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Posts Tagged ‘green’

[VIDEO] Manufacturing necessary for sustainable healthy economy

Posted by Bert Maes on June 21, 2010

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) interviewed a wide range of individuals from professionals in the field, students, professors, think tank scholars, etc.

The video is geared to a variety of audiences including but not limited to student groups, faith-based groups, environmentalists, policy makers, retirees and general interest groups.


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The future of Manufacturing in Europe 2015-2020: 4 SCENARIOS

Posted by Bert Maes on February 23, 2010

In 2003 the European Commission released a report on 4 scenarios on the Future of European Manufacturing in the next 2 decades.

First, I shortly describe the 4 scenarios and its implications for education.

Second, I reflect on the scenario I see Europe following today, 7 years after the release of the report.

SCENARIO 1: The European Union doesn’t get stronger, large multinationals shape international trade, consumers don’t care much about environmental impacts of production and consumption. Energy efficiency in production improves only because of strategies of company cost reduction. There are no incentives for radical changes.
>> In EDUCATION, due to the lack of government commitment, more and more private initiatives will pop up, focusing on excellence in education.

  • Reflection: The European Union is weak and will probably always be weak. The creation of the EU presidency post following the Lisbon Treaty was great. But Europe will never be unified as a transnational entity: too many cultural and historical differences, too many national minorities, all protecting their own interests. Guy Verhofstadt, president of the European Liberals ELDR recently wrote that the future of Europe doesn’t lie in the juxtaposition of national identities. “That would be a Europe that is incapable of solving problems,” Verhofstadt says,  “that would be a Europe that can’t play a significant role in the multi-polar world of the 21st century.
    >> This means that private initiatives in EDUCATION will be crucial to raise the quality and attractiveness of manufacturing education.

SCENARIO 2: Regional governments take over and determine policy priorities. Strict environmental regulations lead to a concentration of manufacturing activities in creative regional clusters that work with radical new manufacturing approaches and alternative energy systems for cleaner production. But there is little trans-regional coordination of policies.
>> In EDUCATION regional government bodies will work closely with industry and associations in training initiatives.

  • Reflection: Building regional innovative clusters is probably the right way forward. Economic growth and economic business is generated by autonomous regions, not by nations. In my view, the source of prosperity is always REGIONAL, e.g. Hong Kong/Shenzhen, Singapore/Johore/Batam, Taiwan/Fujian, South China, South India (Bangalore), Northern Mexico, North West coast of US (Silicon Valley), Eindhoven Netherlands for the ICT industry, North Rhine-Westphalia & Bavaria Germany for chips, Cambridge UK for Mechanical engineering, Northern Italy for Valves. [Related: the pledge from Mitch Free (CEO at for regional Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with reduced tax burdens, streamlined bureaucracy and administrative requirements]
    >> BUT the weakness of the whole system is EDUCATION, i.e. the supply of human resources. You can have the right ideas, work hard, take initiatives, bring together governments, professors, companies, students & financiers to make new companies happen, you can have lots of money, but without the right people with the right skills and with the right tools you will not make it. A strong economy is routed in a strong educational system.

SCENARIO 3: Global governance emerges, that promotes sustainability . The European Union defines and implements clear sustainability policies, with energy taxes, emission charges, strict regulations and financial incentives. Governments watch the designing and implementing of new technologies closely. Major technological breakthroughs result in more environmental production with renewable materials.
>> In EDUCATION governments retain the lead role, emphasizing interdisciplinary training, soft skills and problem solving capabilities. This scenario requires a highly qualified labor force with new skills to operate and manage sustainable production systems.

  • Reflection: The global governance is the ideal scenario for sustainability of our planet. But as said in Scenario 1: I doubt if Europe will ever speak with a unified voice. Moreover, the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009 has shown us how difficult it is to unlock a global collective action.
  • >> On the other hand, TRAINING in interdisciplinary skills will become more important as the manufacturing industry will be completely reinvented by online communities, asking for highly customized products and smart, creative, innovative thinkers that will set up completely new client-centered business models to better meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers. [One of my posts that is linked with this: “The Small Batch Movement“]

SCENARIO 4: Europe establishes a strong industrial policy, but there is little willingness of China and India to include environmental and social concerns in their production. There are incentives for industry to invest in sustainable manufacturing solutions, but they run along existing application trajectories.
>> In EDUCATION there will be a EU-wide training certification system, coordinating public and private training schemes focusing in excellence in education.

  • Reflection: Europe that is focused on itself is PROBABLY WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW. East Asia is a huge competitive problem. So Europe will try to push innovation in high quality technologies that use new eco-friendly materials and product designs. That will create new export opportunities for companies. But – unfortunately – I don’t expect radical shifts in European manufacturing.
    >> Although in EDUCATION a EU-wide training certification system is a very interesting track to bring together all public and private education initiatives and could set the world-wide standard for manufacturing training.

Dear READER: >> Do you think of other scenarios? Or do you have different reflections?

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Only the manufacturers with highly skilled machinists can survive: an example

Posted by Bert Maes on February 17, 2010

Detroit-area auto suppliers are differentiating and rolling in new business. At least 100 auto suppliers already have secured contracts in other industries and that at least 250 have bid for work.

The machine tool and parts company W Industries, once an exclusive supplier to the auto industry, is now:

  • Making heavy steel parts for the frames, bodies and gun mounts of Humvees and Stryker combat vehicles destined for Afghanistan and Iraq. (see CHART expected growth in defense)
  • Testing the Orion space module by simulating the violent vibrations of liftoff. The NASA Orion space program aims to send human explorers to the moon by 2020 and then to Mars and beyond. (see CHART expected growth in aerospace)
  • Finishing a steel mold that will be used to make 70-foot-long roof sections of Airbus A350 passenger jets.

Race-car engine developer McLaren Performance Technologies is now making components for thousands of SunCatcher solar dishes, and is helping to design and build the motorized units that will convert concentrated sunlight into electricity. (See CHART expected growth in energy & resources)

Dowding Industries, a tool-and-die shop for Oldsmobile in 1965, later expanded into metal auto parts, tractor and rail car parts. In 2006, the company started to develop better-performing tools for plane makers and wind turbine components, in one-fifth the time of current methods. The carbon-composite blades will be 30 percent lighter than fiberglass blades and last 20 years or longer. (See article: the challenges of manufacturing wind turbines). Dowding sees opportunities to use similar technologies for bridges, expressways and ships.

Upcoming products in Michigan include remotely piloted military aircraft, lithium-ion batteries (Johnson Controls), the next-generation wind turbines (General Electric), a Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier engineering center, solar panels and battery systems for utilities.

What makes this shift possible?

The standard of manufacturing in the automotive industry is extraordinarily high in Detroit, and that is the only place you can find such a concentration of skills, for R&D, pilot projects and early-stage production.

The main allure of the Detroit area is its ability to quickly turn designs and prototypes into real workable products, that are more efficient, less expensive and easier to mass-produce.

The region is the country’s premier precision manufacturing base, with tens of thousands of highly skilled, underemployed mechanical engineers, machinists and factory managers. “We have the best manufacturing resources on the planet here in Michigan,” says Chris Long, the founder and chief executive of Global Wind Systems. “We just need to get aligned.”

A BIG question is whether the new work will sustain Detroit’s manufacturing ecosystem if auto assembly keeps migrating elsewhere. As suppliers close, more managers and engineers could move away.

To illustrate how difficult that manufacturing talent would be to replace, Bud Kimmel, vice president for business development at W Industries, points out to 30-year-old machining whiz Jason Sobieck.

Jason is like an artist,” Mr. Kimmel says. “We built our whole program around him. Jason began work at 17 at a small Detroit welding shop. He then worked for tooling companies, where he learned to program automated systems and manage projects. “These skills really aren’t taught in school,” Mr. Sobieck says, “This is a trade you learn on the shop floor.”

That’s one reason that W Industries wants to snap up as many good machinists and engineers as it can afford.

If we don’t re-engage the automotive workers soon in major programs,” Mr. Kimmel says, “this set of skills will be lost.”

Source: Detroit Auto-Parts Suppliers Branch Out to Other Industries –

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Five myths about how to create jobs: “Growth in jobs doesn’t come from manufacturing”???

Posted by Bert Maes on February 12, 2010

James Manyika, the San Francisco–based director of the McKinsey Global Institute:

With the unemployment rate in the United States lingering just below 10 percent and the midterm elections just nine months away, job creation has become the top priority in Washington.

President Obama has called for transferring $30 billion in repaid bank bailout money to a small-business lending fund, saying, “Jobs will be our number one focus in 2010, and we’re going to start where most new jobs do: with small business.

The fund is among several measures—such as tax incentives, infrastructure projects, and efforts to increase exports—that the White House has proposed to help boost employment. As Americans consider the various approaches, we must have realistic expectations.

We need to debunk some myths about what it takes to stimulate job growth.

