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Manufacturing, Jobs or Grants to Americans

June 28, 2016

There has been considerable discussion recently concerning proposals to provide every person a guaranteed annual grant.

There have been three basic reasons for these proposals.

  1. To protect people who lose their jobs due to job displacement, especially from robots and technology replacing people.
  2. To replace the welfare state with an annual grant for every US adult.
  3. To revive our civic culture.

Interestingly, a referendum in Switzerland to have every person receive an annual grant was decisively defeated, but the Wall Street Journal devoted two pages to a similar proposal for the United States.

However, even the author of the Wall Street Journal article admitted it wouldn’t work unless all welfare payments, including social security and medicare, were repealed.

This is utopian thinking, as there will always be someone who will be in need, and who will get sufficient political support for additional payments.

Why grants would revive our civic culture is beyond me, because civic culture involves human nature.

It’s my view that any proposal for an annual grant is a bad idea, first, because it is not feasible, and second, because it undermines the economic stability of the country while sending the wrong economic message to people.

The Wall Street Journal also recently published an entire section on the future of manufacturing, or how to revitalize manufacturing in the United States.

Manufacturing, to me, is at the core of job creation, and is contradictory to the concept of free money, or grants.

Welding

Welding

Until now, virtually all my articles have dealt with energy, but now, some of my articles will address manufacturing and jobs. Other people can consider whether the welfare state can be replaced and whether civic culture can be revived with an annual grant of money. My focus, when not on energy, will be on manufacturing and job creation.

My first love was for the sea, which took me, as a cadet/midshipman, to Asia, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and down the East coast of South America while I was 19.

My second love was for manufacturing, including service, which is really the component of manufacturing that deals with products that have been placed into operation.

I spent three years on General Electric’s manufacturing management program, with work assignments in several manufacturing businesses, including DC motors, locomotives, small jet engines, naval ordnance, steam turbines and transformers.

The program was, in most respects, the equivalent of a master’s degree program, while involving real working assignments in manufacturing.

My assignments were in several disciplines: Manufacturing engineering, production control, materials management, and purchasing, coupled with academic studies in related subjects, such as scientific quality control using statistical methods for monitoring the quality of parts and products being produced, and for determining and assuring the reliability of machines to operate at required levels of precision.

My upcoming articles on such things as robots and advanced manufacturing processes have evolved from these experiences.

My first article on manufacturing will address robots, because they are currently in vogue.

There is some preliminary, fundamental information that must be discussed before proceeding to robots.

To begin with, every product has a material list that itemizes every part in the product.

Material lists can include several thousand parts, each part with a specific drawing number.

Each drawing will define the dimensions, including tolerances, and materials to be used in each part.

Materials management and production control will explode these lists to determine how many of each part is required for a production run, and how much material will be needed. Some of these materials, such as forgings, may require long lead times, which must be accounted for when scheduling the factory.

Fortunately today, exploding the materials list can be computerized together with much of the scheduling.

Materials management must manage inventories, both working inventories and finished products. Reducing the number pf parts in a product, and the number of products while still meeting customer needs, helps reduce investment in inventories.

There are thousands of manufacturing processes that must be understood, which is where manufacturing engineering is involved.

For example:

  • Removing metal can be done by drilling, broaching, vertical or horizontal boring, milling, turning on a lathe, reaming or grinding.
  • Cutting materials can be done using saws, acetylene torches, lasers or shears.
  • Forming can be done by stamping, or hydro forming, forging, the use of hydraulic presses, extrusion, brake presses or injection moulding. Powdered metallurgy can be useful for some parts.
  • Forming requires making tools and dies, a vital component of manufacturing.
  • Holding, including pre-positioning, requires jigs and fixtures. Prepositioning is critical for the use of automated equipment or robotics.
  • Painting can involve spray painting, with or without electrostatic systems and immersion. Other coatings, including epoxies may involve fluid beds.
  • Applying wear resistant materials can be done with flame spray or welding.
  • Joining materials can include spot welding, riveting, the use of screws, brazing or epoxy.
  • There are several types of welding that can be used for joining or for repair work including TIG, arc (stick or wire fed), MIG, resistance, submerged arc, flash and many variations such as flux cored wire.

