Wisconsin Manufacturing News

Rockwell CEO leads call for federal investment in manufacturing; Harley announces more layoffs and Buell plant shutdown

Rockwell CEO leads call for federal investment in manufacturing

Rockwell Automation Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Keith Nosbusch is calling for greater federal resources to help American manufacturers thrive in a post-recession global economy.

"U.S. manufacturers absolutely must have innovative energy-efficient and productivity-enhancing technology to be competitive," Nosbusch told a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The transformation to smarter, safer and more sustainable manufacturing provides an opportunity for the federal government to help develop and make innovations in American plants to keep them competitive and to promote a sustainable U.S. manufacturing employment base, the speakers said.

"We all are pleased that President Obama has named a manufacturing czar to coordinate federal policy and programs to help U.S. manufacturers," Nosbusch said. "Up until 1990, federal support for applied research – which is most critical for manufacturing – was equal to federal funding for basic science. But today it is about 30 percent lower with nearly a $10 billion gap that needs to be remedied. Congress also needs to expand federal tax credits to apply to investments in smart, safe and more sustainable manufacturing technologies."

Rockwell is based in Milwaukee.

U.S. industry is in a battle not just with countries with lower costs, but also with developed countries that are investing in new technology, said Emily DeRocco, president of the Manufacturing Institute and vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

"With high-quality, inexpensive products flooding the market from every corner of the globe, competing on cost alone is a losing battle for most U.S.-based manufacturers," DeRocco said.

The cost of manufacturing in the United States is nearly 18 percent higher than in America’s nine largest trading partners, she said. That puts the 13.8 million manufacturing jobs in the United States at risk.

The European Union already has allocated about $2 billion to encourage its manufacturers to invest in the next generation of technology for energy efficiency and productivity.

"To stay in the game, American companies must differentiate themselves through innovation," DeRocco said. "Only those countries that invest in innovation and a highly skilled workforce will stay competitive."

Most energy efficiency has come from implementation of new technology, said R. Neal Elliott, associate director of research at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

"We estimate that two-thirds of energy efficiency gained in the past 20 years has come from the application sensors and controls," Elliott said. "We can reduce manufacturing energy intensity by more than half in the next 20 years as we begin to integrate smart technology not just into equipment but into entire manufacturing systems, plants and ultimately into the entire supply chains."

Federal policy needs to support three things: research, a level playing field for trade, and a tax and regulatory environment that spurs innovation, said Thomas Duesterberg, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI.

"It is high time for Washington to recognize that the policy environment matters to the ability of manufacturers to compete successfully in our globalized economy," Duesterberg said. "’Smart, Safe and Sustainable Manufacturing’ is not a slogan. It’s a blueprint for success in the world economy and improving our standards of living."

While billions of federal dollars are going toward retooling the auto industry, little has been earmarked to provide a "greenprint" to stimulate the same kind of transformation toward smart, safe and sustainable manufacturing, speakers said.

The speakers recommended the following federal actions:

Ensure legislative priorities are in line with those of manufacturers and the general public.

Double federal funding for manufacturing innovation.

Establish a $2 billion public-private partnership program to research and develop a manufacturing "greenprint" for smart, safe and sustainable manufacturing.

Provide federal assistance for public-private partnerships to create demonstration projects that foster manufacturing innovation.

Expand federal tax credits to apply to investments in advanced technologies that automate and modernize factories.

Harley announces more layoffs and Buell plant shutdown

Harley-Davidson Inc. has announced additional layoffs in southeastern Wisconsin and a two-month holiday shutdown at its Buell Motorcycle Company plant in East Troy.

The newest round of layoffs will result in permanent reductions in force at Harley’s distribution center located at 10000 S. Franklin Drive in Franklin. The exact number of positions to be eliminated was not specified by the company in its notice filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Harley previously announced it will cut about 1,000 jobs, including 300 hourly production jobs and 180 salaried positions, mostly at the company’s headquarters, its product development center and its Capitol Drive facility.

The Buell plant shutdown at 2799 Buell Drive in East Troy will begin Nov. 2, and the company does not expect to reopen the facility until about Jan. 4, 2010. About 50 employees will be affected by the Buell shutdown.


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