Thursday, July 13, 2006
That Factory Sure Has A Lot of Flagpoles
English autoworkers from the
That deal seems to have changed now, because Nanjing has announced it’s going to start manufacturing MG cars again in Ardmore, Oklahoma, employing about 350 people to build a new MG TF coupe. The new plant arrives after General Motors closed a manufacturing facility in
Got that? It’s an English car, whose brand was bought out by the Chinese, and it’ll be assembled in the
The Spirit of 76 Dollars a Barrel: Price Pains Extend from Pumps to Purchasing Offices
Oil prices will probably hit a new high today due to rising geopolitical drama (Iran, Israel vs. Lebanon, Don King Jong-Il in North Korea). In
Construction, especially road construction, is feeling the pinch. It costs more to fill up and run machinery, and it also costs more to lay down asphalt—liquid asphalt costs are rising, which could affect the rate at which your local roads get repaired (see also How The World Works’s ramble on the subject here). Asphalt is found in roofing shingles, textile waterproofing and wood treatments as well as streets and parking lots. Even though asphalt pavement is the single most recycled substance in the U.S.—80% of it gets reused—new asphalt is still needed, and it’s getting more expensive.
Another insidious price hike linked to the rise in a barrel of crude is the climbing cost of plastics, the majority of which are petroleum-derived (or contain petrochemical additives). While most manufacturers are absorbing the costs at present, Plastics Technology magazine notes, just before rattling off a list of cost jumps, that “The holiday is over.” If plastics prices squeeze manufacturers hard enough, the costs of everything from bottles to Barbie dolls could inch upwards. Increased plastics prices (especially those for resin-based plastics) is already causing molders and other manufacturers who purchase plastics to change their buying plans. Purchasing.com took a survey, and has seen an uptick in the number of companies who will reduce their buying as a result of the climbing costs.
Recycling capacity for plastics has increased and broadened, which is good. And scientists are working harder to create plastics made from other sources—good old rubber and other plants—that perform as well as the hydrocarbon-based kinds. But until those two trends become mainstream (or the
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Would Your HR Team Know The Difference?
Here’s a little piece of investigative reporting from yesterday’s New York Post: an undercover journalist in
“Immigration experts who reviewed my fake green card agreed the document looks authentic - but said that upon closer examination, slight flaws became obvious. I would say a person that does not deal with these green cards will take this as a genuine one," said Maria Delgado, who has seen hundreds of green cards at the
There’s a stereotype that all illegal immigrants land jobs either as nannies, restaurant chefs, construction laborers, or crop pickers. But many illegal immigrants work in industrial food processing (meat packing or poultry processing, say) and manufacturing as well. With the Federal Government debating various bills and promising crackdowns on companies that hire ineligible aliens, you’d think there would be a rush to send potential employers information about how to spot fraudulent green cards or other residency documentation. It would save companies having to defend themselves against charges that they knowingly hired an illegal, and it would protect the rights of legal immigrants who are trying in good faith to get a job. It would make sense, right?
Here’s what the government says about employer responsibilities when hiring:
You must examine the document(s) and, if they reasonably appear on their face to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them, you must accept them. To do otherwise could be an unfair immigration-related employment practice. If a document does not reasonably appear on its face to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting it, you must not accept it. You may contact your local ICE office for assistance. To get the address and telephone number of the ICE office nearest you, please click the ICE district office directory.
Fair enough. We’re not encouraging discrimination against people who speak English with an accent or who “look foreign” (what does that mean in
By dint of combing through a few PDFs, we found that there is a publication that will show you what many common identity and immigration documents should look like. It’s called the “Guide to Selected Travel/Identity Documents” form, and you can order it by calling the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ forms bureau at (800) 870-3676.
Here are a few other interesting articles on the subject of illegal immigration:
- In regards to
, we’ve been here and done this before: Ike dealt with it in the ‘50s. (Christian Science Monitor) Mexico
- Could the problem be solved by building microelectronics factories on the US/Mexico border? (Tekrati)
- The Fabricator.com’s blog looks at illegal immigration. [note—their site is a great resource for folks in metal fabrication—as their name obviously suggests.] (The Fabricator)
Chips are Up, Chips are Down
It’s the one sector of the manufacturing business in which the
But some pundits say there’s a slowdown in the making. From Chris Kraeuter at Forbes.com:
“There are too many new factories coming that will soon start pumping out too many chips. ‘It's almost like a tsunami coming,’ says George Burns, president of Strategic Marketing Associates, a research firm focused on semiconductor factories. He expects a good finish to this year for equipment purchases but predicts that order cancellations will be the norm by the second quarter of next year.”
