Thursday, December 15, 2011

Manufacturing Gives Arkansas a Reason to Celebrate this Holiday Season


New Millennium Building Systems, a maker
of steel joists, is one of several companies
adding employees to factories in Arkansas.
 It hasn't been the best of times for “The Natural State.”   Unemployment officially hit 8.3 percent back in August and like most Americans, its residents list the economy as the chief source of concern right now.

Look, I'm not going to sit here and profess some long-lasting bond with Arkansas.  Truth is the only connection I share with the state is that I used to room with a former Razorback drop-out who never cleaned the kitchen. 

However, I am very heartened to read about the local manufacturing there, which is showing some very promising signs of generating much needed jobs and revenue for the state.  Some important developments:

            -Unilever, maker of food, home care and personal products, announced it will spend $40 million to expand its plant based in Jonesboro, Ark, adding 125 jobs to the 400 already in place. 

            -After acquiring facilities from Commercial Metals in Hope, Arkansas last September, New Millennium Building Systems, which builds steel joists, has installed $4 million worth of equipment and hired 58 employees at its new location.  It hopes to hire 120 more as it reaches full capacity.

            -Arez LLC, an Irish-based printing ink resin company, is only a month away from completing construction of its new headquarters in Crossett, Arkansas.  Announced last year, the company is expected to create 121 jobs and receive a 3 percent payroll income tax credit for its employees the first five years.  

            -Last month, American Railcar announced it would hire 700 workers throughout Marmaduke and Paragould, Arkansas, as well as Kennett, Missouri.  The company needs more workers to construct around 1,000 completely new freight cars for the expanding natural gas industry in the region, as well as 30, 000 cars overall for the year.

            -The Fed's annual “Beige Book” economic report listed Arkansas as part of the key regions where manufacturing output increased.

Okay, so even with four companies moving to set up shop and the Fed listing Arkansas as a manufacturing hot spot, we've only knocked that unemployment number down to 8.27 percent. 

However, this story may be the best news yet for Arkansas:

            Four students from the University of Arkansas have launched a startup company around technology developed by University of Minnesota biochemist Simo Sarkanen that would produce biodegradable plastic shopping bags.

            ..."Our product will biodegrade in 150 days," says [Nhiem Cao, president and CEO of       cycleWood Solutions]. "Instead of having a growing problem, the problem will gradually go away."
                    Daily News, Oct. 17, 2011

A homegrown start-up that wants to stay home, is environmental friendly, and has potential to skyrocket in demand (I can literally pull off the internet hundreds of community retail businesses in the city of Los Angeles that would order something like this in a heartbeat) is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

It may only be as bright as a match, and that tunnel may be the Bobby Hopper, but if it takes off, it bodes well for Arkansas's future employment opportunities.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

‘TIS THE SEASON FOR US MANUFACTURING


Rotor Clip plans to export retaining rings to China.

Rotor Clip Gears up to Export; Other Companies Bring Jobs Home

It sounds like a cliché to say we should be thankful for what we have this holiday season. But it happens to be true for US manufacturing. 2011 was truly a turning point for a once beleaguered sector of our economy many saw as down for the count.

Rotor Clip, a manufacturer of retaining rings and related products (and the creator of this blog) is poised to begin exporting to China. You heard it right…exporting.  It appears there is a need for a volume producer of retaining rings who can also guarantee quality. That’s where we come in and we are looking forward to shipping full container loads of our products East for a change.

Here are some other notable events that have taken place in 2011 for the US manufacturing sector:

·         Ford Motor Company recently announced it will invest $128 million in a northeast Ohio assembly plant, and by 2013 medium-duty truck production will be moved here from General Escobedo, Mexico, near Monterrey. "What's a better Christmas present than hearing about this,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich. He said Ford's announcement showed a positive trend for manufacturing.—Manufacturing. Net—12/6/11
       
·         The State of Maine is open for business and is actively rebuilding its manufacturing base. This conclusion was reached as hundreds of former millworkers in northern Penobscot County recently learned they will have mill jobs once again. The mill was resurrected through the collaborative effort of government, organized labor and business, an operation that will have a significant positive impact on Penobscot County’s regional economy--Bangor Daily News—9/26/11
·         The good times for "Made in America" are just getting started, according to a new study from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG predicts 2015 will be a tipping point of sorts, when global manufacturers will view the U.S. as equal to if not better-than China. According to BCG senior partner, Harold Sirkin, “We’re not saying the world's going to suddenly change and U.S. companies are going to manufacture here for shipment to China. But the U.S. will be a very important place if you're going to sell into the U.S."—Yahoo! Finance—5/13/11

