Friday, November 06, 2009
LMS opened in October 2004 after the former Tower Automotive plant closed in 2002. When LMS was accepting applications prior to the opening of the plant, about 900 people applied, according to a story published at the time by the Huron Daily Tribune. LMS closed its doors in 2008. Approximately 100 people were employed there at the time of the closure.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. said Thursday it reached a new deal with its lenders and its largest customer, General Motors Co., that will allow the supplier to avert a bankruptcy filing.
The new deal ends months of negotiations between the Detroit-based supplier, its banks and GM after American Axle breached the terms of its loan when its debt and interest costs ran too high.
This passed me by at the time, but it's dated September 18th. A friend who lives in the effected area pointed it out to me.
The deal American Axle negotiated doesn't cut the company's debt. But it does give American Axle cash to maintain its operations through the industry's downturn, to a time when the company might be able to repay its loans.
I imagine this is good news for their suppliers and workers, but also might set a precedent (and perhaps a blueprint) for metal stampers to follow through these hard times.
Monday, September 07, 2009
A coal mine accident early on Tuesday killed 13 people and 66 others were missing in central China's Henan Province, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing the state work safety watchdog.
China's mines are the deadliest in the world, due to lax safety standards and a rush to feed demand from a robust economy. More than 3,000 people died in coal mine accidents in 2008 alone.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Hook and loop fasteners have become commonplace features of both industry and households. However, they have one snag: they are too weak for many applications. Hook and loop fasteners made of spring steel have now been developed at the Institute of Metal Forming and Casting of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen. These fasteners are resistant to chemicals and can withstand a tensile load of up to 35 tonnes per square meter at temperatures as high as 800°C.
Spring Steel Velco, that's what we're talking about here.
Temperatures in excess of 800 °C and aggressive chemical solutions do not pose any problem for Metaklett, which also offers adhesive strength of up to 35 tonnes per square meter when tensile force is applied parallel to the fastener surface. When it is applied perpendicular to the fastener surface, Metaklett can still withstand a force of seven tonnes per square meter. Moreover, like a standard Velcro® fastener on a child’s shoe, it can be opened and closed again without the help of any tools.
You can read the original press release from TUM (Technical University of Munich) in English . A German language version is also available on that page. Use the language buttons in the upper right corner.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The MEPS - World Composite All Products carbon steel price peaked in July 2008 at $US1160 per tonne. In the subsequent ten months the value fell by more than 50 percent to $US562. However, the production curbs are beginning to bite as customers start to rebuild inventories in most regions of the world.
There are now clear signs that steel producers internationally will be increasing output to meet the anticipated higher market demand. This has, in fact, already started. Global production of steel in July 2009 was approximately 11 percent down on the equivalent month in 2008. In comparison, steelmaking in the first six months of this year was almost 20 percent below the figures recorded in the same period of 2008.
Since May, most steel prices have increased steadily - with the MEPS - World Composite figure rising by $US49 per tonne (8 percent) over the past three months. Further growth in transaction values is forecast for the next twelve months.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Skittish banks are declining loans to many tooling suppliers since they consider anything with the terms “manufacturing” or “automotive” as red flags in the application or renewal document. How can these companies retool themselves without this? More disheartening is the devastation this has caused many long-time [...] manufacturers and suppliers who were small business owners with impeccable payment histories. In an instant, many owners’ lives turned upside down.
The following excerpt is from my interview with Michigan’s 1993 Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year and a decades-long small business owner of a MTDM supplier in Fraser, Michigan. Her name is Nina Sylvester and sadly her story is similar to many other past—and current—Michigan manufacturing shop owners:
“Bank of America called and told me that they ‘No longer find that Automotive and Manufacturing are lucrative to their business and therefore will not renew my loan and I have 90 days to find new financing.’ Keep in mind that I was never late on a payment, nor am I to this day, 10 months later. I am at the office everyday collecting what little money is left in receivables which is a job in itself. No one is paying their bills, and I hear the same story from everyone. I had in excess of $100,000.00 in bankruptcies alone since the end of last year. I called and had packages put together and interviewed with 20 different banks. They all said the same thing. One bank in particular, Huntington National Bank, I asked them what they were doing with the money that was given to them by the government and she told me that they had it in an account collecting interest and were going to acquire other banks with it.
I also contacted the SBA and was told that they have programs for new businesses but nothing for existing businesses. Meanwhile the bank is on me to pay off my loans in their entirety. They forced me to stop manufacturing and taking orders, forced me to sell off equipment that was appraised in 2006 for $683,000.00. A boring mill that I paid $210,000.00 for, sold at auction for $15,000.00, and that is just one. Tooling that cost in excess of $20,000.00 went for $25.00. Now, I have a building that I paid $470,000.00 for in 1991, they are telling me I will be lucky to get $375,000.00 for. I still owe the bank $650,000.00 and don’t have a clue as to how I’m going to pay that back.