Even if that’s not true, the
Also, while the EU and
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Corn: Is There Anything It Can’t Do?
Manufacturers’ R&D Departments Turn Humble Ear Into Gold
When we talk about the “agriculture business” today, we rarely mean small farmers or even large corporate farms that mass-produce simple foodstuffs. Increasingly, agriculture is linked to energy production and the chemical products industry. Food scientists at some of the largest companies are taking corn and soybeans into the lab and coming back with compounds that are used in pharmaceuticals, polymers that find their way into the body of your car, or oils that lubricate industrial machinery more reliably. Via Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, we’ve learned about the R&D miracles happening in just one company’s laboratories: Tate & Lyle. From the article:
“Decatur [IL], home to the largest of Tate & Lyles' labs, is the key to the company's plans. Another 40 or so food scientists work at a lab in
Nearly 160 food scientists, each with their own laboratory, are working to develop the next additive that could allow Kraft Foods Inc. or Sara Lee Corp. to create healthier cookies with greater taste appeal or develop the next polymer that can be used to create a new fabric. Since 2002, the company has boosted research and development spending by about 50 percent.”
Tate & Lyle are a British company, originally just a sugar refiner, but now they’re one of the world’s premier food ingredient manufacturers. Have you used the artificial sweetener Splenda? That’s a Tate & Lyle product, and there are hundreds of others that make your food creamier (but with less fat), crispier (without needing to be fried) or more savory (without requiring more salt).
In recent years T&L have turned their attention towards making renewable and sustainable ingredients and products. In partnership with DuPont, they’ve developed a corn-based polymer called Bio-PDO (PDO is for “1,3, propanediol”). DuPont is building a plant in
Monday, July 10, 2006
Big Love: Automakers Eye 3-Way Alliance
GM announced late last week that it’s going to consider becoming the third partner in the Renault-Nissan alliance. Not that it needs to enter the global stage—GM already has brands in production all over the world. It’s just that an international partnership might abet GM’s North American restructuring attempt by lowering the overall cost of materials and parts. If the move happens, the three-pronged conglomerate would produce nearly a quarter of the world’s automobiles. GM’s board met on July 7 to begin mulling over the deal.
One of GM’s biggest shareholders, Tracinda Corp. (led by Kirk Kerkorian), has been agitating for the move for a while now. Tracinda Corp isn’t pleased with what it considers the slow progress of GM’s restructuring push, and feels that a global partnership could help the company lower costs of materials. While GM is still the world’s largest automaker, it posted $10.6 billion in losses last year, and rival
The head of the Renault-Nissan partnership is one Carlos Ghosn (pronounced “cone”), a/k/a “Le Cost Cutter”, who more or less single-handedly steered Nissan away from the brink of bankruptcy by slashing costs after persuading it to partner up with Renault in 1999. Business analysts are looking askance at the alliance; they’re doubtful if it would have long-term benefits beyond a short-term drop in operating costs due to increased purchasing power. One analyst says that large-scale cost reduction would only be possible if the three automakers agreed to collaborate on a project-by-project basis. GM isn’t quite in the horrible state Nissan was seven years ago, so it’s probably not going to want to take orders from
Pros, cons, and forecasts aside, mass mergers may be the wave of the future for the auto industry. If the GM-Nissan-Renault deal happens, IndustryWeek (among others) says to expect a rash of corporate marriages, including a possible DaimlerChrysler-Volkswagen partnership.
Monday Short Bits: News Digested for the Post-Weekend Brain
Here are the stories—in policy, politics, and elsewhere—that will dominate the week for business and manufacturing:
Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, calls on the US to cut agriculture subsidies ahead of the G8 Summit. (Reuters via Yahoo! News)
On Wall Street they’re rubbing their hands over this week’s earnings reports. After recent upsy-downy results due to fears about interest rates and the economy, second-quarter earnings have the street feeling upbeat. On deck to report this week are Alcoa, General Electric, PepsiCo, and Genentech, Inc. (Wall Street Journal)
Foreign Policy Fun:
Tomorrow the Iranians will issue a preliminary response to an incentives package offered them by EU nations in exchange for ending their uranium enrichment program. It was hoped Iran would give a final answer about whether it’d accept the package, but it says that will wait until August 22. Oil prices slid back down below $74/bbl due to optimism about the package. (Reuters, Forbes.com)
Badly rattled by Kim Jong-Il’s missile tests last week, Japan is mulling over the constitutionality (and feasibility) of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. (Seattle Times, Associated Press)