News from Plant Engineering: Week of Nov. 27

By Plant Engineering Staff November 29, 2005

NAM: Time for action on China currency

The National Association of Manufacturers expressed disappointment over the Bush Administration’s failure to cite China’s currency manipulation policies in its latest report to Congress, and said the time to simply talk about currency issues was past.

“We have been very supportive of the Administration’s constructive engagement with the Chinese government on the currency issue but, at some point, talk must end and action must be taken. We believe that time is now,” said NAM president John Engler.

Engler noted that in May, Treasury Secretary John Snow had said the Chinese would need to change its currency policies to avoid further pressure from Washington. The Chinese made only a minor revaluation of the yuan in July, and NAM has called on the Bush administration to keep the pressure on.

“Since the small revaluation announced by China in July, the yuan has appreciated a mere 0.3 percent,” continued Engler.“Both President Bush and Secretary Snow have in recent weeks said that China needed to do more, and we agree.”

Where is this year’s Top Plant winner?

The 2005 PLANT ENGINEERING magazine Top Plant recipient will be announced December 15 when the December issue of PLANT ENGINEERING reaches your mailbox. Look for this year’s winner and read how one American manufacturer is assembling a winning team.

Sustainable design on ASHRAE agenda

Several sessions relating to integrated or sustainable design will be presented at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ 2006 Winter Meeting, Jan. 21-25, at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton. There will be 104 sessions presented as part of the technical program.

Registration for the 2006 ASHRAE Winter Meeting is $635 ($375, ASHRAE member) prior to Dec. 2. After Dec. 2, the registration fee will be $750 ($490, ASHRAE member). For more information or to register, visit .

Grainger signs on as NMW sponsor

W.W. Grainger Inc., North America’s leading distributor of facilities maintenance supplies, will be a sponsor and participate in the 2006 National Manufacturing Week, to be held March 20 through March 23 in Rosemont, IL.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Grainger as a participant, corporate sponsor and educational session leader at this upcoming National Manufacturing Week,” said Kel Marsden-Kish, industry vice president, National Manufacturing Week.“Grainger’s extensive network of branches, industry leadership and dedication to U.S. manufacturing make them a key participant to the event.”

Grainger will exhibit in the 58th National Plant Engineering and Maintenance Show as well as present in the Conference program, including a session on “The Power of Planning the Unplanned: Studies Show Over 40% of MRO Dollars are Spent on Unplanned Purchases.”

Gilles Bouchard, executive vice president of global operations for HP, will deliver remarks on “Customer Choice: Managing Multiple Routes-to-Market on a Global Scale,” at the 2006 National Manufacturing Week Conference, March 20 — 23, in Rosemont, IL.

To register, go to

Power quality Webcast now in archive

If you missed PLANT ENGINEERING’s important Webcast on Power Quality on Nov. 15, the archived version is now available on the Web at The Webcast featured a discussion of what plant engineers and managers can do to ensure the quality of power in their plants, how they can recognizes and measure the source of the problems and how they can protect their plant from power quality interruption. Hundreds of viewers saw it live, and the event attracted viewership from as far away as Central and South America.

You can also register now at for the new Webcast, Electrical efficiency, which will air Jan. 16, 2006. Electrical efficiency is a nice buzzword, but when it comes to electric power in plants, what does it really mean? Top industry experts will offer views on how to quantify electrical efficiency, and how to use this knowledge to increase the bottom line without hampering productivity

NAM: High gas prices causing layoffs

High natural gas prices are beginning to cause significant job losses, salary freezes and lost market share for U.S. manufacturers, according to the results of a national survey released last month by the National Association of Manufacturers.

Nearly 45% of those surveyed said they will be forced to lay off workers or impose wage freezes or reductions. About 22% of respondents said their companies would cut health care or benefits in an attempt to keep up with energy costs.

“This is a crisis. It’s the worst I’ve seen since we started this company 45 years ago,” said Virginia Ferrell, president of Capital Engineering and Manufacturing Co., with 85 employees in Chicago. “I don’t think people recognize that this shortage of energy is new to the United States. It’s a seismic market disruption. Meanwhile, our competitors are increasing their energy supplies.”

Ferrell said her company would impose job cuts, wage freezes, benefit cuts, and move to a four-day work week to survive energy costs that have doubled. “This is serious enough to put us out of business,” she said.

About two-thirds of respondents said natural gas is their primary energy source. About 15% cited oil, and three percent cited coal.

“The results of this survey should set off alarms in Congress — high energy prices pose an immediate threat to the U.S. economy,” said NAM president John Engler. “It is time to increase energy supply and infrastructure, starting with developing our vast resources in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Congress to fund MEPs

Congress has approved $106 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, which serve 14,000 businesses each year and are credited with helping retain more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in companies and generating more than $4.1 billion in sales.

“The MEPs serve a critical role in helping small manufacturers take advantage of cutting edge technologies and compete in the global marketplace,” said National Association of Manufacturers president John Engler said. “Manufacturers in the U.S. must contend with an array of disadvantages – soaring energy and health care costs, runaway litigation, lack of qualified workers, excessive taxes and unfair foreign competition – that are largely caused by unwise government policies. To the extent the MEPs can help small companies overcome these obstacles, they constitute a wise and prudent investment.

“Many of our members benefit from this program, and to the extent they are able to create jobs and keep manufacturing in the U.S., it’s good for everyone,” Engler said. “The NAM fought for this funding and we will continue to work and with the MEPs.”

Reliability seminars set for January

Life Cycle Engineering is accepting registrations for the first series of its Reliability Excellence for Managers (RxM) course in 2006.

RxM is a course for industry managers with operations and maintenance responsibilities who are concerned with maintaining a competitive advantage and initiating strategic business improvements. This course is proven to successfully increase the knowledge and understanding of the importance of reliability within process industries and discreet manufacturing organizations. It provides a systematic method of training for managers to develop, implement, and sustain world-class maintenance and reliability best practices that effectively support the goals and objectives of their organization.

The first session is Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 2006 in Charleston, SC. To register, go to , or call (800) 556-9589.

Distributed control market eyes strong growth

The Distributed Control Systems market, primarily buoyed by growth in developing countries such as China and India and a slowdown in hardware price declines, has experienced healthy growth between 2003 and 2004. ).

Growth in China and India is compounded by the fact that significant restructuring efforts will need to be made in the North American oil & gas and refining infrastructure in the wake of an unprecedented hurricane season, as well as a return to stronger, albeit moderate growth, in the previously depressed Japanese DCS market.

witnessed in the hardware business in recent years.  Most DCS suppliers have retained key business elements of manufacturing and/or design of control hardware,” said ARC Research Director Larry O’Brien.

Machine tool consumption up 10.2%

September U.S. machine tool consumption totaled $294.84 million, according to The Association For Manufacturing Technology, and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association. This total, as reported by companies participating in the USMTC program, was down 2.4% from August and down 20.5% from the total of $370.66 million reported for September 2004. With a year-to-date total of $2,280.56 million, 2005 was up 10.2% compared with 2004.

These numbers and all data in this report are based on the totals of actual data reported by companies participating in the USMTC program.

“The September results capped a strong third quarter for U.S. machine tool orders,” said AMY president John B. Byrd III. “Indicators suggest that this trend will continue given the improved U.S. currency position and manufacturers’ solid profitability. In addition, high energy costs are helping to make off-shore manufacturing less attractive.”