Workers Older Than Ever- Bloomberg

August 6, 2014

Baby-boomer demographics continue to shape industry and employment.

According to Peter Coy with Bloomberg,”…older workers’ share of the workforce briefly dipped below 12 percent in the early 1990s but has risen steeply ever since. The population bulge of the baby boom is the big factor, of course. The peak birth year of the baby boom was 1957. Those peak boomers, no longer babies, reached age 55 in 2012—the first year older workers’ share of employment hit 21 percent.”

Babyboomer 55 BloombergAs managers we need to 

  • Understand that this cadre of talent has (is!) our tribal knowledge;
  • Find ways to help them share and preserve this knowledge;
  • Find new talent to learn from them;

One more item to think about- many baby-boomers will not be taking traditional retirements for various reasons-

  • They enjoy their jobs,
  • They are still too fit to “retire,”
  • They can’t afford to,
  • They decide to keep working to assure that they won’t run out of money when they finally do retire.

We will need to make some accommodations in our shops to keep them safe for older workers.

Bloomberg Story and Graph

July ISM PMI Confirms Positive Outlook For Manufacturing

August 5, 2014

We remain optimistic for the outlook for manufacturing for the next three months based on the latest  ISM PMI and PMPA Business Trends Indicators.

The latest Institute for Supply Management PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) increased 1.8 points to 57.1 for July. The July value was the 14th consecutive month of manufacturing expansion; the 62nd consecutive month of expansion in the broad economy, and the highest value since April 2011.

Using the July reading, this value indicates an expansion in manufacturing, but if annualized, is also consistent with a 4.6% rate of increase of real GDP according to ISM.

July 14 ISM pmi

If the January through July data is annualized, the  corresponding GDP growth would be about 3.7%.

PMPA’s June 2014 Business Trends Report showed a seasonal decline  in shipments for the month of June, but the average for the year to date is 123, up 6 points (~5.1%)  from last year’s 117 year end average.

PMPA’s Business Trends Indicator for Sales/ Shipments sentiment was strongly positive in June, with ~88% of respondents expecting sales to remain the same or increase over the next three months. and 89% of respondents expecting lead times to increase or remain the same for the next three months.

July ISM PMI GRAPH  courtesy St Louis Fed

July 2014 ISM PMI Report for Manufacturing


Workforce Demographics- Clarity from CBER Muncie

July 31, 2014

Openings for skilled workers as older workers retire are seen as the biggest challenge facing manufacturers in this economic policy report from Connexus Indiana and CBER Muncie.

When these workers leave, we will need people with skills to replace them. What's your plan?

When these workers leave, we will need people with skills to replace them. What’s your plan?

“The most significant challenge facing Indiana’s manufacturing firms is the very high percentage of workers nearing retirement age (more than one in six workers over the next 10 years).”-CBER Manufacturing and Labor Market Frictions, Connexus Indiana, CBER Muncie Indiana.

“Since 1998, the share of manufacturing workers aged 55 to 64 has grown from 9.8 percent to 16.8 percent, which is a 71 percent increase in share in less than a generation’s time. This rapid growth is due to the movement of the baby boom generation into near-retirement and retirement years.

Although this transition is occurring across the economy, it is larger and growing more rapidly in manufacturing.” CBER Report

And it is not just in Indiana. This trend can be seen nationwide.

Skilled workforce. Our greatest challenge.

What is your plan?

Carbon Steel Without Manganese?

July 30, 2014

Manganese ties up Sulfur before it can chemically combine with Iron  to form Iron Pyrite. Iron Pyrite occurs at grain boundaries and leads to hot shortness (brittle behavior) at rolling temperatures.

More than fools gold, Iron Pyrite can prevent steel from being hot worked by inducing "hot shortness."

More than fools gold, Iron Pyrite can prevent steel from being hot worked by inducing “hot shortness.”

We saw that several people found our blog with the search term “Carbon Steel Without Manganese.”

So we’ll take this opportunity to answer that.

We have already written about  5 Facts about Manganese in Steel which explains the contributions of Manganese to a steel’s properties.

But lets answer the question – is there a Carbon Steel without Manganese?

The answer to that is No.

Here is the primary reason why. Iron Pyrite.

There are always small amounts of sulfur in steel, and Sulfur combines with the iron in the steel to form Iron Pyrite. Iron Pyrite is also known as iron sulfide, though a more descriptive name might be Iron persulfide.

Regardless, this material is formed as sulfur in the melt reacts with iron , and this material segregates at grain boundaries., causing intergranular brittleness. This causes it to break, rather than behave in a ductile fashion and reduce under the pressure of the rolls.

By adding Manganese to the melt, Manganese preferentially ties up the available sulfur, forming manganese sulfides. this prevents the formation of iron pyrites in the grain boundaries, preserving the ductility of the steel at rolling temperatures.

That is why every steel that we have encountered contains enough Manganese to react with the sulfur in the melt.

Steel without Manganese? Nope, I’ve never encountered it. And that is a good thing!

 Photo credit



How Does Your State Rank for Manufacturing?

July 29, 2014

The 2014 Connexus Indiana Manufacturing and Logistics report is a clear, easy to understand 6 page document with graphs and a single Data table report card to give you great insights into the “state of Manufacturing in your state.”

We were pleased to find a treasure trove of state by state data on Manufacturing at the 2014 Manufacturing and Logistics report prepared by Connexus Indiana, CBER Ball State Muncie Indiana.

Think of this as a useful piece of “Business Intelligence” to confirm your feelings about your particular states Manufacturing performance.

Manufacturing Health



From the report:

“Manufacturing is the production of both consumer durable goods (e.g. automobiles, electronics, and home appliances that last for years) and consumer non-durable goods (e.g. clothing, processed foods, and other goods that are consumed after use).

To measure manufacturing industry health, we include three variables: the share of total income earned by manufacturing employees in each state, the wage premium paid to manufacturing workers relative to the other states’ employees, and the share of manufacturing employment per capita.

Sources: U.S. Department of the Census and Bureau of Economic Analysis. “

On this site you will also find indicators grading states for:

  • Human Capital,
  • Worker Benefit Costs,
  • Tax Climate,
  • Expected Fiscal Liability Gap,
  • Global Reach,
  • Sector Diversification,
  • Productivity and Innovation
  • And Logistics.

Here’s that link:  2014 Manufacturing and Logistics report


About Ball State CBER

The Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) is an economic policy and forecasting research center at Ball State University. In addition to its analysis and data delivery offerings, CBER organizes the annual Indiana Economic Outlook and quarterly meetings of the Business Roundtable.

Center for Business and Economic Research

2000 W. University Ave. (WB 149)Muncie, IN 47306765-285-5926

Sharpening A Scraper Master Class- Link Van Cleave

July 25, 2014

One of my friends on Facebook posted this video about how to sharpen a wood scraper by a guitar maker that she knows.

I was impressed that this video correctly shows us not just the “How” but also the “Why” of the steps needed when sharpening this tool.

The lessons in this video provide a master class of insights into the issues of sharpening any tool by hand.

The overall lesson that I took from this is the importance of properly holding our workpiece (in this case the tool) so that we don’t put distortions into it.

PS:  Look at the chips!

PPS: Do you have a favorite “Love of the Craft” video that you think we should share?

June Shipments Down Seasonally But Positive Year over Year

July 23, 2014

(Corrected) The PMPA Business Trends Index for June 2014 declined 8 points to 120. This is the same pattern that we reported in May-June 2013.

We are not alarmed at this drop because the value of 120 for June 2014 is 3 points above the average for calendar year 2013 (117) and 5 points above the 115 value for June 2013.

Seasonal change remains up over 2013.

Seasonal change remains up over 2013.


  • The number of respondents for June is 83- back to our pre-online system migration levels.
  • Our industry continues to show solid sales in 2014.
  • Sentiment for all indicators turned positive in this month’s reporting.

We are especially pleased to see the expectations for Lead times swing from last month’s negative 10% to +10%- a 20 point increase for June 2014.

Note about participation: The number of respondents for June is 83- back to our pre-online system migration levels. 

(CORRECTION: our first release of this report showed hours of first shift scheduled declining by 0.1 hour. we have corrected this report to reflect an 0.4 hour increase. the low initial report was due to a user data error.)

Link to full report here


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