·         Welding supplier ESAB supplies core materials for a range of industries, and is expanding its operations in the US rather than abroad. The company has been manufacturing in China, but when it decided to replace a plant in Ohio, it settled on South Carolina rather than China-- Manufacturing Economy Daily—5/6/11
·         Boathouse Sports in Philadelphia, PA got a large apparel order from the Dartmouth College Rugby team last spring. The team usually purchased its requirements from a garment factory in Asia, but the typical eight week wait was unacceptable to the team’s coach. Boathouse Sports delivered in four weeks at the same price.—Bloomberg Business Week—4/11/11

 
Here’s to an even more successful year in 2012 for US manufacturing!

Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Mississippi Site of New Clean Energy Factory


"Smart" windows by Soladigm change color to adjust to light
 making it possible to cool or warm a room.

In the fight to entice green manufacturing jobs to set up shop in their corner of America, I always thought it'd be Texas that was going to give California the biggest run for its money.  The race to lock down budding cleantech companies of the future was, for a pretty long time, between these two heavyweights. 

And while Rick Perry and UCLA duke out how much damage the Lone Star really did in Cali job loss, the more interesting story lies in clean start-ups heading off to a state not usually noted for embracing these types of companies.

That'd be Mississippi.  From Dana Hull of San Jose Mercury News:

          Soladigm [a company that makes “smart windows”] chose to locate its manufacturing    in Olive Branch, Miss., after Mississippi offered an enticing package that included a $4        million grant and a $40 million long-term, low-interest loan. The upshot is that 300        manufacturing jobs are being created in Mississippi instead of California. Mississippi has also lured San Jose solar startup Stion, which will build manufacturing facilities in     Hattiesburg..” - Dana Hull, Silicon Valley, Mercury News.com


(Note: The technical term for smart windows is “Electrochromic windows,” which, according to Soladigm’s web site, are so called because they change colors to reflect or absorb light when a low-voltage electrical current is applied. The ability makes it possible to cool or warm up a room and thereby save energy costs).

As Ms. Hull's article goes onto state here, Mississippi is not the only one successfully peeling off new green businesses from the Golden State, which still has a fourth of the nation's solar industry.  That being said, it's pretty interesting to me that a state currently ranking 41st in total renewable electricity generation per year  just grabbed two, count 'em, two clean companies right out from under the state with the highest energy standards, as well as a clean energy public investment fund worth $30 million.

Still, I love this story for two reasons: one, a competitive public investment environment is beginning to develop around the clean industry, and two, states that weren't even on the map a couple years ago are putting enough capital behind their interest to make the frontrunners have to change their game a little.  It may be annoying for California in the short run, but it could absolutely serve their clean energy policies well in the long term.

And hey, I'd rather read about jobs going from Silicon Valley to Olive Branch than from Massachusetts to Wuhan.


Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's a Start



GFS expansion plans will result in 111 new jobs at its Osseo,
WI, facility in the next three years, and transfer production
 here from its current Mexico plant.


