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Critical laser cutting, welding tested in Japanese crisis

March 15, 2011 | By Tim Heston

When news broke of the earthquake-damaged nuclear plant in Japan, my mind turned to Jim Bleigh at Performance Contracting Inc., a Lenexa, Kan., company The FABRICATOR covered earlier this year. His group of talented welders, laser cutting machine operators, and assemblers fabricated strainers...

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Getting the good ones to stay

March 11, 2011 | By Dan Davis

At The FABRICATOR's Leadership Summit/6th annual Metal Matters, which just wrapped up late last week, I sat in on a discussion about ways to find good employees. The consensus among the 10 or so fabricators in this breakout session was that they are more than willing to train the right person for a...

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Who's to blame for the lack of skilled workers?

March 10, 2011 | By Vicki Bell

This month's “Fabricating Update” e-newsletter featured comments from readers who had responded to the February issue's lead item about how difficult it is to find the skilled workers modern manufacturing needs. These comments sparked a flurry of responses that not only addressed how difficult...

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Days of rage at the pump, in Libya, and in Saudi Arabia

March 9, 2011 | By Eric Lundin

Judging by the political developments in Libya and the current price of petroleum, you’d think that Libya was some sort of heavyweight exporter. Last fall West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil was trading at less than $85 per barrel on the spot market. Protests in Libya started in February, and...

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The metal fabricator and the iPhone

March 8, 2011 | By Tim Heston

Immediately after listening to a presentation at The FABRICATOR’s Leadership Summit last week, a metal fabrication executive turned on his iPhone®, rose his eyebrows, and, smiling, showed me the screen. The iPad® 2 had been announced minutes earlier. The moment couldn’t have been more...

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Welders, wars, and monuments

March 2, 2011 | By Vicki Bell

On a recent trip to the Washington D.C. area, my husband and I took the American Spirit Monument Tour. With only a little time for sightseeing, we had to choose what we wanted to see most, and the monuments won out. Yes, I have seen them many times in movies — who can forget the Lincoln Memorial...

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Welding triumphs and woes in Wisconsin

March 1, 2011 | By Amanda Carlson

There's good news coming out of Wisconsin's network of technical colleges. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported that enrollment at the state's 16 technical colleges is up 40 percent over the last decade, which aligns well with the state's prediction that middle-level jobs will grow at a...

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State of the unions

February 25, 2011 | By Dan Davis

Who would have thought that the No. 1 news story in Wisconsin so far wouldn't be the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl victory?  So continues the drama surrounding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's effort to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. The Republican-dominated Assembly...

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Are small businesses optimistic enough to hire?

February 23, 2011 | By Vicki Bell

Do you own or work for a small business? How's your business faring these days? Are you hiring?  February 16, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing titled "Putting Americans Back to Work: the State of the Small Business Economy." Speaking before the meeting, Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez...

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You can’t manufacture human rights

February 22, 2011 | By Tim Heston

The news from North Africa and the Middle East has been truly amazing lately. It’s a little scary for business owners and everyone else who depends on oil (in other words, nearly everybody).  Recent unrest in oil-rich Libya has sent oil prices skyward. But over the long term, expensive oil may...

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Pareto and the job shop

February 15, 2011 | By Tim Heston

After 10 years and two recessions, Vilfredo Pareto’s principle has had a rocky history with the job shop. The Italian economist discovered that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In business, this has come to mean that 20 percent of customers provide companies...

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Electric motorcycles? Yes please!

February 14, 2011 | By Eric Lundin

In my previous blog entry, I made some comparisons between several gasoline-powered and alternative-fuel vehicles: Two passenger cars (a Toyota Prius® and a Toyota Camry®), two exotic sports cars (a Tesla Roadster Sport and a Lotus Evora), and two motorcycles (a model S from Zero Motorcycles and...

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Sustainability could improve national security

February 14, 2011 | By Dan Davis

If you don't receive the Business Intelligence Brief from Chris Kuehl, the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association's economist, you should sign up. You can do that here. The Feb. 14 edition included a written piece by Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby from the U.S. Marine Corps. His opinions are...

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Battle on the retail front

February 11, 2011 | By Dan Davis

I was looking at the January 2011 issue of Metal Center News recently and noticed a story, "Distributors Dabble in Retail." It discussed five steel service centers that had opened up retail fronts to move metal. The motivations for opening retail locations, either at the actual warehouse sites, or...

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Kyle and the welding instructor

February 9, 2011 | By Vicki Bell

Note from Vicki Bell: This post, written by welding instructor Marty Rice, honors his students, particularly those who have served in the Armed Forces, and illustrates the special bond between teacher and student. One of the worst things a teacher can hear is the death of a student. I've lost them...

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