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Metal fabricating with focus amid chaos

January 8, 2013

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Early last year, I recall eating lunch in the break room at Atlanta-based Metcam, which hosted a press brake training seminar run by Steve Benson and organized by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. Sitting across from me was a press brake supervisor, we chatted a bit about his tours...

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Chipmunks on the fiscal cliff

December 18, 2012

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In 2009 and 2010, I offered a little tongue-in-cheek look at current issues in December blog posts—one a parody of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and the other, a really lame take on “Let it Snow.” This year, I was motivated by Alvin and the Chipmunks to revive this holiday exercise to...

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Thoughts on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary

December 18, 2012

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It’s difficult to write today. The events of last Friday, Dec. 14, continue to weigh on my mind and the minds of everyone I know. Looking at all the sweet faces of innocent young children and those brave souls who tried to protect them is almost unbearable. You can’t do so without thinking of...

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A thanks to you all

December 17, 2012

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When I visit a contract metal fabricator, often the focus really isn’t about the metal parts or the fancy machinery. It’s about co-workers, who often happen to be family members. Some aren’t blood relatives, but they might as well be. There’s a real sense of community at these shops. I’ve...

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The competitive cluster in metal fabrication

December 13, 2012

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A recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out the strength of U.S. manufacturing when it comes to--get ready for the technical jargon--“big stuff.” By that the Journal reporter meant mining equipment and heavy machinery. Economist Chris Kuehl pointed out this fact in a recent edition of...

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Wanted: Experienced workers who never retire

December 13, 2012

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"They've tried for two years to find my replacement, but they didn't find one yet," said 67-year-old Gil Smith, a second-shift welding technician for Rose City Manufacturing, Springfield, Ohio. He shared that fact with me after saying that he had read the December edition of the Fabricating Update...

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Go north, young welder?

December 13, 2012

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Recently, my fellow blogger Tim Heston published a post that cited a New York Times article from November about how entry level pay in manufacturing is waning. The article quoted a Boston Consulting Group report that actually questioned the skilled labor crisis: "Trying to hire high-skilled workers...

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Unions, right-to-work laws, and technical training

December 12, 2012

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On Dec. 20, 1936, workers at a  GM plant in Flint, Mich., had enough--and sat down. Many consider that sit-down strike in 1936 as the impetus for the modern labor movement. That made yesterday’s news more poignant--when Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature made Michigan a right-to-work state. People...

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A year's worth of advice

December 12, 2012

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It's customary for people to reflect on what has taken place over the last year. As I was flipping through each issue of Practical Welding Today from 2012, I found myself re-reading the advice that welders and fabricators shared in each of the Shop Stories features. As we approach the new year,...

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Skills gap, or education gap?

December 11, 2012

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Government officials are paying more attention to manufacturing these days. It’s now politically prudent to preach the merits of reshoring, near-shoring, and the return of the “good manufacturing job.” Of course, this also puts more scrutiny on manufacturing as an industry. Are these good...

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Labor strikes reveal strengths, weaknesses

December 6, 2012

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In the end, the labor strike was just eight days long, but for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, an eight-day strike idles a large number of workers and ties up a lot of cargo. The dispute largely centered around the alleged outsourcing of jobs, an accusation brought by the International...

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Another training option

December 5, 2012

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Last week I wrote about vocational training—how programs that were being decimated a decade ago are seeing a strong comeback with even stronger participation. Many are adding classes to accommodate waiting lists. While music to manufacturers’ ears, this training alone likely will not be enough...

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It's a jungle out there

November 30, 2012

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What makes a jungle a scary place? It's probably fear of what might happen—not so much of what has happened. Uncertainty feeds paranoia, and paranoia forces one to lose focus. Without focus, a person is more likely to find himself in a dangerous spot. Upton Sinclair observed those dangers...

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Vocational training a good bet

November 28, 2012

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Among my job duties is scouring the Internet for news of interest to the metal fabricating community. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t run across items related to a topic of particular interest to metal fabricators—the shortage of skilled labor. It seems that every notable publication...

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How black was Black Friday?

November 28, 2012

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If you tend to avoid crowds, lines, and hassles, you probably spent Nov. 23, Black Friday, doing something other than shopping. And for good reason—the tales of pushing, shoving, and fighting seem to get worse every year. On the other hand, if you wonder what consumers are up to, you probably...

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