There is a serious skills gap crisis in the U.S. manufacturing industry, an industry which makes up nine percent of the U.S. workforce, making it one of the largest workforces in the country. The manufacturing industry, like many other industries in our quickly-shifting, modern economy, requires skilled workers to fill critical positions, such as machine/equipment operators and automation supervisors. Without these skilled workers, the manufacturing industry would undoubtedly be disrupted and overall production and revenue would take massive hits. Despite the importance of skilled worker positions and the fairly high compensation offered, manufacturing companies are still finding themselves with a dearth of talent from which to hire some of their most important employees. For years now, the industry has reported that the number one issue plaguing it is a lack of skilled workers. There are almost three times as many skilled worker positions being posted than are being filled. Over the next decade, almost two million manufacturing jobs are predicted to go unfulfilled due to the skills gap crisis.
On August 9, 2018, Original Equipment Suppliers Association (“OESA”) held its 2018 Automotive Commodities Event covering a variety of topics related to commodities purchasing, including strategies for price risk management, insights into future mixed material usage in the automotive industry, and legal strategies for navigating volatile commodity markets. Highlights of the issues discussed during the event include:
A Plant-wide Applicability Limit (PAL) is an annual emission limitation that allows facilities to be modified, changed or altered without first obtaining a New Source Review permit. A PAL permit eliminates the need for companies to create separate emissions caps and permitting processes for each piece of equipment or components within a plant. They are extremely valuable to manufacturing companies investing in new projects, machinery and plants, and those experiencing frequent delays in the traditional project permitting process.
The latest announcement of new Section 301 tariffs on imports from China contained an unwelcome surprise for the U.S. automotive sector. In addition to the announcement of a potential Section 232 tariffs or other trade measures on imported automobiles and automotive parts (an investigation that is still ongoing), the Trump Administration now has announced a list of $200 billion in special Section 301 tariffs on over 6000 types of products imported from China. And to add further to the import-related misery, the Trump Administration then upped the ante by increasing the potential duties on the $200 billion of new annual trade from 10 to 25 percent, thereby proposing a new tax on imports in the range of $50 billion per year.
The Center for Automotive Research (CAR)’s annual Management Briefing Seminars are being held this week in Traverse City, Michigan. Tuesday’s sessions included an annual highlight of the conference: a detailed update and outlook on “Forecasting the North American Sales and Production Footprint in Uncertain Times,” presented by a panel of leading automotive forecasters, analysts and economists. Unlike the more rosy tone from last year when I reported that “The Sky Is Not Falling,” this year’s themes could be summed up as: “Risk, Disruption and Declining Peak.” Most of the forecasts included only a modest decline (by historical standards) from sales of 17.2 million units in 2017 to somewhere in the mid-high 16 million units by 2020, but when combined with current trade and regulatory uncertainties the overall tone of the panel was more cautious this year. The other glaring theme from the panel, not only in North America but in many other world markets, was the continuing route of SUVs and CUVs over sedans, with a market share that is only expected to increase.