Category: Energy

Made in USA: Growing Panes for a High-Tech Window Company

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SageGlass was bought by a French company but its manufacturing remains in the United States. Operations director David Pender talks about the pros and cons of this arrangement.

SageGlass invented dynamic glass—“tint on demand” windows that use special coatings and low voltages of electricity to filter out varying degrees of light. The small company started in 1989 in New York, but eventually moved to Faribault, Minnesota, 50 miles south of Minneapolis, because the area was developing a reputation for its innovation in window manufacturing.

Then in 2012, French building materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain acquired SageGlass. Although the unmet demand for dynamic glass was mainly in Europe, Saint-Gobain chose to keep production in Minnesota, build a new plant there, and convert the old plant to a research and development facility. The new facility can coat panes of glass that are more than twice the size of the old ones.

David Pender, director of operations at SageGlass (who previously spent 11 years in Germany working for Saint Gobain), talked about the challenges and advantages of keeping SageGlass’s manufacturing and R&D in the United States:

Challenge: Europe has the most growth potential, but our manufacturing facility is in the U.S.

Western Europe is a little further along than the U.S. in building codes. What’s considered extremely exotic here … is considered almost normal in Europe. Getting the supply chain right to be able to produce everything from what’s acceptable in the U.S. to what’s expected in Europe poses a certain amount of challenge. We’ve got to be sourcing some things from Europe, to make the products here and then shift them back to Europe. That doesn’t make too much sense at the moment, but we are trying to grow this market worldwide. Europe is growing very, very quickly because the Saint-Gobain name in Europe is a big plus.

Advantage: The highest demand for the product is still in the U.S.

Overall, we’re on a three to four times year-over-year expansion. So this year we’ll produce three to four times what we did in 2016. Which is a phenomenal growth rate, and that’s set to continue as we grow in the Europe, in the U.S. and the Middle East. We just got our first really big job in China. In the future, this facility will get to capacity and just produce in North America, and there will probably be another facility doing something similar in Europe—and who knows how that will do going forward.

Continue reading “Made in USA: Growing Panes for a High-Tech Window Company”

Made in China? No, Made in the USA

Made in USA, Made in China
Prices for coal, natural gas, oil and the fuels made from crude such as gasoline and diesel are all far less expensive than they have been in recent years, delivering big breaks for consumers and decimating energy company profits and leading to huge layoffs. (Eric Gay, Associated Press file)

For years, we’ve been hearing about the decline of the middle class, especially among our communities of color. It is happening across America, including in Colorado. Continue reading “Made in China? No, Made in the USA”

American Refining Group, Inc. is First Oil Refinery in the U.S.A. to Become Made in USA Certified®

Made in USA Certified® proudly grants Certification to American Refining Group, Inc. in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the U.S. domestic oil industry more than 100 years ago.

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BRADFORD, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–October 14, 2013

American Refining Group, Inc. has successfully completed the Made in USA Certified proprietary supply chain audit process and is the first oil refinery to be granted license to use the Made in USA Certified® Seal for the following products: Brad Penn® Lubricants, Kensol® Naphthas and Distillates and Kendex® Base Oils, Custom Blends, Waxes and Resins.

American Refining Group, Inc, a privately owned facility, is situated on approximately 131 acres in Bradford, Pennsylvania, McKean County and the birthplace of the U.S. domestic oil industry over 100 years ago. The refinery has a rated capacity of 11,000 barrels/ day processing 100% Pennsylvania Grade Crude. This type of crude is available domestically and American Refining Group purchases the majority of their crude from sources in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia. It is the oldest continuously operated lube oil refinery in the world. They strive to supply their customers with consistent quality products and flexibility in working together, delivering the highest quality service.

American Refining Group’s stocks are converted into high quality waxes, lubricant base oils, gasoline and fuels, as well as a wide variety of specialty products. American Refining Group’s state-of-the-art blending and packaging facilities have the capability of producing a full spectrum of finished lubricant products. These products are available in a broad range of package sizes including bulk and these products can be delivered either by rail and/or truck. Our total commitment to quality is proven through our packaging plant and refinery being ISO 9001:2008 certified and Made in USA Certified.

Director of Marketing for American Refining Group, Roy Sambuchino states, “We felt that it was important to become Made in USA Certified to be able to distinguish our products as being truly “Made in USA” which is a strong part of our heritage and something our customers value. The Made in USA Certified seal gives our consumers added assurance in their purchases.”

Made in USA Certified’s Co-Founder & President, Julie Reiser stated, “The Bradford refinery was founded in 1881 at the height of the domestic oil boom and is the oldest continuously operating lube oil refinery in the world. Oil refinement in the USA is a critical piece of our Nation’s past, present and future. We congratulate this historic company on their on-going innovation and the good paying jobs they create for hard working Americans in the Bradford, Pennsylvania region. We are proud to certify ARG’s select line of products.”