Global Finishing Solutions, a company that leads the world in paint booths and industrial finishing, is not exactly a household name.  Although their product is all around us and everywhere one looks, it’s perfectly understandable if you’ve never heard of them.  Such is the nature of manufacturing companies in America, which have to compete for mainstream attention with the sexy ostentatiousness of software, the fleeting trend-setting of entertainment, and the addictive emotional roller-coaster of national politics. 
Companies like GFS are the tiny success stories you never hear about.  I don’t know why; well I know why but I don’t particularly like it.  I recently told an inquiring couple at a cafĂ© I wrote about American manufacturing.
“Well, you must have NOTHING to write about”, the xx chromosome part of the pair remarked.  I wanted to go off on a long diatribe about all the stories of progress I read about in US manufacturing.  I wanted to rant about how an ill-informed public is fed the same crap in a 24 hour news cycle about recessions and protests and the Euro and elections and no one gets access to what’s really happening in the industry that affects all of us more directly or importantly than any other
Instead I just sipped it, shrugged my shoulders and half-smiled.  When you see me do this to you, know that you are Fredo, and I am giving you the kiss of death. 
GFS's success story is more promising than anything else you've watched on cable news the past few months because last September it announced it was bringing jobs it sent out to its location in Mexico back to its headquarters in Osseo, Wisconsin.  As the AP reports:
            Global Finishing Solutions is completing a $10 million expansion at its headquarters in Osseo (AHS'-ee-oh) that's expected to create 111 new jobs over the next three years. The addition will allow the company to move production from Monterrey, Mexico and         consolidate its manufacturing operations in Osseo, where it currently employs about 270.”
                    Associated Press, from Manufacturing.Net, Sept. 22, 2011.
Sure it's only a handful of jobs.  And sure, Osseo, Wisconsin is not exactly the epicenter of American enterprise (although Foster Cheese Haus at the intersection of Rte. 53 and County Road, according to Yelp, comes close.  Look, nothing under four stars!!) However, it doesn't seem that this is an isolated incident.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor for The Telegraph has been paying attention to US manufacturing's storm weathering and makes a pretty formidable list of stories like GPS's:
            The list of 'repatriates' is growing. Farouk Systems is bringing back assembly of hair dryers to Texas after counterfeiting problems; ET Water Systems has switched its irrigation products to California; Master Lock is returning to Milwaukee, and NCR is bringing back its ATM output to Georgia. NatLabs is coming home to Florida.”
-       Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph, Oct. 25, 2011.

Clearly, we're seeing a nation-wide trend here.  And if that is the case, then the less than two thousand residents of Osseo, Wisconsin can officially consider themselves trend-setters.  At least far more than any cable news company or pretentious espresso drinking couple I know.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kentucky College Prepares Students for Manufacturing Jobs


Student participates in Machine Tool Technology program at
Gateway Community and Technical College in Florence, KY.

I’ll be honest and admit when I was ten years old and started actually thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up, “working on a factory floor” did not come across my mind.  Not at all saying other ten year olds never had the urge to work in the manufacturing industry when they grew up, but I never came across any who lived in the upper-middle class suburbs of rural Jersey (most of them just wanted to get paid to play “Madden NFL”.) 

Just to be clear, I’m not jumping on the often-ridden “Kids These Days Are Lazy” bandwagon, made popular by most 50+ year-olds with two cars in the driveway and nothing to do on Sunday but devour a bag of Lay’s while laughing at Tony Romo blow 4th and 1.  I’ve seen firsthand what the next generation knows about the world, and I believe they are going to do some very, very uplifting and interesting things. 

That being said, I do believe American manufacturing, while the rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated, does have one massive hurdle moving forward to shrug off; the pesky stigma that it’s an industry mired with lesser, plebian, “dirty” jobs.

It’s not true of course.  Manufacturing is probably one of the most fulfilling, modern and sanitized professions you can find these days (I know we’re supposed to view finance in this country as somewhat high-brow but uhm, no.) Not to mention with the addition of alternative energy industries as well as new innovations in natural gas, there remains the opportunity for it to become the most consistent and dynamic way to make a living in the US. 

Yet, making a living at a trade usually requires one very important step:  knowing your trade.  Inside and out.  And while there are people out there ready and able to do this, apparently they’re not enough.  This is the unfortunate and borderline absurd dilemma we face as a nation these days. 

Manufacturing.Net provided a microcosm example of this a couple weeks ago in a piece about Gateway Community and Technical College’s new Manufacturing department in Florence, Kentucky.   As the article states:

The school has about 115 manufacturing technology graduates a year, but officials acknowledge that manufacturers need 300 or more.
Gateway President Ed Hughes says the school is ‘moving as fast as we can.’
Trouble finding enough trained workers has machine tool maker Mazak looking at options to expand locally and around the world.
Mike Vogt, vice president for human resources, said the lack of enough graduates has led to ‘a little bit of the frustration out there in the manufacturing community.’” – Manufacturing.Net, Oct. 10, 2011  

That part about Mazak looking to expand “locally and around the world” is a cute way to avoid the dreaded O-Word, I’m guessing. 

I suppose one can comment on this story in a positive light, noting that aggregate demand for manufacturing know-how is out there, meaning companies are in a hiring mood during an employment crisis.  It is certainly good to know that one of the few bright spots in this economy continues to be a sector that depends on tangible, homegrown resources.

