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Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/4/2012 6:07:33 PM
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What, in heaven's name, will a Democratic administration do to foster manufacturing in the US? Judging from its need to prop up failing GM and bolster the unions involved, manufacturing per se seems to be something that they deliberately do not understand. The US government, Dem or Republican, liberal or conservative, has no business promoting business. It's business is to ensure a healthy environment for business. That means the minimal amount of interference and regulation needed to keep monopolistic industries in check, and to curb flagrant violations of labor laws. Almost everything else can be handled by the bottom line. Black: good job. Red: try again. Government's record in promoting business isn't really impressive. Solyndra is only a recent example of the government "helping" a nascent industry. That's one way of describing the act of flushing a half billion dollars down the drain to help out their buddies while flogging a dead, green horse. Let's expect Congress to pass a budget, then worry about their good intentions towards business.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/5/2012 9:54:59 PM
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Do you actually work in the tech field? Are you totally unaware of the government's contribution to the development of technology? To name a bit of government contribution... our public universities, the technology developed by NASA and the aerospace companies, the national labs, research programs sponsored by DARPA/NSF/NIH including SBIRs that have helped start many very successful tech startups. That's not to mention the fact that we are competing with countries like S. Korea and China that have far more direct government support and industrial policies. It's certainly worth the EE Times community weighing in on government priorities as the author did, but this sort of "government has made no contribution ever" political sloganeering has no place in any discussion within an industry that owes so much to the private-public partnership that made the U.S. the technology leader of the world.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/6/2012 1:27:20 AM
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I did not assert that the government hasn't contributed mightily to creation of a range of strategic industries, most notably electronics. With government funding of basic R&D, many of the technology advances of the last generation would not have been possible. What I intended to say, and apparently failed, is that successive administration have given manufacturing short shrift and have stood by and done virtually nothing to slow, much less stop, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Indeed, they have looked the other way, and we have been paying the economic costs ever since. Government cannot magically create manufacturing jobs, but it can develop a coherent policy that emphasizes investment in training, R&D into new product design along with the creation of new jobs that employ skilled workers. I saw a guy last night on the "CBS Evening News" who took a manufacturing job for half what he used to make. He said he had lost his house, divorced his wife and had been living in fleabag motels for several years. He told the reporter he felt "crappy" about himself until he went back to work. Now he at least has his self-respect. There are many like this guy across the country, folks who just want a second chance and the dignity that comes with standing on your own two feet. That was my point all along. I wish I had made it better. In the meantime, let's keep this debate going. It's fundamental to the future of America.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/6/2012 1:44:14 AM
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Honestly, George, it's a good thing the government isn't doing even more counter-productive things. Even if manufacturing comes back in a big way, it won't be the way it was before. Manufacturing jobs of the last century have to evolve into more IT-related jobs, or even robot machine tending jobs. No one likes to hear hard luck stories, but we also do not need the government to artifically prop up stagecoach driving jobs, if you know what I mean.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/6/2012 2:04:34 AM
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I know you didn't. That is why my comment was posted as a reply to Mr. Lacovara's comment rather than as a reply to your article. It was his comment that struck a nerve.

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/6/2012 5:51:08 PM
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Well, PJames, I have spent 14 years as a contractor to NASA, to the Japanese National Space Agency, and some of that time to the FAA. I have spent 10 years in academics, as either assistant or associate professor. I have spent the balance of my 38 years in engineering in commercial firms either government contractors or in the commercial sector. I have a fair notion of what the government can do to assist industry, and what it fails at. Let me mention one other thing: if you try to divorce politics from industry, it's like trying to talk about industry without mentioning marketing or economics. It can't be done. You have to consider whether Uncle is in or out, and if he's in, is he a part of the solution or part of the problem? In some cases, only the government land on the moon, or get a GPS satellite constellation up and going into a real industrial segment. In other cases, vast sums of money are whizzed down the drain and into the pockets of the creeps on unworkable "alternate" energy boondoggles, astronomically expensive "public" transit and similar thefts of public funds. I am certainly biased against the government getting involved with industry, but admit that in some cases, the government is the only way to get something up and going.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/6/2012 8:30:15 PM
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There are certainly cases where government support of emerging technologies has resulted in wasted money, with Solyndra being a very large and visible case. I would even concede that with Solyndra it appears there may have been something worse than the simple fact that a certain percentage of technology bets, even good ones, can be expected to fail whether they are ones funded by government or ones funded by a VC. However, a person with your background should realize that overall the amount of money our government has spent since WWII on science and technology has had a HUGE payoff. It is not only in industries that require moonshots. It's also in things like funding the development of VLSI design techniques or genome sequencing. In some cases, such as genome sequencing, an entrepreneur will find a better solution without government support, but even then I bet anyone in the field would still say the development of science and the talent pool created by earlier government funding deserves significant credit. As for the "unworkable" status of alternate energy... even assuming you are not considering the external costs of carbon emissions, solar costs are at or very near parity with peak generation in sunny climates. Take a look at the cost reduction curve of solar PV (solarbuzz.com). Do you have some technological expertise that you would like to share as to why you believe this cost reduction will not continue or where you feel the limit will be reached, such that it should be deemed unworkable? This is a forum of engineers, so feel free to lay out some real technical arguments for your position.