Made in USA Certified® is the only Registered “Made in USA Certified” Word Mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and is the leading non-partisan, independent third party, certification company for the “Made in USA”, “Product of USA”, “Grown in USA” or “Service in USA” claims. The USA-C™ Seals show that a company bearing these trust marks has gone through a rigorous supply chain audit to verify compliance with our strict certification standards. Together, We Create Jobs in the USA!

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Barron’s Made in America: The Next Boom

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By: KOPIN TAN Barron’s JANUARY 2013

Barron's Made in America
Photo: Barron’s John Kuczala

Cheap natural gas and increasingly competitive labor costs are bringing factories and jobs back to the U.S. Eight ways to win.

 As the only industrialized superpower not decimated by World War II, the United States once made nearly 40% of the planet’s goods. These days, that number has shrunk to 18%. We make American Girl dolls in China, Levi’s jeans in Mexico, and enough movies in Vancouver to nickname it Hollywood North.

After decades of outsourcing, however, the U.S. is quietly enjoying a manufacturing revival, and companies like Apple (ticker: AAPL), Caterpillar (CAT), Ford Motor (F),General Electric (GE), and Whirlpool (WHR) are making more of their goods on American soil again. It isn’t just U.S. companies that are drawn to our cheap energy, weak dollar, and stagnant wages. Samsung Electronics (005930.Korea) plans a $4 billion semiconductor plant in Texas, Airbus SAS is building a factory in Alabama, and Toyota (TM) wants to export minivans made in Indiana to Asia.
The Rust Belt owes its new shine to many factors, including rising wages and industrial-land costs in Asia. But none is bigger than the U.S. energy boom. Thanks to a head start in extracting oil and gas from shales, North America now produces far more natural gas than any other continent. Unlike oil, gas isn’t easily transported across oceans, and a result is some of the world’s cheapest energy within our reach: Natural gas here costs $3.55 per million British thermal units, versus roughly $12 in Europe and $16 in Japan. Cheap energy not only reduces our trade deficit and our addiction to Middle East oil, it also makes our factories more competitive globally — a boon for a country that had gone from exporting American goods to exporting American jobs.The biggest beneficiaries are energy-guzzling companies like chemical producers and steelmakers, and Barron’s has identified eight stocks that should prosper in our gas-fueled manufacturing upswing. They are Southwestern Energy, LyondellBasell Industries, Nucor, Dover, Calpine, CF Industries, Williams, and Union Pacific. But any glow will also rub off on regional lenders, home builders, and local small businesses. “The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” declares Nancy Lazar, co-head of the New York research firm International Strategy & Investment. “And Middle America is my favorite emerging market.”

Our energy boom got cracking with fracking, a controversial process in which pressurized fluids are pumped through rock formations, often a mile or more under the ground, to extract oil and gas. Critics condemn fracking, which they contend causes environmental harm, but even they agree that it’s led to an abundance of cheap gas. Over the past six years, U.S. production of petroleum and natural gas has jumped from 15 million barrels of oil-equivalent a day to 20.1 million, a 20-year high. Over the same period, imports have fallen from 14 million barrels a day to below eight million, a 25-year low.

It’s a sign of the times: Graduates from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology — acceptance rate: 88%; mascot: Grubby the Miner — now command a median starting salary 16% higher than that of Yalies.

By 2020, the U.S. will become the world’s biggest oil producer, says the International Energy Agency. By 2025, North America will be a net energy exporter, predicts ExxonMobil (XOM).

That edge should remain ours for decades. “It isn’t just the huge reserves we have underground,” says Tim Parker, who manages T. Rowe Price’s natural-resource stock portfolios. “No one else has our predictable cocktail of infrastructure already in place, know-how, a relative abundance of water, and a favorable royalty regime that give landowners a stake in the exploration game.” Europe, for instance, is averse to fracking and has little infrastructure; Japan has hardly any shales; and while China has vast reserves, only shales nudging the Yangtze River have enough water for fracking.

Of course, an especially frigid winter could send gas prices soaring, but any such spike should be temporary. Given our expanding reserves and record inventory, commodity strategists expect U.S. natural gas to stay between $3 and $5 per million BTUs for years — well below prices abroad.

CHEAP GAS ISN’T THE ONLY booster in our tank. In the decade since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, that nation has become Earth’s low-cost factory. But wages and benefits there are rising 15% to 20% a year, while they’re stagnant here. Despite Beijing’s efforts to hold it down, the yuan has gained 33% against the dollar since 2005. Industrial land averages $10.22 a square foot across China, but rises to $11.15 in the coastal city of Ningbo and $21 in Shenzhen — compared with $1.30 to $4.65 in Tennessee and North Carolina. “Within five years, the total cost of producing many products will be only about 10% to 15% less in Chinese coastal cities than in parts of the U.S. where factories are likely to be built,” says Hal Sirkin, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. Add duties and shipping, and the cost gap shrinks further.