  • MYTH 1: Surely there’s a quick fix.[AGREE]

Oh, were that only the case. The scale of the challenge is enormous. Quick action is important, but remember that the US economy has lost more than 7 million jobs in the past two years. The country would need to create more than 200,000 net new jobs each month for the next seven years to get unemployment back to what was once considered a normal 5 percent. Quick fixes focused on 2010 alone won’t be enough. Of course, the right mix of government policies can help. But even if Obama’s proposals were enacted right away and they accomplished all that he hopes, they would at best represent a good start. America’s jobs challenge is a multiyear marathon, not a sprint.

  • MYTH 2: The key to boosting employment quickly is to help small businesses.[NOT SURE]

New jobs come from both small and big businesses. From 1987 through 2005, nearly a third of net new jobs were created by businesses that each employed more than 500 workers. By 2005, these big companies accounted for about half of the country’s total employment, although they made up less than 1 percent of all US firms. But a look at the past two economic booms shows that the pace of job creation depends on more than the size of the businesses. During the economic expansion of the 1990s, large US multinational corporations—which employ an average of about 1,000 workers each in the United States—created jobs more rapidly than other companies. This was because they dominated computer and electronics manufacturing, the sector that drove much of that boom. During the more recent expansion of 2002–07, most of the net new jobs came from local service sectors, such as health care, construction, and real estate—which comprise both large and small businesses.

  • MYTH 3: High-tech jobs will solve the problem. [AGREE]

There is a lot of talk these days about green businesses, biotechnology, and other emerging industries that will create the jobs of the future. While they are obviously part of the solution, these industries are too small to create the millions of jobs that are needed right away. The semiconductor and biotech industries, for instance, each employ less than one-half of 1 percent of US workers; clean-technology workers, such as those who design and make wind turbines and solar panels, account for 0.6 percent of the workforce.

We’ll be able to generate significant numbers of new jobs only by spurring broad-based job growth across the economy, particularly in big sectors such as retail, wholesale, business services, and health care. High-tech innovations will help employment grow over the long term, as new technology spreads throughout the economy and transforms other, larger sectors. For example, while the semiconductor industry alone doesn’t account for much US employment, the computer revolution has fueled the growth of other industries such as retail and finance; similarly, the clean-technology business by itself doesn’t employ many people, but its developments could transform a big sector such as energy, creating new business models and new jobs.

  • MYTH 4: Higher productivity (when an economy produces more goods and services per worker) kills jobs.[AGREE]

Not so. While productivity growth means that individual companies may need fewer employees in the short term, it spurs long-term gains in the economy as a whole. Since the industrial revolution, increasing worker productivity has brought rising incomes, higher profits, and lower prices. These forces stimulate demand for consumer goods and services and for new plants and equipment—fostering, in turn, industry expansion and job creation. Take cell phones. Even 15 years ago, they were big, unwieldy, expensive, and worked only in limited coverage areas. But as new technologies enabled workers to produce phones and provide service more cheaply, the industry took off. Cell phones are now ubiquitous, and this has created jobs not just among phone makers but also among retailers, service providers, and a new industry of developing and selling applications for smart phones.

  • MYTH 5: Increasing exports will revive manufacturing employment.[DON’T AGREE, Let’s comment on this readers!]

Maybe for some companies in some industries, but not for the economy overall. While it’s painful to accept, reducing unemployment is not mainly about regaining the jobs that have been lost. Sure, rising exports will cause some factories to scale up again, and many laid-off workers will be called back. But most new job growth will come from other sectors. History shows that recessions—particularly those that follow a financial crisis—accelerate the growth or decline already underway in industries. In this recession, for example, the auto, financial-services, and residential-real-estate industries have contracted significantly and won’t regain their peak employment anytime soon.

An increase in exports may stem—but will not reverse—the multidecade decline in manufacturing employment. In today’s developed economies, >> NET GROWTH IN NEW JOBS DOESN’T COME FROM MANUFACTURING; IT COMES FROM SERVICE INDUSTRIES. << (REALLY?????) Fortunately, boosting exports creates jobs in supporting service industries, such as design, trucking, shipping, and logistics.

James Manyika is the San Francisco–based director of the McKinsey Global Institute. Byron Auguste is a director in McKinsey’s Washington, DC, office. This article originally appeared in the Washington Post, on February 7, 2010. Copyright © 2010 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved.


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How wind turbines work and the big challenges of manufacturing them

Posted by Bert Maes on February 9, 2010

A summary of Assembly Magazine’s cover article “Assemblers Harness Wind Power“, by Austin Weber, January 27th 2010.

Wind power is the cheapest and most popular type of regenerative energy. As a result, manufacturers all over the world are scrambling to build gearboxes, generators, blades, power systems, motors, control systems and other types of electromechanical devices.

How does a wind turbine work?

Wind power works by harnessing the breeze that passes over the rotor blades of a wind turbine and rotates a hub. The hub is connected to a gearbox via low-speed and high-speed shafts that drive a generator contained within a nacelle. A generator converts the energy into electricity and then transmits it to a power grid.

The typical wind turbine is a slender structure that consists of a three-bladed rotor that extends up to 300 feet in diameter attached to the top of tall towers that soar hundreds of feet into the air. A yaw mechanism uses electrical motors to turn the nacelle with the rotor against the wind. An electronic controller senses the wind direction using a wind vane.

How is a wind turbine made?

The average wind turbine contains up to 8,000 parts that must be assembled. Towers and rotors are the largest and most basic components.

Most wind turbines are designed for a 20-year life cycle. The gearbox and drivetrain system must be strong enough to handle frequent changes in torque caused by changes in wind speed. Bearings are extremely critical. The whole system must be correctly aligned to minimize wear from vibration and any resulting noise.

One thing that differentiates wind turbine manufacturing from other industries is sheer size. All components, such as bearings, gears and generators, must be extra large and extra strong. Big parts and big plants are common in the industry. For instance, the typical gearbox weighs around 30,000 pounds.

Due to their size and weight, gearboxes are often moved through assembly steps at plants in Germany using large rail systems similar to those in automotive plants. Quality expectations in the industry are huge, because manufacturers demand reliability and low maintenance. Wind turbines don’t make money if they’re not working.

Towers typically consist of large tubular structures. Plated steel sheets are rolled into rings and joined together with submerged arc welding. The tower sections are typically fabricated into cans about 20 meter long and then bolted together through internal flanges. This is an industry that needs to build large, high-capital items in a production line manner. It may be compared to aerospace.

There is great potential for advanced robotic welding to be developed. On the other hand, rotor blade manufacturing from fiberglass and other composite materials tends to be the most innovative and highly secretive area of the wind turbine industry. Blades over 70 meters long are now being designed. To achieve low-cost mass production, automated solutions from aerospace or automotive, such as robotic tape layers, have to be used to join long lengths of blade to assure aerodynamic conformance.

What are the challenges facing manufacturing wind turbines?

Wind technology will need to evolve. Engineers need to make wind turbines larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient. Because wind turbine components undergo excessive forces and a tremendous amount of joint stresses and failures, numerous manufacturing issues must be addressed.

It looks very graceful and simple, but the aerodynamics, power characteristics, vibrations, system fatigue, acoustics of a wind turbine are harder to understand than an airplane or a helicopter.
For instance, blades, towers and casings must be able to withstand heat, cold, rain, ice and abuse from changing wind speeds. Blades must also be built with a high strength-to-weight ratio, so research into new materials is key.

Making wind energy practical is a matter of maximizing efficiency and minimizing production cost.

Reliability is critical in the wind turbine industry. The most difficult application is the gearbox, because it is important to avoid any distortion. The challenge is to maintain clamp loads for the service life of the turbine. Manufacturers are looking at weight reduction and improved assembly of threaded joints.”

Close tolerances, the ability of components to withstand operation in difficult conditions, and the availability of quality materials are all important challenges facing engineers. It is also a challenge to develop parts that are light-weight enough so that the final system can be assembled more easily, but they must also be durable enough to withstand difficult operating conditions.

And finally: the industry is struggling to build a local supply chain. The availability of a steady and sufficient supply of locally sourced components is important, as turbine companies increasingly develop production facilities away from their home base, they need to be able to have access to enough quality components to build the systems at their new location.”

Feel free to also read:

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The Manufacturing Sectors of the Future

Posted by Bert Maes on February 8, 2010

The U.S. manufacturing economy shifts away from heavy sectors, such as automobiles and basic chemicals, toward higher-tech products like super-fast computer chips.

The restructuring now under way offers insights into what kinds of goods the U.S. should produce, and in what volumes.

Semiconductor makers saw U.S. demand recover sharply as computer makers scrambled to catch up with a pickup in business investment toward the end of 2009.

Intel, which produces chips in Chandler, Ariz., Rio Rancho, N.M. and Hillsboro, Ore., boosted its capital investments to $1.08 billion in the fourth quarter, part of a two-year, $7 billion program to upgrade its U.S. plants.

Many companies still prefer to produce semiconductors in the U.S., particularly if their manufacturing is highly complex. Being close to the U.S.-based design centers of major chip users like computer maker Dell Inc. and consumer-electronics maker Apple Inc. also can be an advantage.

