Greetings! This is my inaugural entry in this blog where I will discuss goings-on in American manufacturing, with a focus on component design and metalcasting. Some economic ideas will be thrown in to add some context. Some occasional marketing ideas might pop up. I will even cite actual numbers now and then. Happy reading!
I attended the AFS Metalcasting Congress last week in Schaumburg, IL. Attendees were in good spirits, and the North American metalcasting industry is in fine shape. There are a lot of reasons why, but I think the main cause gets back to fundamentals: the metalcasting process allows designers to put material where they want it and no material where they do not want it. More and more designers are learning this. It is a simple matter of allocation of scarce resources in designing a part.
An alternative manufacturing method would be welding of steel, which has its own pros and cons. However, anecdotal evidence from the field tells me that welders are in short supply. Multiple manufacturers in the US and Canada have told me that there are “no qualified welders available at any price”, with many of them already working as part of the domestic oil and gas surge. Further, a recent search of the Monster job board found 500+ openings for welders. This factor limits the growth of some companies in the US/Canadian manufacturing sector in that there is simply a shortage of people to make the things their customers demand.
So what are the takeaways? Well, some of you should run, not walk, to welding school, where you will learn a skilled trade that is in demand. The rest of you should design and buy your components, when appropriate, as metal castings.
Vasko’s Reading Pick
David P. Goldman is a visionary writer. He often sees and writes about things that nobody else wants to acknowledge. Goldman’s stuff is not always for the hyper-sensitive (this is a non-political blog). He often writes about macro-concepts that impact US manufacturing. For example, food prices are going up due to short term variables like weather, but the macro-trend is associated with longer-term factors like a rising middle class in Asia. What does that mean to American manufacturers? It means many American farmers will get high prices for their crops and in turn they will buy equipment … which means more work for metal casters … we hope.
Bait and Switch
We ate at (and closed) a very nice seafood place this past week in Chicago while attending the AFS Metalcasting Congress. A good time was had by all, and I will not embarrass the attendees by listing them all here (hi, Matt!). Anyway, all of that seafood prompted me to remember that the original name of the “Chilean Sea Bass” is “Patagonian Toothfish”. Now, this is a hideous creature, but tasty. The takeaway here is that the name change makes the fish much more marketable but adds no other value to what is on your plate. I find the idea strangely compelling and repugnant, all at the same time.
Vasko Popovski, PE, is Director of Sales and Marketing for Applied Process Inc. Vasko is a Metallurgical Engineer as well as an Economist. The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of Applied Process. Vasko welcomes questions, comments, and corrections. More than anything he welcomes guidance on how to better land rainbow trout in Pennsylvania.