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Investor and consumer versus the citizen

February 23, 2010 | By Tim Heston

Dennis Rider’s career path changed directions recently, as reported by The Grand Rapids Press. After 27 years as a roll forming and laser cutting machine operator, he was let go in 2007. After spending serious time job hunting, Rider decided to retrain as an auto mechanic. He told the newspaper...

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Customer service issues

February 19, 2010 | By Dan Davis

Talking with successful metal fabricators, I'm beginning to feel that they are the only companies left that remain committed to customer service. Lean manufacturing improvements are all about getting fabricated products to the customer sooner. Investments in engineering personnel and tools are made...

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Carbon-free electric cars? Not quite

February 18, 2010 | By Eric Lundin

The headline caught my attention like few do: “Oh-so quick and even carbon-free.” The article discussed Tesla Motors’ Roadster®, the $110,000 beauty that uses lithium-ion battery technology—6,831 individual cells, to be exact—to power a 375-VAC induction motor that redlines at 14,000...

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We don't need another fantasy

February 17, 2010 | By Vicki Bell

One of the much-touted bright spots for the future of manufacturing in the U.S. and the economy overall is the green energy revolution. Part of this uprising (we have nowhere to go but up) includes companies producing products for wind, solar, and nuclear power and creating high-paying jobs in the...

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Grabbing the skilled-labor issue by the horns

February 16, 2010 | By Tim Heston

High unemployment has muted manufacturing’s cry for skilled workers, but the cry is still there. It’s a paradox. As manufacturers shed unskilled workers, those who are left must be more skilled and versatile than ever. According to the Labor Department, American manufacturing produces more...

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The aftermath of exuberant times

February 12, 2010 | By Dan Davis

Remember former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments about the U.S. economy being swept up in "irrational exuberance"? He used the phrase in 1996 to describe the stock market boom that might have been overvalued. To be frank, I thought he had coined the phrase in the 2000s to...

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Stop the bloodletting

February 10, 2010 | By Vicki Bell

Last month the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that December mass layoffs and initial unemployment claims were at the lowest levels since July 2008. Even if they are happening at a slower pace, layoffs continue and are having a devastating effect on workers, the economy, and companies'...

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Personifying Toyota

February 9, 2010 | By Tim Heston

This morning’s announcement of Toyota’s recall of 437,000 hybrid vehicles seems to have brought the automaker’s woes to a whole new level. Judging by the media coverage, these events are epic. Want to understand the media circus around the Toyota recall? Here’s a little something John...

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My mom, the informant

February 5, 2010 | By Dan Davis

My mother is a retired elementary school teacher, and I'm married to a high school math teacher. Inevitably if the two are together for any length of time, the discussion turns to public education. The opinions are impassioned and obviously biased, but the input is valuable in understanding how a...

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'150 jobs for $1.3 million would be a steal'

February 3, 2010 | By Vicki Bell

Among the items in last month’s “Tube Talk” e-newsletter was one about Leonard Maniscalco, who owns Sackett Systems Inc., Bensenville, Ill. This small-business owner wants the government to give him a $1.3 million grant. In return, he’ll create 150 new jobs. According to Chicago Tribune...

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The dangers of hiring on the cheap

February 2, 2010 | By Tim Heston

Despite the drama at Toyota (talk about the risk of standardized parts) and the political sideshows in Washington, on the main stage of American life, something’s happening. Business is decidedly better. As Chris Kuehl, economist for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, put it in a...

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The future of training

January 28, 2010 | By Eric Lundin

Whether or not you follow all the latest trends in digital technology, you’ve probably seen fancy devices such as the Smartphone from BlackBerry® or the iPhone from Apple. They allow you to do all sorts of things—play music, send and receive text messages, take photos, record and edit video,...

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I’ll know the recession has ended when...

January 27, 2010 | By Vicki Bell

Tonight, President Barack Obama will take the podium to deliver his State of the Union address. In his preview of the speech, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Obama hopes to use his message to “outline a hopeful track for our future.” He also said, “The president is going...

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From software developer to plumber

January 20, 2010 | By Vicki Bell

Yesterday was one of those days. Late in the afternoon, the first of three guys who came to replace our burst hot water heater showed up. Brian introduced himself, and I directed him to the failed heater that had caused some damage (soggy, stinky carpet) and left us hot-waterless for almost a day....

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GI Bill for the shop floor

January 18, 2010 | By Tim Heston

This recession has got me thinking about careers. As you know, unemployment still is uncomfortably high. Businesses may be recovering, but they aren’t hiring in a substantial way just yet. The talking heads on TV are pointing fingers, saying the government stimulus hasn’t led to any significant...

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