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/6/2012 9:39:25 PM
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PJames, (1) I too smell something fishy in the Solyndra debacle. This is a pretty good example of where our government put it to us. Although, that's not fair either: individuals who grossly abused their authority may very well have stolen tax money. However, enough of that for a moment. Yes, there are a variety of government efforts that paid off. GPS is a pretty good example of the sometimes-hated "military-industrial" unholy alliance bringing something that benefits not only the taxpayers, but much of the rest of the world. And that's not the only example. As for solar power, you yourself state its limitations: it is economic in sunny climates. What do they do in New York City? It's a niche technology. Wind power? When all the air conditioners are going, there's usually a high pressure area stifling any wind. Another niche technology. Neither are bad: both are oversold. Will cost reductions continue? Probably, for a while. A breakthrough one day in a cheap and efficient solar converter? Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, we have hydro in places, coal in others, and nukes where the population isn't living in 1960s San Francisco.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/6/2012 8:56:13 PM
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I too have spent my entire career in DoD work. My take on this subject is very simple. When the government gets involved with industry to accomplish a legitimate government function, and national defense, as well as space exploration, are two examples, all is usually good. That's how we got GPS, the Internet, radar and sonar, and a host of other really useful technologies. When government gets involved for political motives, and Solyndra is the iconic example, it fails miserably. This is to be expected. People who work at tasks they legitimately are responsible for will gain a certain expertise at their job. People who dabble into areas unrelated to their functions, for ulterior motives (like getting more votes), can be expected to be totally incompetent.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/6/2012 10:45:25 PM
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To me it seems inaccurate to state that Solyndra is an example of the government "getting" involved for political motives. After all, the government has had involvement in the solar PV industry dating back to when it was an aerospace technology. Also, on the face of it I don't see anything more political about investment in low carbon energy than investment in a military the size of the U.S. Each is something that one end of the political spectrum would characterize as not a national interest. Either they are both for "political motives" or they are both simply things for which there is a disagreement about necessity. Space exploration is likely something that a minority sprinkled across the political spectrum would consider as being outside the scope of essential government function. While it is all well and fine to say the government should address "legitimate government function," the problem is that often people define that in terms of their own narrow, and often short sighted, self interests, and/or simply have the view that their own interpretation should prevail over the general will of a democratic populous. Bad behavior by politicians might have contributed to a bad outcome at Solyndra, that does not indict all of government support of clean energy any more than the numerous scandals in the defense industry that one could cite indict the concept of national defense.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/6/2012 10:57:20 PM
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We disagree, PJames. Pouring money into Solyndra was NOT done because the government wanted to buy their panels. It was done only to "show" how committed this administration was to its campaign promises. The government has no business picking winners and losers in the commercial marketplace. They are incompetent at that job. And you can quibble about the SIZE of the DoD, but not about its function. If you argue that it's far larger than it needs to be today, I would totally agree. The budget, largely because of two unnecessary wars, is easily twice what it needs to be. But that function does belong in the government. If the government were only funding pure, basic research in PV, I wouldn't be so outraged about it. The fact that they thought they could dictate which commercial ventures should be successful is, on the other hand, beyond defending.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/6/2012 11:26:37 PM
