In the news the other day was the CEO of General Motors, frankly admitting that if conditions do not improve for his company then Pontiac or Buick may be eliminated. No suprise if you follow this sort of thing.
Here are some of my observations on "the state of American manufacturing". Many of you are significantly younger than this 56-year old coot and chances are you have had limited exposure to any manufacturing plants or processes.
After I graduated from high school and before I wandered off to university I spent some time living in Chicago, with a friend who was going to school there. When we would cruise the streets of the metro we would see hundreds of signs in front of manufacturing plants advertising for "help wanted". I remember cruising past a Sunbeam plant and the sign had about twenty (20) different jobs listed.
Inside that plant.....and most American plants.....most of what was being made was done internally, almost from scratch. A garage door, a refrigerator, a transmission.....all of these were made from stamped and cast materials, usually metal. Giant stamping machines would do a "flywheel dance" and punch out a metal hinge or a door panel or a metal clip that was part of the inside of a medical machine.
The 1990's & After
Because of the size of many products......garage doors, refrigerators, lawn mowers.....many products are still assembled in the USA. Some of the larger parts, such as larger metal stampings, are still done stateside. But many of the internal "stuff" that helps to make all of the things we use is now plastic, usually poured into a mold in a city in China or Japan or Sri Lanka.
The rate at which we now make "things" is the highest ever. Ergonomically-friendly machines, controlled by a micro-chip, now do the work that used to require a group of people lined up at a bench. Products have been re-engineered so that now-plastic "clip" is built so it can handle a number of different placements in the assembly process.
Better minds than ours have discussed forever the issues that drove these changes. Unions, the move of manufacturing to "the south", environmental laws.....all played important parts in the changes. The bottom line is that American manufacturing is now just a shadow of its' former self.....if you measure in the terms of humans involved. American manufacturing is more productive, safer, and more techically-advanced than ever before.
The days of cruising past a Sunbeam plant and reading the "help wanted" sign are long gone. American manufacturing is still here, still strong, but is a whole lot different than when I was coming out of high school.
Your views on the state of manufacturing?