Texas Instruments Inc., the second-largest U.S. chipmaker will spend almost $1 billion this year to expand three factories and open a fourth to fill orders. The company is also hiring 250 workers to open a new chip-manufacturing plant in Richardson, Texas, that will eventually employ 1,000. (

This is a kind of manufacturing that will make sense to do in the U.S. for a long time to come,” said Tim Peddecord, chief executive of privately held memory-module producer Avant Technology, which recently opened a new 50,000-square-foot plant in Pflugerville, Texas.

Manufacturing in the U.S., Mr. Peddecord said, allows it to turn around U.S. orders in 24 hours, an advantage in an industry where demand is volatile and clients try to keep inventories low. In addition, the reduced freight costs, compared with shipping goods from China, can offset the added cost of U.S. labor, since labor accounts for less than a hundredth of his average sales price.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Top drivers for future business success: CNC manufacturing specialists

Posted by Bert Maes on February 4, 2010

A summary of the highly interesting report “People and profitability, A time for change – A 2009 people management practices survey of the manufacturing industry” by Deloitte, Oracle & the Manufacturing Institute

Manufacturing companies were asked to describe the current availability of qualified workers in specified workforce segments:

  • 32% reports moderate to serious shortages today.
  • 38% of all respondents foresee increased shortages ahead, especially in the manufacturing sectors Aerospace & Defense, in Energy & Resources and in Life Sciences & Medical Services.

    (Example: the biomedical industry is thriving well despite the recession (although it faces unprecedented challenges due to a.o. the educational funding crisis.
    The fastest-growing occupation—with a 72% growth — is biomedical engineer. Biomedical engineers help develop the equipment and devices that improve or enable the preservation of health. They’re working to develop tomorrow’s MRI machines, asthma inhalers, and artificial hearts.)

  • The main shortage will not be seen in unskilled labor, but in skilled production, such as machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians. 51% (!!) reports serious shortages today, the vast majority of whom see increased shortages ahead.

  • Boeing – one of the US’s biggest manufacturers and exporters – said that by 2015, 40% of the aircraft maker’s workers reach retirement age. “That’s some 60,000 employees eligible to retire in five years. We just don’t see the recruitment pipeline meeting our needs.

    About 19% of US manufacturing workers are 54 and older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, only 7% of manufacturing workers are under 25 years old.

    It’s difficult to find people for assembly, machining and motor-winding positions – jobs that require maths skills and the ability to read technical blueprints,” said Ron Bullock, owner of Bison Gear.

    Workers are delaying their retirement because of the financial crisis. But, as the economy recovers, a large number of skilled workers will leave. “As we go through the recovery, the situation will get worse,” said Lisa Simeon, a director of the US industrial conglomerate, “and restrict companies’ ability to step up production as the economic recovery gathers pace“. (Source: The Financial Times Limited)
  • The top 3 drivers for future business success
    (1) New product innovation (requires talented workers)
    (2) High-skilled workforce (correlated to higher profitability)
    (3) Low-cost producer status

The report concludes that People Management Practices will have a high profile role in the growth of the Manufacturing Industry: How will the requisite skills and capabilities be sourced, developed, engaged and deployed??

TIP: Another good read on this subject:  “SOS Shortage of Skilled Workers: A comparison of the European Metal Industry and Electrical Industry

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Learn how to make wind turbines in 6 weeks

Posted by Bert Maes on January 4, 2010

This is a compilation of activities that occured during the 3rd CNC Fast Track training program at Macomb Community College in 2009.

Students with a Machinist background registered for a 6-week (180 hour) program to learn how to program, setup, and operate CNC Machining and Turning Centers.

Their class project was to develop programs and CNC machine 50 small scale Wind Turbines.

Thanks to Gary Walters, Macomb Community College.

Great video and wonderful soundtrack, Gary!

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5 Reasons To Choose A Career in Precision Machining

Posted by Bert Maes on December 17, 2009

Precision machinists make the things that make today’s quality of life technologies go. And stop. Anti lock brakes – we make them. Airbag parts.  Bonescrews and medical implants too.

Here are 5 reasons to choose a career in precision machining:

Ready employment. Even at the bottom of this last recession, there were openings for precision machinists advertised in the major newspapers around the country. Our parts are indispensable. So are our skilled machinists.

Great work. Our work is challenging, satisfying, and technical. At the end of the day, you can see the results of your skill and effort. Lives that will be saved. Cars that will run.

Great Wages and Benefits. We don’t know what the Obama administration has in mind for the benefits side of the equation, but set up machinist and toolmakers  wages are on par with the wages that a business major might earn after a 4 or 5 year bachelors degree program.

Great life. How many fields do you know of where the people don’t have some  worry about the future, and their place in it? Low cost competition from China and India has not killed our industry. We continue to make the high precision, high value added parts that make a difference in people’s lives, everyday.