I say “borderline absurd”, however,  because I honestly don’t understand how a country with the most, THE most complex and far-reaching university system in the world (sure, Cambridge and Oxford came first but they’re a little outnumbered in alumni) finds itself unable to properly utilize that system to funnel desiring minds directly, quickly and efficiently into an industry that is not only a mainstay of this country’s short history, but also “kinda, sorta” a necessary mainstay of civilization as a whole.  It’s pretty simple in my book: the more talent you have in an area, the better chance your business has at being broad and successful.  This is a region that for the better part of this century and the last has been home to multiple mid-size locations belonging to companies such as Hahn Automotive, Schwan’s, Sara Lee and Cincinati Machines (oh yeah, it happens to be neighbors with Cincinnati.) It’s also a region that has grown a sixth of its population since 2000, and that’s not counting the greater Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati Metropolitan Area. 

And GCTC can just about muster 115 graduates for the surrounding population and manufacturing community. 

Meaning about as many people that showed up to my cousin Louie’s wedding disperse every year through Northern Kentucky looking to add to a skills-starved community.  No offense to Lou, he obviously knows more people than I do (I would like to point out here that I have my cousin beat in this subject on Facebook), but not enough to keep regional companies worrying about their recruitment pools. 

My above opinion about the stigma of a manufacturing job is also shared in Manufacturing.Net’s article.  However, I refuse to believe that with a 9% national unemployment figure, there aren’t more people out there willing to, pardon the expression, “get their hands a little dirty”.   If there is, as Gateway Board Chairman Rick Jordan states it, a “pipeline issue”, perhaps the disparity lies not in how prospective students view a manufacturing job, but in how vocational schools and academia in general choose to effectively communicate what a manufacturing job entails.

More on this later….

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kicking Into the Wind

Football season is finally here and at last I have something else to do on Sunday besides laundry (ok I haven’t done laundry in like two weeks but STILL…). 
The most interesting storyline in this young season so far?  Well in my opinion, that’d have to be the University of North Texas’s recent announcement that they’ll be installing three wind turbines to contribute power to the campus’s Apogee “Mean Green” Stadium.  The turbines are one part of a collective strategy the college has implemented to keep the stadium relatively green and sustainable.  Up until this point that meant non-toxic paints and local raw materials, but the addition of wind energy is a first.  The three 121 foot turbines are expected to offset 6 percent of the campus’s energy output and generate a third of the campus’s annual 2million kilowatts average.  That’s a pretty decent contribution for three wind turbines, and it got me thinking:  what else could wind power in football?  A few ideas:
  
The Jumbotron...

The Halftime Show...

Field Goal Defense...

Touchdown Pylons...

Blitzing...

Jay Cutler's pocket protection...

Jay Cutler's inevitable post game anti-social-ness...

An actual way of stopping Tom Brady...


And, of course, Brent Musberger.

Honestly, I don’t understand why we haven’t thought of these things already…progress takes patience, doesn’t it?
Enjoy the season, y’all!
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