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First, I don't think the government intended to be the one that would pick winners and losers in that loan guarantee program. I think having some of each in the mix would have been expected. From what little I've read about the overall program it would seem that the percentage of failures is unlikely to be any higher than most VCs... in fact probably much lower. Though perhaps you'd argue that VCs are incompetent at picking because of low success rate. One should probably look at the overall goal before making such judgement. For VCs the goal is to make more money overall than they have invested. For the government it is to promote the development of a particular industry as a whole. Do you feel that all governments are incompetent at promoting industry or is that something peculiar to the American character? It certainly seems that governments around the world are being very successful with far more active industrial policies than we have in the U.S.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/6/2012 11:39:47 PM
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No, actually my argument is that VCs take a risk. They invest money from willing participants, and they take a risk with that money. If I don't like what a VC is doing, I'm free to stay out of it. In the Solyndra case, that money was yanked away from taxpayers, and poured into this venture, no questions asked. If legitimate VCs behave that way, they either go out of business, or perhaps they even go to jail. Do you see anyone from the government out on the streets, for this fiasco? Some amount of industrial policy, trade agreements, and the like, are legitimate functions of the government, IMO. But singling out one company, and giving it enormous amounts of taxpayers' money, just because that company's sales pitches match your campaign rhetoric, is inexcusable.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/7/2012 12:51:48 AM
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One of my points was that they didn't "single out" Solyndra. It was one of many under the program, and truly a drop in the bucket compared to all technology investment. I'm fully in agreement with you that the specifics of the Solyndra deal should be investigated, not only the vetting ahead of time but also the renegotiation after the fact putting private investors ahead of taxpayers. If there was wrongdoing, people should be out on the street or in jail. Am I confident that will happen... NO. If people get away with wrongdoing would that upset me... YES. I get the fact that you don't believe in clean energy. I would presume it is because you don't believe in the science community's validity with regard to climate change. I believe you are applying very biased standards regarding government spending in this area. The horrors... an administration does something that matches what they said they would do when they won the popular vote. That's exactly how a democracy is supposed to work. Reagan spent money on defense, matching his campaign rhetoric. JFK spent money on sending man to the moon, matching his political rhetoric. That seems a strawman to tarnish something with the fact that it had been used as political rhetoric. It was Obama's rhetoric because he believed it and he knew a majority of American's agreed with it. All money spent by the government is as "yanked" away as any other dollar spent by the government. Restating my basic point... if one looks in totality at the money "yanked" away from tax payers and spent on science and technology, we have been paid back with a vast reward that dwarfs the amount "yanked". I would hope those in our community would recognize that and would not participate in what I feel has become politically motivated bashing of government support of science and technology. (I'll make this my last post as I'm sure everyone is sick of the back and forth)