Great values. Today shops are managed by international environmental management systems like ISO 14001 and international quality standards like ISO/TS 16949. We are sustainable, lean, just in time, and environmentally sustainable companies that make a difference.  Making high value high precision parts. You can too.

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Statistics: Future Growth Lies with Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on December 16, 2009

Manufacturing is the country’s productivity powerhouse: a strong and vibrant manufacturing sector is a critical component in our country’s long-term economic future.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that

productivity growth is “perhaps the single most important determinant of average living standards.”

  • 1987 thru 2005, manufacturing productivity grew by 94%, roughly 2 1/2 times faster than the 38% increase in productivity in the rest of the business sector.
With productivity comes higher wages.
  • Manufacturing jobs pay 23% more than the rest of the workforce.
  • Every $1.00 of manufacturing sales supports $1.37 in other sectors.  Educational, health care, and social services support $.70.
  • Every manufacturing job supports as many as 4 other jobs.

We’ve been reducing CO2 as a matter of good business.

  • Manufacturing CO2 emissions have dropped by 6% compared to a 38% increase in other sectors.

Reducing energy needed to produce as well.

  • Energy requirements per $1.00 of GDP have dropped by almost 50% in the last 30 years.  Half of the reduction is attributed to increases in energy efficiencies of industrial manufacturing.

Who will pick up the jobs if manufacturing continues to decline?

  • Manufacturing has declined from 25% in the 1950s to 12% of the GDP in 2005.
  • The U.S. has lost over 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.
  • Individual net worth has declined by 25% since 1999.
  • 2/3rds of private sector R&D in the United States is done by manufacturer.
  • More than 1 in 6 U.S. private sector jobs depends on the manufacturing base.
  • Future Growth Lies with Manufacturing

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An inspiring school building

Posted by Bert Maes on December 3, 2009

The newly opened Langley science academy in Slough has just about everything to motivate, inspire and excite students to study science.

The building is:

  • airy
  • light
  • open
  • eco-friendly
  • full of modern technologies

Read more about the impact of the school infrastructure on student outcomes…

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End of the world near? Start a career in Manufacturing!

Posted by Bert Maes on November 20, 2009

NOW your daily life depends on manufacturing (just look through my blog category “Value of CNC). But… the manufacturing sector will be even MORE important in the future:

  • In my opinion, the 21st century is the decisive century in which we choose (all countries) whether we will become a great civilization and human species longevity ill continue or we will lose it all.” (TSP, in: End of the world near?)
  • “Any approach that does not focus on technological solutions to climate change  is one of  utter hopelessness.” (Sir David King, in: Science chief: greens hurting climate fight)
  • Science, technology & manufacturing provide the only hope for mankind to attain a sustainable existence on earth. (Peter Hall, in: Revolutionary Times)

So if your goal in life is “making a real difference in the world“, I have only one advice: START A CAREER IN MANUFACTURING.

BUT… don’t focus on just any manufacturing course. Follow those in which you can actually get real relevant hands-on experience on the latest and greatest manufacturing equipment.

Haas Automation (Oxnard, California) is doing “a great thing” in this regards, says Patrick E. Dessert (in: Writing a hot resume for today’s job market):

“They are setting up a partner program with learning institutions across the world. “In this program Haas works with community colleges, providing them modern equipment for training their student technologists. Find one of the community colleges that is a Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) and go there. If you are going to spend the time, make it worthwhile. You can even check the internet at or to find a school near you“.

Get fully acquainted with the machine tools, CAD, CAM and  robotics. afterwards go into nanomanufacturing: “In many ways I see manufacturing being reinvented in the next ten years. I believe that the way to a new future is going to be led by the seismic shift to nanomanufacturing and micromanufacturing.” (Patrick E. Dessert)

Also see my post: Green Technology ~ Nano-engineering and CNC

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We’re in the Third Industrial Revolution :: Implications for education

Posted by Bert Maes on September 22, 2009

Notwithstanding the current market problems, there is a strong future for manufacturing, plus a strong need for people able to effectively CNC machine tools, says Peter Hall, managing director of Haas Automation Europe.

March 2009 Last Word front

Peter Hall

We are, according to Jeremy Rifkin, a leading US economist and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, entering the third industrial revolution. What he means by this is the end of the oil/carbon-based energy era and the transition to a new, sustainable energy future. Indeed, he suggests peak oil production will occur somewhere between 2010 and 2030 – after that the amount of oil coming out of the ground starts to diminish.