I have been in business 24 years, and have nothing but debt to show for it now. I have worked in this industry for 35 years, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this would be happening in this country. Our government is quick to help foreign countries and will not help their own people. They continue to send work overseas when large corporations here are closing left and right.”"
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Four Northern California companies in the past five months have reshored products from China to Wright Engineered Plastics, said President and CEO Barbara Roberts. Their reasons range from costs to vicinity to market and from quality to finance.
Chinese manufacturers, for example, won’t ship until a product is completely paid for, Roberts said, and then transportation could add another 30 days or more.
“That’s a double-whammy,” she said.
This is something I commented on already a few years back. As some jobs go to China, others come back. And I think this "onshoring" trend, if anything, is increasing recently, as health and safety concerns raise their heads.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
A very slow, very tentative recovery just might be leaving the train station in the next 3 months. Let's do everything we can to just nip that in the bud by raising prices into a slow, painful, crippled recovery!
Major steelmakers in the US have announced a series of transaction price hikes over recent weeks for strip mill products. These are steadily being implemented. There is little import competition to prevent further increases being applied. Certainly, distributors are keen for the proposed rises to take hold as they will produce benefits in terms of stock valuation. Nevertheless, market players are concerned that the price recovery might not be sustainable if the mills prematurely restart idled facilities. Service centre business is still down by 40/50 percent with only a small percent increase in activity, most probably due to the price advances. The economy remains depressed, leading to a persistently low level of steel consumption.
Canadian transaction values have bottomed, prompting us to record a number of rises this month. The domestic mills believe that destocking may be complete.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Not too long ago, the ticket to the middle class was straightforward. Work hard, play by the rules, and you'll have something to show for it -- a good wage, a secure job and home, and a solid pension.
Our nation -- and economy -- relied on workers around Ohio to build cars and appliances, to lay down rail lines and highways. Their work put them squarely in the middle class. Their work -- and a thriving manufacturing industry -- turned our nation into an economic superpower.
Job loss and wage stagnation figures reflect a decade's long decline in U.S. manufacturing, a decline that has shattered the American dream for millions of Americans.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Despite more than a year of bad news as the manufacturing sector continues to contract, a new annual index released today by Deloitte LLP and The Manufacturing Institute shows that Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong national economy. There is a wide perception gap, however, between the public's highly positive views of manufacturing's contributions to America's economic success and their negative views about pursuing a career in manufacturing.
The study goes on to observe
While Americans view manufacturing as the most important industry for a strong national economy, the index shows that they are not pursuing careers in manufacturing.
Even more alarming, These are jobs Americans want for their friends and neighbors - but not for themselves or their family members
So clearly there is some work to be done in improving the image of manufacturing.
The US government will loan 5.9 billion dollars to Ford Motor Co. and 1.6 billion dollars to Japanese automaker Nissan to invest in improving the fuel economy of their US-built vehicles, officials said Tuesday.
The loans are the first awarded out of a 25-billion-dollar program to help automakers meet upcoming fuel efficiency standards, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at a press conference.
"These loans will help the auto industry meet and even exceed the president's tough new fuel standards while creating jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign oil and ensuring America's competitiveness."
Another 465 million dollars will be loaned to electric sports car maker Telsa.
Additional loans will be awarded to "large and small automobile manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain" over the coming months, said Chu
Ford will use the 5.9 billion dollars retool plants in five states and boost the fuel efficiency of close to two million new vehicles annually.
Nissan will use the loans to modify its Tennessee plant to produce zero-emissions electric vehicles and the lithium-ion battery packs to power them.
As I mentioned above the quotes, there is an interesting tie-in for this blog. A lot of metal stamping dies, and the original production of them, have gone off-shore.
There are a determined bunch of people in Detroit (and no doubt in other places too, but I only know about the Detroit bunch) who want to play catchup and bring their toolmaking lead time and costs down, in line with off-shore toolers, in order to keep that work onshore. I've kept in loose touch with a few of them, belong to some of their groups on LinkedIn and other places, and in general applaud what they're doing. I did, however, question their belief that they could bring 50% of the diemaking that went offshore back. I don't think those dies are coming back unless and until they need to be retooled.
This may be the retooling opportunity they're looking for/need. Retooling for greater efficiency means making better use of steel components, smarter brackets with stiffening ribs instead of using thickness to get the strength needed, use of aluminum where possible, etc. These things mean new dies, and therefore, a chance to start over again on-continent.
So this may well be a very good thing.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
From Yahoo! Canada Finance
The Conference Board of Canada says auto parts makers will cut 37,000 jobs, or about one third of their workforce in Canada, as the North American industry undergoes massive restructuring.
The sector has been shedding jobs for years, but this year's losses are expected to top the total of the last four years combined.
Ontario will be hard hit by the job losses since the province has most of the parts companies.
Chrysler Group LLC will start cranking out vehicles at seven of its North American assembly plants on June 29, but some Canadian dealers say they will be unable to restock their dealerships with new vehicles because they can't get the financing they need.