Continue reading “Barron’s Made in America: The Next Boom”

Made in America, Again

Why Manufacturing Will Return to the U.S.

By:Harold L. SirkinMichael Zinser, and Douglas Hohner

Made in America

 

For more than a decade, deciding where to build a manufacturing plant to supply the world was simple for many companies. With its seemingly limitless supply of low-cost labor and an enormous, rapidly developing domestic market, an artificially low currency, and significant government incentives to attract foreign investment, China was the clear choice.

Now, however, a combination of economic forces is fast eroding China’s cost advantage as an export platform for the North American market. Meanwhile, the U.S., with an increasingly flexible workforce and a resilient corporate sector, is becoming more attractive as a place to manufacture many goods consumed on this continent. An analysis by The Boston Consulting Group concludes that, by sometime around 2015—for many goods destined for North American consumers—manufacturing in some parts of the U.S. will be just as economical as manufacturing in China. The key reasons for this shift include the following:

  • Wage and benefit increases of 15 to 20 percent per year at the average Chinese factory will slash China’s labor-cost advantage over low-cost states in the U.S., from 55 percent today to 39 percent in 2015, when adjusted for the higher productivity of U.S. workers. Because labor accounts for a small portion of a product’s manufacturing costs, the savings gained from outsourcing to China will drop to single digits for many products.
  • For many goods, when transportation, duties, supply chain risks, industrial real estate, and other costs are fully accounted for, the cost savings of manufacturing in China rather than in some U.S. states will become minimal within the next five years.
  • Automation and other measures to improve productivity in China won’t be enough to preserve the country’s cost advantage. Indeed, they will undercut the primary attraction of outsourcing to China—access to low-cost labor.
  • Given rising income levels in China and the rest of developing Asia, demand for goods in the region will increase rapidly. Multinational companies are likely to devote more of their capacity in China to serving the domestic Chinese as well as the larger Asian market, and to bring some production work for the North American market back to the U.S.
  • Manufacturing of some goods will shift from China to nations with lower labor costs, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico. But these nations’ ability to absorb the higher-end manufacturing that would otherwise go to China will be limited by inadequate infrastructure, skilled workers, scale, and domestic supply networks, as well as by political and intellectual-property risks. Low worker productivity, corruption, and the risk to personal safety are added concerns in some countries.

This reallocation of global manufacturing is in its very early phases. It will vary dramatically from industry to industry, depending on labor content, transportation costs, China’s competitive strengths, and the strategic needs of individual companies. But we believe that it will become more pronounced over the next five years, especially as companies face decisions about where to add future capacity. While China will remain an important manufacturing platform for Asia and Europe, the U.S. will become increasingly attractive for the production of many goods sold to consumers in North America.

This report, the first in a series, examines the economic trends that point to a U.S. manufacturing renaissance. It also explores the strategic implications of the shifting cost equation for companies engaged in global sourcing.

Air pollution in Beijing goes off the index

Associated Press/Alexander F. Yuan – A man flies a kite near electricity pylons on a hazy day in Beijing Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. Air pollution levels in China’s notoriously dirty capital were at dangerous levels Saturday, with cloudy skies blocking out visibility and warnings issued for people to remain indoors. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

BEIJING (AP) — People refused to venture outdoors and buildings disappeared into Beijing’s murky skyline on Sunday as the air quality in China’s notoriously polluted capital went off the index.

The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website that the density of PM2.5 particulates had surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of the city. The World Health Organization considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

PM2.5 are tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair. They can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

The Beijing center recommended that children and the elderly stay indoors, and that others avoid outdoor activities.

The U.S. Embassy also publishes data for PM2.5 on Twitter, and interprets the data according to more stringent standards.

Continue reading “Air pollution in Beijing goes off the index”

U.S. Affirms Steep Tariffs on China Solar Panels

Employees assemble photovoltaic panels at Suntech Power Holdings Co.’s factory in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China, in 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration upheld steep tariffs on Chinese solar panelsWednesday, finding that improper trade practices have undermined an American solar industry that the largest U.S. manufacturer says is in the midst of collapse.

In one of the largest trade cases the U.S. has pursued against the Asian superpower, the Commerce Department said China’s government is subsidizing companies that are flooding the U.S. market with low-cost products — a tactic known as “dumping.” To counteract those price cuts, the U.S. government imposed tariffs ranging from 18 percent to nearly 250 percent.

For some Chinese companies, those tariffs are lower than preliminary tariffs imposed in May.

Still, another set of duties dealing with improper subsidies was increased dramatically. While the initial ruling levied anti-subsidy fees ranging from 2.9 percent to 4.7 percent, the final ruling issued Wednesday sets those fees at 14.8 percent to 16 percent.

Continue reading “U.S. Affirms Steep Tariffs on China Solar Panels”