In brief, what he sees is locally-generated green energy distributed
via an ‘intergrid’. It will drive a revolution in technology that will require a huge variety of new and different things to be made and which will require machine tools as part of that process. That apart, up to 2030, a trillion euros – a million, million euros – must be invested annually into the energy sector to meet the world’s forecast demand. All that investment for products that must be manufactured.

But many things are going to have to change. Cars driven by i
nternal combustion engines will give way to electric cars, for example. But these new sustainable solutions will need to be manufactured, and manufacturing technology – machine tools and more – will be required to turn these solutions into products!

Smart programs and investments into technical educations are needed to  attract many more youngsters into manufacturing training.

Full article: Revolutionary Times,

Video: CNN – The Third Industrial Revolution

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Looking for a job? 1000’s of jobs available in the Wind Power Industry! Free guide here…

Posted by Bert Maes on September 20, 2009

wind-turbine-workersWind is the fastest growing energy source in the world. In the US alone, wind energy production increased by more than 21 percent year on year since 2007. It is predicted that that it could contribute 20 percent of the Nation’s electricity by 2030.

Most of wind energy workers are technicians specialized in turbine blade repair or electrical work.


Manufacturers of wind towers, wind turbine blades and nacelles (the turbine housing units that sit atop the tower and contain key components like the gearbox, generator and transformer) are investing heavily in the windy regions of the U.S.

Possibilities in the manufacturing sector

• Turbine Production
• Tower Production
• Gearbox and Component Parts

Click here for FREE GUIDE…

Thanks to

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[Article] Rethinking Manufacturing Strategy

Posted by Bert Maes on September 15, 2009

C1sFinally an optimistic read: the cover story of Rethinking Manufacturing Strategy – featuring companies refusing offshoring, but keeping / moving production operations back to the West.

Their competitive advantages are:

  • High-tech, sophisticated, highly automated manufacturing, including extensive use of powerful robots
  • Intense worker training (for advanced technology)
  • Lean process techniques, just-in-time methods & increased efficiency to control costs, reliability and quality
  • Tight integration between engineers and designers (product R&D) to create top-quality, integer technologies
  • Finding suppliers close to home, shortening supply chains => be closer to customers, serve them with speed and quality, improve lead-time capabilities, diminish delays, lower freight costs, have more stable prices, avoid “green” taxes and bad reputations…

My conclusion:

I expect an increasing demand for highly skilled manufacturing workers, i.e. those people with advanced high-tech knowledge & skills in CNC engineering, able to manufacture complex, environmentally sustainable goods…

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Manufacturing Education – How To Fight Back

Posted by Bert Maes on September 14, 2009

Matt Holzmann posted a very interesting read, titled: North American Manufacturing – How To Fight Back Against the Odds.

Amongst others, he clearly states that “fewer and fewer of our leaders have a real grasp of the process of making things”

But “crisis generates opportunity, there is a window open”, Matt adds. “Der Spiegel reported that it is manufacturing which is leading Germany out of the recession. Germany now leads the world in making the equipment and materials for many green technologies.”

Matt advises: “Technology equipment in many companies is 20-30 years old. We must retool for the new technology. Our infrastructure must be upgraded, especially if we are to see a transition to electric cars.

CareerlineThe same is so true for all schools offering metal shaping education!

>> Due to a lack of investments and a lack of “focus on building long term value” and benefits, the majority of the technical education establishments in Europe completely miss key technologies… to equip young talented creators with the skills they need to become leaders in reinvention of products, for “a world demanding green technology solutions“.

School leaders actually have the opportunity to make a real difference “for our future as individuals, as families, as industries, and as nations” by focusing on the right industry/projects/products.

CNC manufacturing for green technology engineering must become a central subject at each technical school…

Linked post: “what can make the difference between success and failure of a school?

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[Testimony] The current state of affairs of the manufacturing sector

Posted by Bert Maes on September 10, 2009

Lately, Joe Brown (business founder of Lintrio LLC , activist for U.S. manufacturing/tooling industry and creator of the leading tool and die blog spoke to a group of legislators about the current state of affairs of the manufacturing sector.

Joe said:

[The manufacturing] trade has consistently been neglected and abused despite being the backbone of our economy and national security.

We are a behind-the-scenes industry that “makes things”.

A die or mold is used to produce nearly every existing tangible part from cars, planes, tanks, soda bottles, lawnmowers, all appliances, computers, children’s toys, furniture, medical devices and even currency—among millions of others.

Without question, alternative & renewable energy is absolutely the one industry that could prove to be the saving grace of our nation’s critical manufacturing base. No other market has the potential to witness a mass transition of CNC machining, metal stamping, tool and die, injection mold companies into a viable, sustainable sector than that of wind energy. A single wind-turbine can include up to 8,000 parts and is the best chance we have to save and create jobs.