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/7/2012 2:10:36 AM
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Of course I believe in clean energy. What I don't believe in is the dictator attitude of "certain politicians." They are to represent us, not to spoon-feed us. Solyndra got a whopping $535M loan guarantee from Sam. Way, way more than what any other investor provided to them. Check this out, if you don't believe me. And yet, I would not have given them a penny, just as I would not give the "Iris Engine" program a penny. (Check that one out too, while you're at it.) I'll repeat that politicians are clueless about what makes good technical/economic sense in the commercial marketplace. They have no business throwing our money around this way. They should stick to their assigned jobs, and WE are the ones that assign them their jobs.

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/11/2012 4:25:08 PM
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Bravo, Bert...

gsdg90
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
gsdg90   1/4/2012 6:13:33 PM
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It is so expensive to manufacture anything electronic in the U.S. Even the identical components from the identical manufacturers are quoted at much higher prices to U.S. customers than would be to Taiwanese customers (especially IC's and PCB fabrication). I suspect one issue is U.S. based vendors and contract manufacturers have become accustomed to working at the very large margins that govt and defense contractors are willing to pay and have little interest in cost-sensitive designs.

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/4/2012 6:29:55 PM
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Is it possible that the difference in cost is also attributed to liability concerns? I agree that manufacturing here in the US is a costly proposition, but I'm not sure that it's merely a desire for large margins. Labor costs in the US are higher than many countries, particularly China. One other note: government and defense contractors don't see enormous margins as a rule. Government contracts are often quite stringent, and to be honest, you can make more money selling a million $20 hammers to the public than 50 $750 hammers to the military. I don't know what Boeing or Lockheed make on a fighter jet, but I know how many people are involved in the design, test, and production, and I'm surprised that they can make anything at all.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/4/2012 6:42:35 PM
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We have spoken to some pc-board and other U.S. companies that have brought contract work back from China. They told us that quality was not up to snuff and that language and cultural barriers outweighed the cost savings. This isn't a trend, but it does indicate that some components are better designed and made here.

Yog-Sothoth
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Yog-Sothoth   1/4/2012 6:45:48 PM
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Being good at manufacturing is not impossible for the US, or anywhere in the West. Consider http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16408511. It's down to having good management and good relations with the workforce. Alas the tendency over the last 30 years has been for management to pay themselves ever increasing salaries while outsourcing manufacturing. The government could change this outsourcing culture with tax changes - but would the big multinationals try and kill such moves?

pixies
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
pixies   1/4/2012 7:42:25 PM
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The manufacturing sector has been the fastest growing sector of the US economy in the last couple of years. The problem is, there was an NPR report on this subject, that many jobs that were brought back on-shore are taken by machines, that is, some companies now use fully automated production lines which create almost no jobs. Of course, one can argue that jobs are created to build these automated machines but the number has to be much smaller.

pixies
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
pixies   1/4/2012 7:48:48 PM
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I do not know how much welder and electrician jobs are out there but the US need to create something like 5M to 10M jobs to solve the job problem and the Chinese style labor intensive manufacturing will never work in the US. Short of a spectacular technical breakthrough comparable to the invention of internet I do not see any magic bullet that can significantly reduce the jobless rate in the near future. There is little the government can do.

phoenixdave
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
phoenixdave   1/4/2012 9:01:50 PM
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A combination of factors have combined to produce the current manufacturing and job situation in the States, so there is no one magic solution that will solve it. Providing manufacturing-friendly regulations and tax situations in the States will help, but the labor costs will still be non-competitive with much lower cost-of-living countries. Changing the education system would be helpful but what careers would you retrain for with assurance they will be needed when one finally graduates? While manufacturing was the beginning of the outsourcing trend, it has now expanded to engineering design, product development, and other highly skilled jobs. It's a very complicated situation with many inter-related issues that cannot be solved just be creating another government office that will be influenced by the same special interest groups now creating bad policy in Washington.

selinz
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
selinz   1/4/2012 9:10:51 PM
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Motorola opened a state of the art cell mfg site in 96 and closed it in 2006 because it was cheaper "per phone" to manufacture in china. Was it worth it to save $1/phone? (don't know what the real number is but it certainly amounted to a significant total). The cost to Motorola long term is up for debate. Was it the right choice?

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/4/2012 9:11:39 PM
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Manufacturing may make something of a comeback, but it won't be the way it was last century. GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, in large measure (not entirely), because of inefficient manufacturing practices. It took government ownership to rid GM of the excess baggage. Ironic, isn't it? Had they tried this on their own, they would have had to deal with untold number of strikes. To make it cost effective in the US, manufacturing will have to depend a whole lot more on automation, and a whole lot less on manual labor, with its associated benefits packages (health care, retirement, 401K contributions, etc.). I think it would be wrong for government bureaucrats to force people into welding classes, when it will be robots doing most of the welding. We can't compete if we re-create manufacturing, China style, in the US. As an aside, hands down the best software engineer I've ever had the pleasure to work with, and this has been true for more than 10 years, is a graduate of DeVry University. A for profit university.

phoenixdave
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
phoenixdave   1/4/2012 10:43:27 PM
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I think that all universities these days are "for profit". But I have to agree with you that DeVry University can graduate some very good engineers. The DeVry engineers I've had the pleasure to work with in the past have been excellent, and have been very successful in their fields.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/4/2012 11:11:37 PM
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Agree about universities being run like corporations. My son graduated from college in December. The university sent picture proofs within a week of him receiving his diploma. The package deal for the picture was $150, and the proofs were sent out to hundreds of graduates.

