Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recommended Reading: American Manufacturing

By Matt Tarleton, Project Manager.

If you watched the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday and have been following the major newspapers in 2012, then you’re probably asking yourself “Is manufacturing cool again?” That’s right folks, it seems like the light bulb is back on. More value in goods-production than financial derivatives? Say it ain’t so! Sarcasm aside, there’s been some good reading this week related to American manufacturing. I’ve listed three articles below with a few quotes from each. 

“Making it in America,” The Atlantic, January/February 2012 Issue

(Note: Yes, the title is certainly a rip off of Andrew Liveris’ Make It In America: The Case for Reinventing the Economy. )

“I came to realize, though, that Maddie represents a large population: people who, for whatever reason, are not going to be able to leave the workforce long enough to get the skills they need. Luke doesn’t have children, and his parents could afford to support him while he was in school. Those with the right ability and circumstances will, most likely, make the right adjustments, get the right skills, and eventually thrive. But I fear that those who are challenged now will only fall further behind. To solve all the problems that keep people from acquiring skills would require tackling the toughest issues our country faces: a broken educational system, teen pregnancy, drug use, racial discrimination, a fractured political culture.”

Read more:

“Apple, America, and a Squeezed Middle Class,” New York Times, January 21st, 2012

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

“One former executive described how the company (Apple) relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. “The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.” 

Read more:

“Hello Haiti: Mt. Olive Meets Creole,” News and Observer, January 22nd, 2012

How the Haitian migration to Mount Olive began has become a sort of legend. Each Haitian loves to tell it, and slightly exaggerate with each telling. At its most basic, the story goes like this: A single Haitian worked at the Butterball plant in Mount Olive in late summer 2010. He heard his boss complaining about having to replace a dozen or so workers quickly because of problems with their work permits. The Haitian worker volunteered to solicit new employees. He called a friend in Miami, who then called a few friends. Two days later, two vans packed with eager Haitian men arrived at Butterball. A hiring supervisor eventually offered jobs to all of them. 

Read more: