Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Americans Finally Starting To Understand Globalization- Too Late.

It amazes me that people seem surprised about major U.S. companies cutting thousands of U.S. jobs, mostly manufacturing jobs, and moving jobs elsewhere. Have Americans been living in a bubble for the past 10 years? They have had at least 10 years of warning.

American companies and industries in general don't know how to lead and be innovative anymore like they used to. In previous decades, America always led, whether it was in cars, computers, manufacturing, Commercial Airplane production, major engineering projects. You name it, and we usually led it.

Now, America is finding itself doing a lot more following or catching up with the rest of the world. People wonder why Ford, GM, & Chrysler are struggling? It is their business model for one thing. If American workers want to compete, such as with Ford, someone must have enough backbone to tell these autoworkers, and their Unions, that they will have to take a 20% pay cut (which would still leave them with a respectable wage btw). The average Ford worker is making in the 50's. Many are in the 60's. That represents a huge cost for a company already saddled by retirement and healthcare debt. If you go overseas, especially Asia, autoworkers are not making that kind of money and the companies overseas are not hampered by as much debt. They also make cars more efficiently. American car companies are also behind when it comes to making cars that people want to buy. First of all their products are lower quality in general. And their service stinks. That's been my experience with Chrysler (and I will never buy a Chrysler again). Taking care of the customer is nowhere in their vocabulary. The job of the service techs is strickly to save Chrysler money by avoiding fixing your vehicle.

Also, American car companies continue to build these gas guzzlers. They are trying to revive the mustle car concept when the rest of the market is going in a totally different direction. You have Hummer, The Magnum, and the list of SUV's and trucks is just too long to mention. Research in the area of alternative fuel vehicles, hybrids, hydrogen vehicles and electric cars is just not a focus for these companies, even at a time of tight gas supplies and high gas prices in the U.S. market. Meanwhile, European, and Asian car companies are innovating with new technology.
The U.S. will have to play catch up. The political reasons for this come from the big oil companies that are fighting against any vehicles that would require alternative fuels, because that would hurt their business. The more gas guzzlers are on the road, the more money they make. Members of both parties are in the pockets of the oil companies. So America will be behind for several years when it comes to vehicle innovation.

In Airplane manufacturing you have Europes Airbus running neck and neck with Boeing. If someone said 10 years ago that Boeing would be challenged by a formidable foreign airplane maker, you would have been labelled as a nut. But here we are...the U.S. is playing catch up.

Computers and other hardware and software can be made overseas more efficiently.
Steel is more expensive to make in the U.S. Clothing manufacturing is almost non-existent in the U.S. Just look at the appliances in your home & check where they were made... all made in China, Taiwan, The philippines, South Korea, Mexico, or some other foreign location.

Even in the area of engineering. We went from building the Hoover Dam, re-routing rivers, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, massive highway and rail networks, massive airports, subway systems that were once the envy of the world, to today....not being able to build a levee system for one of our most important cities. The Dutch were able to basically save their entire country with the Delta Works Flood Control project (look it up), which includes a massive mechanical gate that blocks the monster North Sea. Yet, we can't build a levee to save a city from a gradual rise of water and a shallow lake that runs about 10 ft deep? Something has happened to our engineering capacity over the last 20 years. Delta Works Engineers from Europe are now consulting with officials in the U.S. about ideas for a flood protection program for New Orleans. I used to believe that if the Army Corps of Engineers couldn't do something, then it couldn't be done. But here we are. Most of the great modern engineers are from overseas. Most of the great mega engineering projects are taking place overseas... The Chinese Dams, the Brazilian Dam project, Delta Works, France with the largest bridge, Japan with all sorts of projects...including the island airport, and bridges of all kinds, Dubai's massive man made island project, the list goes on & on. The U.S. seems to do less and less of these big projects. In fact, we can't even maintain many of our existing roads. Just part of a larger trend of the U.S. falling behind.

One big problem that the U.S. will have in the next 10-20 years is the lack of engineers and technical people. The lack of science professionals, and the lack of inventors. There is a general lack of young Americans going into these kinds of fields. In fact, we are at or nearing dangerous levels. This is part of the current lack of development and innovation in the U.S. and will be a big problem for innovation in the future.

Here is a great Public Radio Discussion about Fords situation and American industry as a whole.

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