Category Archives: Manufacturing

The Blue-Green Alliance at Work at Lordstown, Ohio Plant

World’s Largest LED Retrofit Saves 80% For GM, Sets Positive Energy Example

By Tina Casey
Beaver County Blue via Clean Technica

July 9, 2013 – GM’s clean tech cred is pretty well established in the public eye through its popular Chevy Volt, and the company is no slouch behind the factory gates, either. At its Lordstown complex in Ohio, GM can now lay claim to the world’s largest LED retrofit project of its kind. The project involves more than 1,600 fixtures so far with another 4,000 set for installation this summer, and it has already reduced energy consumption by more than 80 percent at one factory in the complex. That’s partly because the LEDs themselves are more efficient and partly because the new fixtures incorporate some advanced energy management bells and whistles.

New GM LED lighting by ALLED (cropped) courtesy of GM.

The World’s Largest LED Retrofit

Aside from that impressive savings of more than 80 percent (which translates into about $780,000 per year), this project caught our eye because it was implemented by the Ellwood City, Pennsylvania LED specialist ALLED Lighting Systems, Inc., formerly known as Appalachian Lighting Systems.

CleanTechnica first noticed the company under its former name back in 2010, when it performed an enormous LED retrofit for Pittsburgh International Airport. At the time, it was the largest project of its kind in the US. The project was noteworthy not only due to its size but because of the company’s potential for creating new green jobs in its tiny home town.

Continue reading The Blue-Green Alliance at Work at Lordstown, Ohio Plant

Micro Manufacturing, Third Wave Style…Perfect for Worker Coops?

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New BitsPhoto: Dan Winters

By Chris Anderson

SolidarityEconomy.net via Wired Magazine

Jan. 25, 2010 – In an age of open source, custom-fabricated, DIY product design, all you need to conquer the world is a brilliant idea.
Photo: Dan Winters

The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.

In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a “build experience.” Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers.

The Rally Fighter was prototyped in the workshop at the back of the Wareham office, but manufacturing muscle also came from Factory Five Racing, a kit-car company and Local Motors investor located just down the road. Of course, the kit-car business has been around for decades, standing as a proof of concept for how small manufacturing can work in the car industry. Kit cars combine hand-welded steel tube chassis and fiberglass bodies with stock engines and accessories. Amateurs assemble the cars at their homes, which exempts the vehicles from many regulatory restrictions (similar to home-built experimental aircraft). Factory Five has sold about 8,000 kits to date.

One problem with the kit-car business, though, is that the vehicles are typically modeled after famous racing and sports cars, making lawsuits and license fees a constant burden. This makes it hard to profit and limits the industry’s growth, even in the face of the DIY boom.

Jay Rogers, CEO of Local Motors, saw a way around this. His company opted for totally original designs: They don’t evoke classic cars but rather reimagine what a car can be. The Rally Fighter’s body was designed by Local Motors’ community of volunteers and puts the lie to the notion that you can’t create anything good by committee (so long as the community is well managed, well led, and well equipped with tools like 3-D design software and photorealistic rendering technology). The result is a car that puts Detroit to shame.

Continue reading Micro Manufacturing, Third Wave Style…Perfect for Worker Coops?

Worker-Owned Businesses Might Be Answer to Unemployment in City of Reading, PA – and Elsewhere

Street scene in Reading

Concept means employees have stake in success of companies

By David Mekeel
Reading Eagle

Oct 27, 2012 – With poverty high in Reading, city officials are willing to try just about anything to create decent-paying jobs.

Friday afternoon, they heard a pitch for an idea that has worked elsewhere and might be just right in Reading.

Seattle-based filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin, in town for the Berks Arts Council’s seventh annual Greater Reading Film Festival, were the featured guests at a lunchtime roundtable session focused on employee-owned businesses.

Young and Dworkin have created a documentary on the subject titled, "Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work," which will be screened during the festival.

The film, and Friday’s discussion, centered around the concept of community-first businesses, in which employees have a real stake in the company.

"If the business does well, they do well," Dworkin said. "There’s an incentive to work hard, not to shirk off."

Employee-owned businesses can take many forms, Dworkin and Young said.

Some have no management structure at all, with decisions being made by consensus. Others have professional management, with an elected board of employees overseeing their decisions.

Continue reading Worker-Owned Businesses Might Be Answer to Unemployment in City of Reading, PA – and Elsewhere

PA Gamesa Worker on Tour Calling on Congress to Save Clean Energy Jobs

Area Leaders Join Touring Worker Facing Furloughs to Call for Renewal of the Production Tax Credit to Save 37,000 American Jobs, Ensure U.S. Can Compete in Global Clean Energy Industry

By Blue-Green Alliance

PITTSBURGH (September 25, 2012) Local labor and environmental leaders today joined a furloughed worker from wind turbine-maker Gamesa at the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh to call on Congress to support an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit. The lack of action on the 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour tax incentive for wind energy — set to expire at the end of the year — was directly blamed by Gamesa for their decision to institute furloughs at two plants in Pennsylvania, including the plant of Ryan Motel, a United Steelworkers Local 2635 member who is currently on furlough.