nicolas.mokhoff
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
nicolas.mokhoff   1/11/2012 9:41:33 PM
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From deVry's website: "All our professors have degrees in their field, if not advanced degrees like MBAs and PhDs as well as real, practical experience." RCA Institutes (now Technical Career Institutes) was like that back in the 70s of last century. They had people teach who worked in the industry and gave the students real-world experiences. It was one of the few two-year "trade" schools with a college-accredited program. All the credits were transferable to CUNY City College's BEE (Bachelor of Electrical Engineering) program in what is now known as Grove School of Engineering in honor of 1960 graduate Andy Grove, which then graduated engineers with much more employable experience than others with straight BSEE degrees. Engineering education needs to have more practical programs like these in order for at least EEs to thrive in the U.S. and help build a practical manufacturing base. http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/gsoe/about.cfm

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/12/2012 4:26:51 PM
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Nic, one nit first: I'm not so sure that the DeVry guys really had "much more employable experience" than the BSEE folks. The target employers were somewhat different. That said, DeVry graduates always struck me as a good bunch. I know one who, after DeVry, went to Stevens Institute for 4 years, eventually joined Boeing, where he is now a Boeing Fellow. I think that they do a pretty good job... it's just not quite the same as a 4 year engineering degree.

phoenixdave
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
phoenixdave   1/12/2012 4:49:41 PM
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I think if you look at the first job after graduation, the differences are apparent. After a number of years, they begin to equalize. For instance, from my experience (having worked with and hired both)it's a theoretical vs. practical experience difference. If you want someone with great theoretical knowledge, the university BSEE has the edge. If you want someone with more practical (i.e. hands-on) experience, from my experience the Devry BSEET or BSEE have the edge. Of course this is highly variable depending upon the individual.

SudsSutherland
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
SudsSutherland   1/4/2012 9:12:04 PM
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Suggest that folks read "Winner Take Al" by Richard Elkus, 2008 - Published by Basic Books, to understand the roots of the problem. Folks who ignore history........

old account Frank Eory
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
old account Frank Eory   1/4/2012 11:32:49 PM
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pixies and Bert22306 both mentioned robots and automation as being an essential aspect of cost-competitive U.S. manufacturing. I completely agree. But while reading these comments, I laughed out loud. My new 2012 Demotivational Calendar has, for the month of January, a photo of a robot holding a tool and repairing itself. The captions reads: "Adaptation: The bad news is robots can do your job now. The good news is we're now hiring robot repair technicians. The worse news is we're working on robot-fixing robots and we do not anticipate any further good news."

seaEE
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
seaEE   1/6/2012 2:20:40 AM
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Pretty soon the robots will be demanding longer coffee breaks and shorter working hours. That will be good news for humans.

Code Monkey
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Code Monkey   1/5/2012 12:31:24 AM
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The US's insane cost structure needs to be fixed first. Money furnaces like the military-industrial, medical-industrial and finance industries burn through wealth faster than we can produce it.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/5/2012 1:49:42 AM
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You may be interested in this: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_budget_pie_chart It shows the government spending pie chart for the 2012 budget (i.e. not spending as percent of GDP). Defense spending will drop a lot, by ending the two wars. Most of that defense spending goes to personnel costs. As to medical, my take is, we need far more automation for things like physical exams. I recently had a battery of blood tests for my company physical. They were all automated. The results came out in minutes, from a PC. Much more of that, even done from home and uploaded to your doctor's office, avoiding appointments, visits for lab tests, and technician fees, would go a long way to reduce medical costs. And they would also reduce the number of costly and unnecessary doctor visits. The health care industry is still too labor-intensive, IMO. Automation has created wonderful new machines, to improve care, but not enough has been done to eliminate the manual labor involved. As other industries have done.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/5/2012 1:41:25 PM
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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is announcing cuts in military spending today (Jan.5). In anticipation, the metal benders at Boeing in Wichita, Kansas, yesterday (Jan. 4) announced layoffs totaling about 2,500 workers.

ibm221
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
ibm221   1/5/2012 4:58:37 AM
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1 point, getting creative and pay attention to customer's interest. Michael Bolton just nailed a new years eve gig with china's CCTV and made some real $$s from chinese pocket.

jackOfManyTrades
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
jackOfManyTrades   1/5/2012 10:07:13 AM
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There are three steps in producing goods: design; manufacture; marketing/selling. The steps where money is to be made are the first and third. Why do you think that doing the seocnd in the US will make the US more prosperous? Who do you think makes more money out of iPods, Apple or their Chinese manufacturers?

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/5/2012 1:42:23 PM
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Here's a report from the ground, the manufacturing city of Chicago: http://www.changinggears.info/2012/01/04/what%E2%80%99s-ahead-for-midwestern-manufacturing/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ChangingGears+%28Changing+Gears%29

aarunaku
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
aarunaku   1/5/2012 4:49:04 PM
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When it comes to manufacturing, supply demand models, etc. What I do not understand in the domain of EE is, how can a block of wood or a piece of woven fabric costs more than a more sophisticated engineered electronic component? Did some one did not scope it right? Constantly outdating requirements on a very fast pace has no meaning to economic stability, it is driving consumption and waste than making it healthy and part of our life. Hopefully when technologies reach to a point where it is physically limited, we might see manufacturing to be stable.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/5/2012 5:56:05 PM
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Agree that shrinking product life cycles have greatly complicated manufacturing, not to mention R&D. Products that took several years to bring to market lasted at least a decade. Now everyone is wondering when the next iPad will be available a few months after the previous model came out. Taken together, all this feeds short-term thinking and undermines attempts to revive U.S. manufacturing.

Bert22306
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bert22306   1/5/2012 9:04:14 PM
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"What I do not understand in the domain of EE is, how can a block of wood or a piece of woven fabric costs more than a more sophisticated engineered electronic component?" The manufacturing cost equation is heavily skewed to how much manual labor is involved, at least in developed countries. That block of wood, if it is carved by a craftsman, costs more than a chip with a zillion transistors, mass produced.

old account Frank Eory
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
old account Frank Eory   1/5/2012 9:41:04 PM
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aarunaku, it seems counter-intuitive to most non-EEs. A piece of woven fabric -- perhaps a shirt made in China or Bangladesh -- will fetch a retail price higher than the sophisticated applications processor that runs your smartphone. Why? Because that garment costs more to make and distribute than the apps processor does. Simple economics. The wonders of Moore's Law do sometimes boggle the mind when you compare the low cost of what we build to the cost of many other ordinary things in life.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/5/2012 6:05:02 PM
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This just in: "Manufacturing Is Surprising Bright Spot in U.S. Economy" See story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/business/us-manufacturing-is-a-bright-spot-for-the-economy.html?_r=1&hp

tb1
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
tb1   1/5/2012 7:27:07 PM
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"What, in heaven's name, will a Democratic administration do to foster manufacturing in the US?" Hah! There's a large recently built manufacturing plant in Fremont (Solyndra) financed through the help of the Democratic administration! Of course, the plant is now closed. You can't do manufacturing just to have manufacturing. It has to be economically viable or it is just throwing money away. The tax code was changed a few administrations back that made it more economical to move manufacturing overseas. Whether is makes sense to undo this is an economic decision that is way over my head! Certainly it would be good to encourage manufacturing in the US, but what's the proper way to do this?

Bob Lacovara
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Bob Lacovara   1/5/2012 8:51:19 PM
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tb1, your point is well taken, particularly since you started by quoting one of my favorite sources. ;-) As a thought experiment, let's do the following. Let's assign to the administration the best and purest of motives in setting up this fiasco by a half billion loan guarantee. Ok. Now, here's the problem that you allude to: why not make buggy whips instead of solar arrays? No market, hence any cost is too high, a lot of money committed, and in the end, no jobs, no factory working, and no buggy whips. It was inevitable that a system that cost 3 times a conventional system (built in the US) would flounder, unless some very special niche market appeared. It didn't; the company disappeared as well. Along with a cool 500 million. I'm just an EE. Marketing strikes me a a combination of guesses, hopes and prayers, combined with a few statistics and surveys. Management of large firms completely escapes me. But I do know this: if you cannot create the market for your product, it had better exist before you start producing a solution to a problem. Also, it seems inescapable that the administration knows less about marketing products than I do. That's pretty scary, since the administration has access to the best minds in any field in the country. Too bad they didn't use them.