David Dornfeld

David Dornfeld

I interviewed one of the world’s leading experts on Green Manufacturing, Dr. David A. Dornfeld (Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UC-Berkeley) According to Dornfeld:

“I am a big believer in the opportunities in alternative energy and related areas.

I heard an interesting presentation on the frailty of wind turbines— largely made up of machined and forged metal parts—and the lack of infrastructure to repair, remake these components, usually requiring large precise machine tools.

Ditto for solar panels, fuel cells other sources. It may not seem obvious but if you take the cover off most of these devices there are lots of machined and forged parts—all requiring machining & tooling companies of all sizes, many companies are seeing a real competitive opportunity here.

And this will be hard to source offshore since these parts are often large (high transport costs/time), complex (think skilled machinists – not minimum wage workers, and involve advanced technology – much of which is (or will be) developed here.”

Read Joe Brown’s Full Testimony Here


This relates perfectly to many things on this blog:

– The importance of CNC manufacturing education to the economy

The jobs of the future: growing opportunities in manufacturing

CNC engineering: a strong career choice

Wind turbines and CNC

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The importance of CNC manufacturing education to the economy

Posted by Bert Maes on September 8, 2009

The amount of students graduating in “Engineering, Manufacturing & Construction” studies is declining.[1] Manufacturing is perceived as

  • dirty
  • largely based on manual work
  • polluting
  • being no longer relevant to modern economies
  • low paid
  • having poor working conditions
  • having limited opportunities for advancement


Additionally, manufacturing employment numbers drop in many countries. The low-skilled jobs are going off shore. However, the occupations that need high levels of skills seem still to be here [2], as production in Europe focuses on high value, technologically advanced products, providing good quality jobs. The components for our hi-tech products are usually coming from East Asia where the low-value commodity products are made – those that often involve boring and repetitive jobs.[3]

An increasing demand for highly and medium-skilled manufacturing Picture2workers is expected, i.e. those people with advanced hi-tech high-quality knowledge, able to manufacture complex goods (with high productivity) in the field of environmentally sustainable and clean technologies (energy, smart materials, robotics,…) minimizing environmental and human health risks and meeting mankind’s needs.

Productivity will need to rise urgently, with the ageing effect coming straight at us. The population of working-age will drop by 15% in the EU between 2008 and 2060. From 2020 the working-age population will enter a downward trajectory. The EU will move from having 4 working-age people for every dependent person aged over 65 years to a ratio of 2 to 1. [4]


We’ll need many more young people (and especially women) in high-quality technical education to widely spread knowledge and skills in advanced (CNC) manufacturing to secure the wealth creation in Europe [5] and a high-quality of life.

[1] The amount of engineering, manufacturing & construction graduates is rising in most industrial countries; however the rate of increase is often lower than in other subjects. As a consequence, specialisation in the manufacturing fields declines.

[2] The share of employment in high- and medium-high-technology sectors compared to the total employment is more or less steady between 2000 and 2007: 6.69% for EU27
Europop2008 population projections
Manufacturing in the European Union accounts for 22 percent of EU GDP

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New Green Workforce Training Program

Posted by Bert Maes on September 2, 2009

The brand new curriculum at Purdue University focuses on advanced technology processes as

  • sustainable manufacturing
  • energy efficiency
  • water conservation
  • reuse and recycling
  • designing for the environment
  • and how different pollutants affect the environment.

The jobs of the future will not only be solar panel installer or wind turbine technician, but there will be a wide variety green manufacturing jobs, according to Kris Nasiatka, manager, certification, at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME):

  • “There’s the existing manufacturing job in the aerospace industry where a worker with skills in composites can almost seamlessly transfer to making wind turbines.”
  • “Then there are manufacturing jobs,  enhanced by green knowledge, for a former auto machinist, welder or fabricator with in-demand skills, who just may need additional training.”


>> Have a closer look at the jobs of the future:

>> Or view other high-quality advanced technology training centers such as Purdue:

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[Article] Engineering a strong career choice

Posted by Bert Maes on August 19, 2009 // Vincent W. Howell, chairman of the Elmira Chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers:sme

News stories regularly highlight the current challenges faced by manufacturing industries. The state of the U.S. automobile industry is of great concern as we hear about plant closings, layoffs and the need for government bailouts.


There will always be a need for future engineers – not just in existing companies, but also to start new companies that provide the world with the next great innovation.

Manufacturing is the backbone to our economy. When manufacturing is strong, our economy is strong. Manufacturing is strong when it produces products and technology that help to improve lives.

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