US Tidal Power: Lunar Truce

Another potential US Manufacturing enterprise takes shape




ORPC’s RiveGen power system that generates electricity
 from the rise and fall of the tides.
The Moon has always been a source of misery for me.  I look up at it now as I write this and all it makes me think of are lost romances, failed attempts at poetry (don’t act like you never tried either), my mother reading “Goodnight Moon” in a not-so-subtle way of getting me to go to bed, or just morbid thoughts of lifelessness in general.  I mean, it’s a dead rock floating in the air, I get it.  It glows.  “Wooo”.  It’s still a piece of rock.  Why am I supposed to be so fascinated?
Recently, Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) announced plans to install what would be the US’s first tidal-powered turbine that lies in the grid.  The turbine, called the TidGen power system, would be placed deep in the waters of Cobscook Bay, near Eastport, Maine.  The turbine is a Tidal Energy Converter (TEC), mounted turbines that extract energy through the power of Earth’s tidal system, which of course revolves around the gravity of the Moon’s orbit. 
NOW, you’re starting to interest me, Moon.
Tidal power is almost non-existent in the US, yet it is a powerful and extraordinarily consistent method of generating electricity through renewable energy.  Because it relies on tidal patterns, it’s more reliable than wind and solar energy, where abundance of either can vary daily due to weather shifts.  Once they’re installed, they cost next to nothing to maintain as well.  Unfortunately, the downsides to tidal power have stopped serious investment in its tracks: it poses several environmental risks, needs ideal conditions in underwater locations and costs a boatload of initial capital to establish (one proposed tidal plant for the UK would amount to $15 BILLION altogether.  Music to Congress’s ears, n’est ce pas?) 
However, recent innovations in technology, specifically the advent of cross flow turbines, have proven that tidal power can generate more energy at a lower cost than previously thought.  Apparently other countries have already concluded the resource is worth investment.  Right now, according to Renewable Energy Development (Renewableenergydev.com), there are seven major tidal energy projects underway in Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Korea.  These tidal grids are projected to harness energy from 1 to 300 MW worth of electricity. 
Now compare that to ORPC’s initial model, which is slated to produce a whopping 60 kilowatts, enough to power 50 homes.  Clearly, the US is not exactly enjoying a comfortable lead in creating a tidal power grid, but it’s a step in the right direction both for this new technology and our quest to establish more US manufacturing jobs. ORPC’s president and CEO said it best:
This isn't theory because we're actually doing it. We have equipment in the water, so it's a fact.  We think this is a highly desirable new industry for the state of Maine-Chris Sauer, CEO and President, ORPC
So here’s what I am willing to do, personally, as my part for the American tidal power industry and the country as a whole:  I am willing to forego my grudge with the Moon.  I’ll visit my local observatory, I’ll read more Greek mythology; I’ll even howl late at night (like my college days).
While it has its risks, tidal power is a potential manufacturing opportunity that can pay off in the long-term.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Profile: 350Green and the Future of American EV Networks


350 Green works with municipalities to develop charging
networks for electric vehicles in their areas.


Charging station infrastructure demands can lead to US Manufacturing jobs
Recently I wrote about the lack of a national charging infrastructure being a key obstacle to more widespread interest in use of EV’s like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.  Private companies like Walgreen’s and Ikea are taking the first necessary steps to make this happen, planning to build Level Two charging station operations on the premises of their stores.  This is a much-needed step in the right direction, but it’s also a drop in the bucket when you compare it to just how much of an “American highway system” there is, and how many stations need to be in proximity if we’re all going be able to stay on the road with lightning in our respective fuel tanks.  
In order to get a better gauge on how all this can feasibly happen, I decided to interview 350Green (you can learn all about them on their website, 350green.com) , a company founded in Washington DC in 2006 and now based in San Diego, California that develops charging networks in urban areas all around the country.  If you’re looking for who’s “on the floor” of the transition from gas stations to electric-based recharge centers, it doesn’t get any better than these guys.  Mariana G, a spokesperson for the company, answered my questions:

Me-       -I am particularly interested in who you work with in both the manufacturing of
EV chargers as well as the installation. Do you do this on your own or do you
facilitate between other companies?  And if so, who?”
Mariana- “We are equipment agnostic and work with several manufacturers.  We always bring and install the best equipment that is available on the market.  We’ve been installing [from] AeroVironment and will be announcing other manufacturers shortly.”

Me-       -“Where is the equipment usually made?  Do you import the parts and then
assemble them here?”
Mariana-“Most of our contracts require [parts and products] to be made in America.  We work with manufacturers that have the ability to manufacture in US.”

Me-       Do you see charging infrastructure and its need for EVs
to thrive as potential for job growth in construction or some other industry,
like retail (considering what Walgreen has just announced)?”
Mariana-Infrastructure will definitely spur [growth] in the job market, 350Green is hiring installers, engineers and managers.  Our retail partners, subcontractors and suppliers are hiring as well.  The job demand goes further than just the EV industry, and reaches solar, steel, copper, software and many other industries.

Me-       “Are there any ways in which the typical urban/suburban landscape will adapt in
reaction to charging infrastructure that may not have been anticipated in design
and research stages?”
Mariana- There are many theories out there on how the market will adjust to infrastructure.  I would imagine one of the hypotheses will eventually prove right.  I doubt our crystal ball is better than everyone else's, so we keep a close tab on the pulse of the consumers and will react to whatever [the] market dictates.


