the US economy, since he studies and reports on very specific manufacturing subsets of it – capital equipment, machine tools, and the economic performance of associated manufacturing technologies & their impact on the companies that sell and purchase them. His work is published regularly on Gardner’s Manufacturing Economic News Blog, and he regularly works with manufacturing groups and associations on research of the US  & global manufacturing economies.

I sat down with Steve to discuss the current state of the manufacturing technology economy, and its vitality in the coming years.

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5 Reasons Why This May Be The Answer To Our Manufacturing Skills Crisis

In the heart of the US’ manufacturing heartland, a very special ‘machine shop’ with an equally special ‘shop manager’ just may well have found the solution to our manufacturing skills crisis. And it’s likely unlike any manufacturing business you’ve ever seen.

What makes this ‘shop’ special is that it’s housed in Eleva-Strum Central High School in Wisconsin, and all aspects of the business – Cardinal Manufacturing – are run by Eleva-Strum students.

It’s a remarkable model that – if accepted and considered by other US school districts & high schools – could have immeasurable impact on improving our long-term shortage of manufacturing talent in the US. Why? Because Cardinal has implemented a program that bridges the gap between technical proficiency and business acumen – something that only apprenticeships have accomplished in the past.

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IMTS 2012 – Social Media, Technology, And The Manufacturing Vibe

I attended IMTS 2012 last month in Chicago, and of all that I’ve been to – each one since 1996 – this was, by far, the best. Ever.

Maybe it has as much to do with the fact that, considering where we’ve been recently, anything beyond a poke in the eye with a sharp stick would’ve been an improvement. But I don’t think that has much to do with what I saw and heard.

There were many unique qualities to IMTS 2012, but few deserve a mention more than the ‘coming out’ party for Social Media. And that’s as much for what it didn’t do, as much as for what it did.

Here’s a look at my observations about the 2012 show, and where Social Media are at in the manufacturing sector.

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When Handing Out Blame for the Manufacturing Skills Shortage, Look In the Mirror Too

For many years, some in manufacturing have been warning about the lack of qualified, motivated talent in the industrial trades. Today, those chickens are coming home to roost.

We’re in the middle of a perfect storm with regards to finding the employees to design & build our way back to prosperity. With much of our higher-paying production – and the ancillary jobs that support it – offshored in the chase for cheaper labor costs, we’re caught with our pants down. As more and more OEMs and large manufacturers are realizing the total landed costs of offshored products & services, the will to reshore manufacturing is tempered by the lack of personnel to accept repatriated work.

I hear daily from manufacturing executives, managers, and C-suite suits what a national disgrace this is. That we have to do something. That we should have seen this coming. Well, I have a message for you all right now.

You’re right, and you helped cause this mess. So what are you gonna do about it?

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A Case For Robotics & Automation In US Manufacturing

Kuka Robotics has created an Infographic that presents the advantages that robotics and automation bring to US manufacturing. Feel free to argue all you want that Kuka has a dog in this fight – you’re right.

But now what? Does that make them wrong? I say it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, I happen to agree with the premise that the use of robotics/automation to support the right applications can in fact play a strong role in reshoring production back to the US.

Check out this Infographic from Kuka to get a clearer picture of this premise. (And look below the Infographic for a few more points from me on the subject.)

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