PJames
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
PJames   1/6/2012 2:27:31 AM
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Also as a thought experiment, if remembering history counts as such as much as specious analogies, we might consider the fact that both Qualcomm and Broadcom, to name only two of scores of companies, got their first funding through the government.

Toad.
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Toad.   1/6/2012 2:41:55 AM
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I've been a machine tool service engineer for about 20 years, most of which was associated with the auto industry. I do not possess an engineering degree. I just happen to luck out and was hired as an electrician for a machine tool manufacturer 30 some years ago. I liked my job and my curiosity pushed me to ask questions and learn. Now some 30 years later I feel like one of the last of a dying breed. I don't see anything of these kind of skills being taught to the next generation. These are not skills you can get out of a textbook. I know this is a little off topic but the "Dumbing Down" of middle class americans is going to have us all paying dearly. Yes we need our manufacturing base back on our soil. Not somebody else's. But all parties must play into this. Government to provide a healthy atmosphere for manufacturing and R & D. Educational incentives and fixing the student loan program along with a few others. And one of the big one's... Can we go back to people being held responsable for their own actions. A good sized serving of self-respect is needed for that. And for that to happen you need a good education, a challenging job and a decent income. Guess I'm dreaming again. A long time ago it was called "The American Dream".

phoenixdave
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
phoenixdave   1/6/2012 3:06:02 AM
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It's been quite some time, but I seem to remember a time when people were hired not because they had all of the skills and background in a particular area, but because they had the basic skills and motivation to succeed and therefore invest in training to do a particular job. In other words, companies were willing to invest time and money to train new employees to excel at their jobs within their companies. It seems we have transformed into a culture where companies who cannot find people with all of the skills they desire would rather go outside of the country instead of hiring someone with maybe 60% of the capabilities and training them how to do the remaining 40%. I think @Toad is a good example of the positive long term success that can be achieved if someone is given the opportunity to succeed.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/6/2012 3:41:13 PM
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Agree, phoenixdave, you look for basic skills and background, then "coach up" new employees. A commitment by the employer also would build employee loyalty to the enterprise.

ibm221
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
ibm221   1/6/2012 2:49:40 AM
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continue, with the success of michael bolton, americans should export more of such acts to the chinese market.

me3
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
me3   1/6/2012 6:29:06 PM
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The dependency of US on foreign-made chips is a threat no less than our dependency on foreign oil. Unlike oil fields, however, the chip factories can be built right here. This is an urgent job for the government. In a few years, the entire supply chain will slip outside the country, leaving behind skilled people to rot. BTW, there is no difference in labor cost in fabs.

RGARVIN640
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
RGARVIN640   1/6/2012 8:57:26 PM
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The labor cost in a fab may be the same where ever the plant is located, BUT the govermental and enviromental costs are VERY different. Like the PCB industry before them , the fab companies dealing with excessive goverment, and EPA, regulations forced them to go else where. TO see what a difference it makes , go to any large industrial city in China, and take a deep breath. After you are done coughing and choking , you will then know what our rules and regulations protect. Also in China, if you speak up or complain, many times you will not only be ignored you could also disapear. So far that has not started to happen here in the USA. At least not yet!

RWatkins
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
RWatkins   1/6/2012 10:14:21 PM
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This discussion reminds me of the short guy with the big ears in the 1992 election (Perot for the youngsters here) and his statement about the NAFTA treaty and the big sucking sound as jobs moved out of the U.S. There are a lot of things that are needed to bring manufacturing back into the U.S. These include, but are not limited to: 1. changes to the federal and state rules to make the process of siting and building a factory less difficult, expensive, and drawn-out 2. changes to eliminate or reduce the complex and expensive reporting requirements by state and federal entities that add around 25% overhead to each worker's cost in many states 3. tax incentives rather than penalties for manufacturing product in the U.S. 4. elimination of the "not in my back yard with your factory" attitude taken by many suburban communities that are sprawled all over the countryside of the U.S. 5. elimination of the "one price for China manufacturers and another price for the U.S. manufacturers" that permeates our electronics distributor networks 6. culturing engineers to design products from the ground up for automated and low cost production (I saw at Caterpillar that U.S. made product can be competitive if engineering can design manufacturability with minimal manual assembly into a product; also for example all of us active engineers know that 0603 SMT chip resistors are a LOT less expensive in reels than 1/8W leaded resistors even before assembly and board real-estate are considered)

