While perusing a list of the Top 10 'Most Popular' News Stories Of 2008, compiled by Manufacturing.net, a few themes ring loud and clear as topics prevalent on the minds of manufacturing professionals. As we embark on a new year, it may be helpful to remind yourself of these "most-clicked" articles, contemplate how they relate to the processing industry and consider the implications they may hold for 2009.
Working Too HardWhy You Clicked: Many of us can relate to feeling overworked at some point in our careers, which may be why an article reporting the death of a Toyota engineer in Japan was the most popular article for 2008; his death was attributed in part to being overworked.
Extended overtime is and has been the norm in Japan-in fact, in the two months before the engineer died, he averaged 80 hours of overtime.
Readers pointed out, however, that long overtime hours are becoming a more common occurrence in the U.S., especially as plants are forced to cut jobs, creating a shortage of workers to do the same, if not more, work.
The topic was most popular because it sparked a debate most of us can relate to: How much is too much work, and how severe can the consequences become?
What It Means For You In 2009: Until the economy can turn around, it looks like industry professionals will face similar employment obstacles in 2009. With plants cutting jobs just to stay running, many of us are just doing what we can to stay employed-even it if means working longer, harder hours.
If anything, this article should serve as a reminder to take a break once in a while in the new year, and that working too much may have harsher repercussions than you think.
ChinaWhy You Clicked: U.S. business moving overseas, particularly to China, has been a persistent sore spot for processing professionals for years, especially as manufacturing jobs in the U.S. continue to decline. In 2008, three of the top 10 articles readers clicked on discussed U.S. affairs with China.
In 2008, even overseas manufacturing was affected by rising energy, material and labor costs, and as a result, an article entitled Chinese Factories No Longer Cheapest caught the second majority of readers' attention.
Not only did many U.S. plants move abroad, but some of the products coming back to U.S. consumers also proved to be faulty. In fact, one article reported that consumer electronics manufactured in China and sold in the U.S. actually transported technology viruses. Another popular article claimed that China told the U.S. to fix its economy-or else.
What It Means For You In 2009: If costs in China continue to climb, manufacturing will surely move out, looking for the next cheapest place to build a facility. The article suggests that new hot-spot locations, however, could include Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia or India. Furthermore, if problems with products being manufactured in China persist, it may urge manufacturing to move elsewhere even faster.
However, even with these changes, it still seems unlikely that manufacturing plants nesting in foreign soil could move back to the United States (despite the wishes of many in the industry who are looking to reinstate jobs in the U.S.).
Keeping Beer HereWhy You Clicked: In September 2008, you clicked on an article detailing how a group of beer drinkers filed a federal lawsuit claiming Belgium-based InBev's $52-billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch would violate U.S. antitrust laws. According to the article, the plaintiffs claimed that if InBev bought Anheuser-Busch, all beer competition in the U.S. would diminish, along with the incentive to maintain reasonable prices.
Despite all that, the larger picture is that this is just another instance of American business being shipped abroad.
What It Means For You In 2009: The acquisition was completed in November 2008, yet the new company managed to retain a little bit of its St. Louis heritage by locating its North American headquarters there. So business remains in the U.S. As for beer drinkers, time will tell how it affects the prices and marketing of beer here.
'Affordable' Alternative Vehicle OptionsWhy You Clicked: As our pocketbooks tightened in 2008, we as consumers began looking for quality new energy innovations that would work within our budgets. For many, the big SUVs and gas-guzzling vehicles just weren't cutting it, but consumers were also hesitant to invest in new hybrid and electric vehicles, that is, unless they knew it was worth it.
So while the Big Three came crashing down, other carmakers strove to offer consumers, well, something else to consider. Therefore, five of the top 10 articles of 2008 revolve around "affordable" hybrid or electric cars.
Sure, while some of the clicks may have been out of pure interest, such as in the article about the world's cheapest car ($2,500)—and huge environmental hazard—from Tata, other articles provided information about serious new options coming down the pipeline.
From "affordable" hybrids by Honda to more powerful electric cars from a Dutch firm to electric cars with options from Chrysler to even more electric cars from Nissan, your interests were piqued because this news was likely to affect your future purchasing decisions.
What It Means For You In 2009: It looks like 2009 is still more of a development year for these new vehicle options; most new models are slated to launch at the end of 2009 or 2010. However, the news does give processing professionals something to ponder as prospective consumers, for both personal, and potentially, plant use.With environmental issues constantly in the forefront of manufacturing professionals' minds, the importance of being environmentally responsible (and its prospective associated cost-saving effects) will only increase in popularity.
I'd love to hear your opinion. Feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.