That last part is what we’re all skittish about.  For all the presumptions and hope that this kind of infrastructure makeover will trickle down (up?) to other sectors and industries unseen, they’re just that: unseen.  But all the pieces for a growing industry that will create economic opportunity seem to be there with 350Green: they’re part of several supply chains, specialize in areas with a massive number of potential consumers, work with many different industry sectors like construction and engineering, and the best part: most of their contracts are homegrown.  This is a system that’s truly localized.  Hopefully, companies like 350Green keep improving their networking systems and we wind up reaping the benefits in the near future.  It sure sounds like they’re onto something!

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ronpack Bags Louisiana


Ronpak makes a variety of bags from paper to foil including the cookie
bags pictuired above, all 100% Made in the USA.
 Its Commitment to US manufacturing continues as it opens its new factory
Ronpak, a bag company based in South Plainfield, NJ, is expanding its operations to the Port of Shreveport-Bossier in Louisiana, according to their press report released July 28th.  The company specializes in bags used in tons of major industries, from liquor stores to hospitals, and you’ve no doubt unwittingly used their product when buying a pack of Wrigley’s at the grocery store or a box of munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts (I have so many of those particular boxes strewn on the floor of my car I could pass as one of their warehouses.)  This will be their third plant, having another one all the way out in Mira Loma, CA, giving them more of a license to the title of a true “national” company.
That’s important for them when taking into account the part of their mission statement that includes, “We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the United States…We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well.” 
So details on the expansion into Bayou country: Ronpak will receive a $3.55 million grant, contingent on performance standards, to buy equipment and set up payroll.  Hiring begins in September, and they’re banking on a labor force of 175 jobs, while construction on the new plant plans to finish in early 2012, a fairly speedy set-up process so it appears RonpaK is ready to hit the ground (or bog) running.
I love these guys for two reasons.  First, they make it a point to mention that all of their bags are made from reusable or recycled products.  Secondly, Ron Sedley, the company owner, chose Louisiana out of three other states in a site selection competition.  No location outside of the country was considered, keeping Ronpak true to their mission statement.  Of course, Louisiana’s promise of tax rebates for job creation and state-supported training maaaay have played into that, but I’m still giving them a thumbs-up.  Post-Katrina Louisiana needs more of these stories, and a manufacturing company that can now truly call itself “multi-regional” is good news for us all.
So get a move on with those bags, PSB, LA!  Because I am now craving an extra powdered-chocolate frosting-filled donut, and without you guys I’m going to look like a disaster area before I even bring it to the car.  
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company, Inc.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Mainstream Media Could Learn From A Doctor Visit


THE HEART WITH NO BEAT—Researchers
have developed a heart that circulates blood
without the typical heart biorhythm.
Like most Americans, I don’t work too hard for my news.  I flip through the channel cycle on my flatscreen like three times and consider that a satisfactory exploration of the daily information spectrum.  Four times and I’m an expert.  Five?  I could be God’s gift to Columbia’s School of Journalism. 
Of course, the downside to this method of getting my news is that it’s chock full of personality sources; people who throw broad statements about important issues in this country without- y’know- “knowing what they’re talking about”?  There are those who insist the US’s biggest problem is that it “doesn’t make anything anymore”, and then enough people on the air and in periodicals take their lead and before you know it, perception has become reality: we don’t make anything anymore.
Outside of the hundreds of companies who may want to refute that, America’s medical manufacturing community has the biggest case against this “news”.  According to the Federal Reserve, industrial production of medical equipment and supplies has doubled since 1990 in a steady incline that makes a graph-plotter’s job mighty easy.   Not only is the sector churning out products that are used in medical communities around the world, but it’s developing technology and devices that receive little media attention yet are rivaling iPhones and video games in innovation, ingenuity and invention.  And are, or most likely will be made right here.  Some highlights:
-An artificial heart developed by Doctors Billy Hunt and Bud Frasier, both of the Texas Heart Institute, that has no beat.  The device consists of two centrifugal tubes with a rotor in each one, steadily pumping blood at a more fluid rate than previous artificial hearts but without trying to mimic the heart’s biorhythm.   The heart is currently working its way through experimental volunteers and has shown no signs of failure.
-A new bioglass material developed by Missouri State University and licensed by the Mo-Sci Corporation of Rolla, Missouri that is used to treat unhealed wounds.  The material’s use of boron instead of silicate glasses as used in previous products has been proven to cause wounds left unhealed for three years to repair themselves in a matter of months (Phelps County Regional Medical Center). 
-A prototype-invented by a team of researchers at the University of Maryland- of a “brain cap” that produces motion with thoughts, making it a very real possibility that soon paraplegics or amputees will be able to move prosthetic limbs by simply thinking.
I confess I’ve been one of those 24 hour cable news cycle-fueled zombies who bought into this trending group-think about US manufacturing not making anything of value anymore.  It’s easy to fall into that mindset when so many foreign-made products are immediate and right in front of us, with shiny buttons and logos to constantly draw our attention (do I really have to name examples here?  I do?  Okay, you phone, your car, your clothes) while, as Professor Mark J. Perry says in his economic blog, Carpe Diem:
You probably won't see or notice a ‘Made in the USA’ label on a heart pump or a lot of other high-tech medical equipment manufactured in America like MRI machines, CT Scans or X-ray equipment, but they are all part of America's thriving and growing high-tech manufacturing sector.” (Prof. Perry, June 13, 2011)
Here’s hoping more of us try to look through the cracks between cable news pundits and Chicken Little headlines to see the realities of manufacturing sectors like these.  The heartbeat of mass media is certainly in full effect these days, but the real news is underneath.
And apparently, has no beat at all.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company, Inc.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Delphi’s EV Wireless Charging Tech Ripe for Practical Innovations