_hm
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
_hm   1/7/2012 2:16:31 AM
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@George: Thanks for this wonderful topic and words. I wish soon it becomes reality.

george.leopold
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
george.leopold   1/7/2012 4:17:37 PM
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Thanks hm

Chipr
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Chipr   1/10/2012 5:19:16 PM
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It should start with Apple, the richest company in the world but employee 100,000 of thousands of people in China and other low cost nations. We should put pressure on Apple to bring these quality jobs back to Americas soil or start boycotting their products. What if all our cars were only imported and none produced here. Same thing. Shame on Apple you greedy souless bastards.

Made in USA
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
Made in USA   1/29/2012 4:52:00 AM
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Normally, trade is only possible if one nation has real goods or services to trade in exchange for the real goods and services of a trading partner. Balanced trade is practically automatic. However, normal trade was disengaged in the early 70s when the US switched to a purely fiat based currency. This switch effectively allowed the US to substitute manufactured politician-faced paper in place of real manufactured goods and services when conducting global trade. On the surface the US created a new trade advantage. In reality, a destructive process was set in motion. In response, our trading partners began trading their real manufactured products for our real manufacturing capability and jobs. Restoration of our manufacturing capability will only come about by restoration of an honest non-fiat based currency and non-fiat based credit system. This will restore honest trade and the honest trade requirement of having real goods or services to trade in exchange for the real goods and services of a trading nation. This is the manufacturing initiative we really need. If we as a nation do not pursue this path on our own, our trading partners will eventually bring it about for us instead. After all, our ability to provide jobs in exchange for real goods and services will eventually reach its limit.

chipmonk0
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
chipmonk0   1/31/2012 6:36:12 PM
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Apologists for Wall St. ( primariily the charlatans with degrees in Economics and the MBAs ) who quote 19 th century British economist Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantages to justify mega outsourcing to China today hide the fact that it was cast aside in the 19 th century itself. After England ran up a huge trade deficit with China by importing Tea and used up its gold reserve, it stopped buying Tea from China and started growing them in India. Smartphones and Tablets for the masses is today's cup of Tea. But Washington would not do anything to reverse trade deficit with China. Both camps in DC are so in the pockets of the pro - outsourcing profiteers of Wall St. that they will never do anything sincere to reform the system. And MNCs who have been goaded by Wall St. to foolishly chase profit in China are giving the store away in the hope of getting a favorable deal from the Chinese Govt. Obama appointed Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE as his jobs "czar", knowing full well that GE is at the forefront of siphoning off to China high tech ( SiC power electronics, jet engines ) developed with US taxpayer / consumer expense !!! And Romney has been an indirect outsourcer - no matter how much rhetoric he now dishes out about getting tough with China.

chipmonk0
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
chipmonk0   1/31/2012 6:38:33 PM
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We have full sympathy for the hard working individual Chinese but simply put when the profit from the hard work of 100s of millions of them are aggregated by their still autocratic & totalitarian Govt. to pursue vain anti - US agenda then it becomes a huge concern.

chipmonk0
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re: Needed: A U.S. manufacturing renaissance
chipmonk0   1/31/2012 6:44:35 PM
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Post-Reagan Trade groups including professional engineering societies here ( unlike those in Germany ) are too timid and divided ( the Design Engr. vs Process Engr. divide ) to take collective action and tell the truth. Those interested in bringing manufacturng back to the US ( at least the high value components like chips & displays ) must organize a grass roots movement along the lines of " Occupy Wall St. ". First US consumers need to be educated that they have been committing slow suicide by being addicted to cheap consumer electronics. Assembly needs to be robotized to make it cost competitive with the cheapest worker in China. This will create high value jobs here to build and program the robots. But more serious is the decline in the infrastructure for semiconductor materials & process R&D ( SemaTech only managed to train future recruits for TSMC ! ). Even a couple of hundred billion dollar invested smartly in this area ( hopefully with a major contribution from Apple ) would pay back within year or two.



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