On the Wire | News and Analysis from the Web

US durable goods orders show modest 0.2% December gain.  AP 1/26
“Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose a modest 0.2% in December, held back by a big drop in the volatile aircraft sector. A key category that tracks business investment decisions slowed. . . .”

Labor market trends show emphasis on digital skills, reorganization, experts say.  HR Drive 1/22
“During the last several months, the coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the business world and the employment status of millions of Americans. Even those who kept their jobs are now working under markedly different circumstances. Leaders from global staffing firm Randstad noted that digital and organizational transformation will shape the labor market in 2021, in addition to the efforts made toward economic recovery. . . .”

40% of supply chains in multinational corporations could not cope with COVID-19 pandemic.  TechRepublic 1/22
“Supply chains in 40% of multinational corporations were unable to cope with the crisis created by the pandemic, new research reveals.  The report, Real-time Intelligence and the Future of Supply Chains surveyed 320 enterprises in the manufacturing, transport, and logistics sectors and revealed that the global pandemic has dramatically changed attitudes toward risk. . . .”

Hiring for attitude while hunting for skilled labor in manufacturing.  The Fabricator 1/26
“There’s an old saying that employers hire for skills and fire for attitude. Many fabricators would agree. After all, you can teach a technical skill, but changing a person’s poor attitude is a harder nut to crack. . . .”

China and U.S. face “reckoning” over trade disruptions in 2021.  Supply Chain Quarterly 1/18
“Supply chain managers are accustomed to navigating the annual supply disruption following Asia’s pending Lunar New Year celebration, but a range of factors in 2021 could make China’s logistics policies even harder to predict than usual, an international trade expert is warning. . . .”

Operations Managers: Rising to the Challenges of 2021.  IndustryWeek 1/20
“After a difficult 2020, relief for operations-intensive organizations may be on the horizon in the form of COVID-19 vaccines. There’s no doubt, however, that the business environment remains challenging. As the pandemic continues to ravage Europe and the United States, governments, entrepreneurs, and ordinary people are now hoping the situation will ease around the middle of this year. . . .”

Steel prices reach levels not seen since 2008.  The Fabricator 1/18
“The benchmark price for hot-rolled steel reached a new record high of $1,080/ton last month, according to our check of the market Jan. 11-12. That surpasses the previous high of $1,070/ton recorded by Steel Market Update (SMU) in 2008, and it leaves steel buyers with some important questions:
How much higher can steel possibly go?
When will the price peak?
Will the eventual correction be a gradual decline or a dramatic death spiral as in 2008? . . .”

How Safety Leaders Can Manage the Impact of COVID-19.  EHS Today 1/21
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have varied and widespread impacts on enterprises in nearly all industries as well as across the entire public sector. Besides sustaining significant hits to their revenues, employers able to remain or resume operating have had to navigate dramatic changes to their workplaces, business processes and workforces. . . .”

BDO: 50% of manufacturers plan to secure backup suppliers in 2021.  Supply Chain Dive 1/14
“Manufacturers weathered the struggles of 2020 by being agile and resilient, maintaining relationships with suppliers, finding new sourcing options quickly and implementing technology to shore up needs for remote work and keep up with the increased use of e-commerce. Companies must remain vigilant in 2021. . . .”

No Political Discussions at Work? Not So Fast. (Podcast)  Gallup 1/19
“With heightened tensions surrounding political, racial and other issues, many employers have become conditioned to avoid sensitive topics in the workplace — even creating policies that outright ban such conversations. But is this the right approach? Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, joins the podcast to advocate for discussions rather than debates, and why building an environment where healthy conversations can take place is key for modern workplaces. . . .”

Get ready for metamorphic manufacturing.  SME 1/14
“Metamorphic manufacturing, also known as robotic blacksmithing, is poised to bring about faster time to market, less material waste, more available materials, less energy used and more control, proponents said. . . .”

Talking vaccines: The new communications hurdle for employers.  SmartBrief 1/13
“COVID-19 continues to surge. While the news about vaccines presents a light at the end of the tunnel, the road remains long. The FDA approvals, distribution protocols and rollout of the coronavirus vaccine bring with them a fresh set of challenges for employer-employee communications — and as many questions as answers. . . .”

6 Top Trends in Industrial Robots for 2021.  ASME 1/13
“The use of industrial robots in manufacturing and industrial facilities continues to rapidly evolve. According to a November 2020 Reportlinker report, industrial robotics is the top robotics segment and expected to grow from $76.6 billion in 2020 to $176.8 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate of 18.2 percent. This growth is driven largely by manufacturers that plan to use robots to counter the looming skills gap, especially for material handling tasks. . . .”

Lean As A Habit.  IndustryWeek 1/11
“There’s a good bit of literature out there that reports on the high failure rates of large initiatives like a lean enterprise implementation. Do a websearch on “failure rate of lean implementation” and you’ll find articles that indicate between 50% and 95% of all lean initiatives fail. The latter percentage might be a bit high, but the question of why so many programs fail is prompted nonetheless. The answers to that question are legion, but I think the fact that lean methods and practices are too often seen as “events” rather than “habits” is a common cause of program failure. . . .”

On Factory Floors, a Chime and Flashing Light to Maintain Distance.  New York Times 1/12
“The 2019-20 National Basketball Association season was suspended for over 140 days after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. But once play resumed in late July, no other players tested positive. . . .”

Jabs equal jobs? Fed sees possible economic boom if vaccine gets on track.  Reuters 1/12
“One U.S. Federal Reserve official says there is now a “clearer focus” about the economy’s path forward and a horizon for a fuller recovery. Another says the pandemic’s “endgame” is here. A third predicts 2021 will prove “impressive.” . . . “