Delphi's wireless charging system features no cord, and
is ease to use

Previously, I wrote about the need for US manufacturing to concentrate on products and technology that were broader in implementation and had innovation needs that weren’t so specialized so that more people from across the economic spectrum could be recruited.  Delphi recently debuted what I believe to be a spot-on example of this in its wireless EV recharging system.  In a nutshell:
A wireless charging system eliminates the need for a charging cord. Drivers can simply park their electric vehicle over a wireless energy source situated on the garage floor or embedded in a paved parking spot. Other wireless charging systems under development make use of traditional inductive charging, the same technology used in electric toothbrushes, which is based on principles first proposed in the mid-nineteenth century. These systems only work over a limited distance range, require precise accurate parking alignment and can be very large and heavy, making them impractical for widespread use on electric vehicles.
"The Delphi Wireless Charging System offers more practical and flexible installation than traditional inductive systems because it uses highly resonant magnetic coupling, a    modern technology that safely and efficiently transfers power over significantly larger distances and can adapt to natural misalignment often associated with vehicle positioning during parking," – Randy Sumner, director of global hybrid development, Delphi Packard Electrical/Electronic Architecture.

The implications of this are pretty exciting…and kind of making the little hairs on my arms and neck…..okay and back, I have a hairy back….stop laughing.
I mean, not only has Delphi completely jumped over the dilemma of having no national electric charging infrastructure- an issue frequent travelers using the Chevy Volt find themselves dealing with-not only did they do it using a more sophisticated version of the inductive charging we use for camera batteries and toothbrushes(!), not only is this a potential game-changer in making electric vehicles FYYYnally more economically viable without government assistance in the form of tax incentives- but this is something that can still be IMPROVED upon.
Forgetting the potential prosperity in manufacturing the systems and then installing them in every American garage or driveway (or the possibility of construction and utility job growth if urban areas want to install them on roads), there’s lots of room to make the initial designs even better.  The chart may look nice, but there’s clearly going to be on-the-ground issues of driver accuracy, as well as wear-and-tear for the actual magnet plates.  Not just on the surface but also the one under the car.  I mean, how many times do you hear that THUNK-A-THUNK sound as some unknown object/animal rolls under your car while you’re doing 65 on the highway (because you never go over 65 mph. And you slow down at the yellow light instead of speed up)?  What is that going to do to the magnetic plate under there that has to have a perfect surface for optimal energy absorption?
These are just a few possible monkey wrenches I can think of off the top of my head; just imagine what qualified workers can discover as the logistics of this technology begin to unfold.  
As we see more leaps being made in energy and resource shifting for manufacturing- and trust me, we will- the nation’s slow-but-necessary makeover of its infrastructure and energy grid are going to reveal opportunities like this for both the recently unemployed and the next generation of employment to get on board in the transition.  That’s enough to get anybody’s hairy back in a tizzy.
PLEASE stop laughing….

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company, Inc.