These lists are not intended to be all inclusive, but merely to illustrate the scope and complexity of manufacturing processes.

Manufacturing engineering needs to select the appropriate process and machine tool to make all the parts called for in the material list, taking into consideration the required tolerances, costs and the amount of scrap that’s produced with each process, or whether to outsource production of a specific part or process … or whether the part needs to be redesigned for manufacturability.

Computers used for designing parts, can allow drawings to be downloaded directly to the machine tool.

Additive manufacturing, i.e., 3-D printing, can be useful where standard processes can’t make the part economically, or where the number of parts and sub assemblies can be reduced to a single part, or where the design can be modified to replace several parts with a single part that can only be produced with additive manufacturing.

I apologize for this lengthy discussion, but an appreciation of these fundamental processes is essential when thinking about manufacturing and job creation.

There is also the impact of regulations that affect cost and availability. Large castings, for example, may not be available in the United States because of the regulations that have made casting facilities uneconomic.

There is also the question of critical mass, such as when there are insufficient production facilities to support critical skills, and how to create those skills, when lost, in the work force.

Next, robots, which aren’t that new, in manufacturing.

* * * * * *

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2016 9:42 am

    Donn, As usual, some very good points. I stumbled on a report by the CRS (Congressional Research Service) on Manufacturing in America and the rise of China. The link is:
    Congressional Research Service, April 2016 Report by Mark Levinson on American and World Manufacturing Statistics and trends: http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42135.pdf

    Thank you for all you do to point out energy and National Policy issues and some of the consequences of poor energy policies. Warm regards,
    Dick Storm

  2. FLRETIREE permalink
    June 28, 2016 9:19 pm

    Looking forward to your comments on workers being replaced by automation/robots. What should society’s response be?

  3. June 29, 2016 7:48 am

    Donn,
    I am looking forward to learning more about manufacturing from someone who has been there, Lengthy is good!
    Manufacturing requires energy and so the energy topic just gets expanded. Also any energy topic must include a consideration of materials.
    This is going to be good. I smell another book 😉
    Lois

    • June 29, 2016 8:33 am

      Thank you very much for your comment. Another book? I’m not so sure.

  4. August 26, 2016 8:03 am

    Companies Bringing Manufacturing Jobs Back to US

    http://www.industryweek.com/workforce/companies-bringing-manufacturing-jobs-back-us?NL=IW-07&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_10_b&utm_rid=CPG03000001427928&utm_campaign=14156&utm_medium=email&elq2=29f41539182b4b49a4592b5c476aaf51#slide-0-field_images-354091

    “From Jan, 2010 until July 2016 the Reshoring Initiative estimates that 265,000 jobs have come back to the United States from abroad.

    The Reshoring Initiative’s 2015 Reshoring Report found that the reasons companies gave for coming back to the U.S. included:
    ◦Government incentives
    ◦Ecosystems/localization
    ◦Proximity to customers
    ◦Skilled workforce

    At the same time, companies cited lower quality, supply interruption (this category had the largest increase from last year), high freight costs and delivery as leading problems offshore. Cumulatively, rising wages and total cost have been major drivers in reshoring decisions.”

    There is a slideshow showing who is reshoring.

    • August 26, 2016 8:23 am

      Thanks.
      This shows it can be done.

      • August 26, 2016 9:15 am

        I think it just took time for certain problems to show up. At one of my former jobs, I bought a small laboratory ball mill that I have always bought for decades. Works great. Except the last one I bought kept blowing out fuses. Turns out – it was the fuses (made in China) that the company now supplied.. The company sent me fuses made in Germany and they worked fine. More expensive but they were not throw always! So actually they were cheaper in the long run. I found this to be true for many laboratory items – especially high temperature furnaces where the price of fuses gets expensive. Quality is very important. And quality is a combination of workers skills and high quality raw material.

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