Inventories have fallen to minimal levels [...but many ...] can't order new cars and trucks because they are still waiting for financing approval from GMAC LLC
This is another example of cascade failure I spoke about earlier. Seemingly unrelated things combine to topple systems that should continue to work. If it were easy to get credit another way, these dealerships would not be having a problem. They might pay a little more for credit from someone else, but at the moment, all other sources are choked off, and this one is slow.
This is another bottleneck on the road to a recovery for stampers.
Fiat [which now controls Chrysler] announced plans to resume production at its Brampton and Windsor plants and five other North American factories at the end of June.
In addition, parts stamping, engine and transmission factories that feed those plants also will restart June 29, Chrysler said in a statement.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Canada is launching a full court press in the U.S. Congress today against the Buy American provisions in the federal stimulus spending law.
The action is part of the ongoing campaign by our federal government to get the U.S. government to drop Buy America provisions that force U.S. municipalities and states to use American steel and manufacturing exclusively for projects paid by U.S. taxpayers.
The provisions are believed not to contravene international trade agreements because states and municipalities are sub-national jurisdictions and not subject to trade deals.
Sounds pretty weasily, doesn't it? Sure we have these NAFTA provisions, and they apply to you, but they don't apply to our states and municipalities. One wonders how Free Trade can have so many different meanings to different people.
U.S. Steel bought Stelco and made record profits last year. Then the Americans ruined the world economy and U.S. Steel shut down the Hamilton and Lake Erie works, moved all our orders -- including Canadian orders -- to Pittsburgh, Alabama and Indiana
[...] what follows is some discussion of how US Steel got around NAFTA rules. But the sting is in the tail
What really hurts is our Canadian-born USWA president Leo Gerard not only backs this "Buy American" approach, but used union dues to lobby Congress to get the protectionist plan passed at the expense of Canadian workers.
If it were not for Gerard, we might be actually working, making steel at Stelco, rather than hoping our EI won't run out before we start up again.
I don't know about all of it, but at least part of it is true. Leo Gerard was born and raised in a mining family in Sudbury.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
From The Hamilton Spectator TheSpec.com
A single guideline in the Investment Canada Act is “probably the crux” of the dispute between U.S. Steel and the Canadian government, says Industry Minister Tony Clement.
The guideline excuses foreign buyers who are unable to fulfil their commitments under the act due to “factors beyond the control of the investor.”
The question is whether the current economic meltdown qualifies as such a factor in U.S. Steel’s shutdown of the former Stelco.
Clement sent a demand letter to U.S. Steel earlier this month after determining that the temporary closure of its plants in Hamilton and Nanticoke violates promises made under the act. He is now reviewing a response from the Pittsburgh steelmaker that is “about 87 pages in total.”
But he was tight-lipped about the contents of that document today.
“You’ll be hearing from us very shortly,” he said.
And then, again, the sounds of silence.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
From the Detroit Free Press
A fragile automotive supply base will be tested even more as suppliers wait to see if they will be part of General Motors Corp.'s future after the company's historic bankruptcy filing.
Last week, local suppliers Visteon Corp. and Metaldyne Corp. filed for Chapter 11 protection. More are expected to follow [...]
[...] analysts say GM seemed as prepared as possible to deal with strains in the supplier industry as it headed into bankruptcy.
That includes paying suppliers last Thursday instead of today, when payments for parts shipped in April could have been caught up in the court process.
The Detroit News has also been writing about the economic impact. Under the headline
Michigan feels brunt of GM's bankruptcy, they write
Michigan's share of the total job loss: 42 percent. And that doesn't count the trickle-down impact on suppliers, stores, real estate and other segments of the state's economy.
The impact of GM's Chapter 11 filing has already started rippling through the supply network. Several companies, including Lear Corp., Johnson Controls Inc., TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. and Magna International Inc., are among GM's largest creditors. Lear, which makes seats, is owed $45-million and Monday said it won't make a semi-annual interest payment of $38-million that was due June 1.
From further down in the article:
The parts industry has been reeling for months. Canadian parts suppliers have seen their production fall an average of 40 per cent in the past year or so and roughly 10,000 jobs have vanished.
Last week alone two major U.S. parts makers, Visteon Corp. and Metaldyne Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection, joining five others this year.
Yesterday I reproduced a list of suppliers owed money by GM. The conclusion is that these people will lose much, if not all, of that money. There are roughly $400 million (US) owed to parts suppliers. I thought that number was low, but today's Globe article claims that, in advance of the court proceedings, many parts suppliers were paid up until the end of April (very rare for automotive, it would be more usual to have 75 to 90 days outstanding).
So we are left to ponder cascade effects. Another quote from the article
JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Peter Acciavatti said in a recent note that based on debt-trading levels, Lear, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc., and at least one other company “appear to be on the verge of bankruptcy.