“My job is at stake, but so are the jobs of many others,” said Motel. “If companies aren’t building wind farms because they’re not sure what their return on their investment will be, they aren’t buying our blades. My message to Congress is simple: end this uncertainty, save my job, and save the jobs of thousands of people like me across the country.”

Gamesa employs approximately 900 workers in the U.S., with 800 of those jobs in the state of Pennsylvania. Earlier this summer, 165 workers at two plants — in Fairless Hills in Bucks County and Ebensberg in Central Pennsylvania — were given notice that they were being furloughed due to lack of demand and the company attributed that directly to lack of certainty on the fate of the Production Tax Credit

Motel will join other workers in the wind industry in Ohio, Virginia and Michigan to call on Congressional leadership to bring the Production Tax Credit up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that the Production Tax Credit will allow the wind industry to grow from the current 75,000 jobs to 500,000 jobs by 2030. Extending the Production Tax Credit through 2016 would increase total wind-supported jobs to 95,000, with total wind investment growing to $16.3 billion. However, without an extension, America stands to lose 37,000 jobs.

Continue reading PA Gamesa Worker on Tour Calling on Congress to Save Clean Energy Jobs

Obama Auto Bailout Saves More than Auto Jobs in Our Region

It’s Not Just About Cars

When President Obama took the bold step of saving the U.S. auto industry, he didn’t just save auto assembly jobs. He saved American manufacturing, including 350,000 USW jobs that are part of the auto supply chain.

All About Jobs

The auto rescue helped millions of Americans and Steelworkers from all over: the single mom making axles in Indiana. The lifelong paperworker in Wisconsin making high-glossy paper used in auto catalogs. The kid just out of high school hired into the tire plant in Ohio. The police officer in small town Pennsylvania. The list goes on and on.

Change Delivered

Mitt Romney says he would have let the auto industry fail — let us fail. President Obama believed in us. Saving the American auto industry was courageous. It was politically unpopular. But it was the right thing to do.

Aliquippa’s 1937 J&L Workers Come Up In Supreme Court Wrangling Once Again—This Time Over Health Care

Ten Steelworkers, Five Justices, and the Commerce Clause

By Amy Davidson
The New Yorker

If there had been Twitter, instead of news tickers, in February, 1937, reporters and other observers would have been using it to follow the arguments before the Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.

It was the central case of five, argued in one extraordinary round, which challenged the constitutionality of the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act.

The J. & L. dispute involved ten steelworkers who had been fired from the company’s Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, mills for trying to organize a union. As with this week’s hearings on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, those deliberations were being watched with an anxiety that extended well beyond any concern for the protagonists in the suit, or even the law in question, to an entire vision of government.

Jones & Laughlin and its companion cases involved the Commerce Clause, the constitutional conductor for a whole orchestra of New Deal programs and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s more urgent efforts to pull the country out of the Great Depression. (It gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.”) The post-1937 conception of the Commerce clause has, as Jeffrey Toobin noted yesterday, become an assumed part of any number of government efforts today; it is the defense for challenges to the individual mandate but also to other aspects of the A.C.A., like provisions protecting people with preëxisting conditions.

Continue reading Aliquippa’s 1937 J&L Workers Come Up In Supreme Court Wrangling Once Again—This Time Over Health Care

To Move Forward, We Still Need Unions, and in a Big Way

Robotics and High-Tech Manufacturing

Manufacturing Illusions

By Robert Reich
Beaver County Blue via Robert Reich’s Blog

Feb 18, 2012 – Suddenly, manufacturing is back – at least on the election trail. But don’t be fooled. The real issue isn’t how to get manufacturing back. It’s how to get good jobs and good wages back. They aren’t at all the same thing.

Republicans have become born-again champions of American manufacturing. This may have something to do with crucial primaries occurring next week in Michigan and the following week in Ohio, both of them former arsenals of American manufacturing.

Mitt Romney says he’ll "work to bring manufacturing back" to America by being tough on China, which he describes as "stealing jobs" by keeping value of its currency artificially low and thereby making its exports cheaper.

Rick Santorum promises to "fight for American manufacturing" by eliminating corporate income taxes on manufacturers and allowing corporations to bring their foreign profits back to American tax free as long as they use the money to build new factories.

President Obama has also been pushing a manufacturing agenda. Last month the President unveiled a six-point plan to eliminate tax incentives for companies to move offshore and create new lures for them to bring jobs home. "Our goal," he says, is to "create opportunities for hard-working Americans to start making stuff again."

Meanwhile, American consumers’ pent-up demand for appliances, cars, and trucks have created a small boomlet in American manufacturing – setting off a wave of hope, mixed with nostalgic patriotism, that American manufacturing could be coming back. Clint Eastwood’s Super Bowl "Halftime in America" hit the mood exactly.

Continue reading To Move Forward, We Still Need Unions, and in a Big Way