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Europe - a feeling of confidence.

Europe - a feeling of confidence

One of my first full-time jobs was in a steel mill in the early 50s. Times were good and jobs plentiful. The mills were even hiring recently-arrived immigrants as casual laborers.

I remember one such group eagerly manning picks and shovels, glad to be working in America. It wasn't long, however, before native American workers taught these immigrants how to take it easy, lean on their shovel handles and try not to "kill the job". Eager workers quickly became less effective, more costly labor.

That was when American steel dominated the market. If costs went up, so did the selling price per ton. Wages rose and workers got paid more for doing less. It was a situation ripe for competition to take hold. And it did a few decades later as market forces shifted dramatically.

The steel industry wasn't alone. Most of American industry learned a hard lesson about global competitiveness and cost-effective business practices. There is no such thing as casual labor anymore in manufacturing; today's need is for a highly-skilled labor force that demands ongoing training and upgrading of skills to handle the advanced technology needed to run a viable manufacturing enterprise. There is no room for waste; there are no shovel handles to lean on anymore.

I recently returned from the European Machine Tool Show (8.EMO) in Hanover, West Germany where the economy is doing very well. Factories are running at nearly full capacity, and prospects for future business are excellent.

The exhibition was spectacular; the largest in the world. The majority of equipment on display was West European. There were no major technological breakthroughs, but good solid metalworking applications were demonstrated, emphasizing production efficiency, quality, and cost savings. (More on this in later issues.)

In addition to equipment on display, there also was a strong sense of purpose and confidence on the part of west European exhibitors as they head toward 1993 and tariff-free trade between countries of the European Economic Community. In speaking with some of those whose countrymen were the US immigrants of the 50s, they feel very secure about the future of manufacturing and marketing in Europe. There is no need to come to America, as earlier generations had, to find work - or markets, for that matter. Europe is prosperous and confident that they will be a strong competitive force in global manufacturing. They feel they have economic and political strategies in place to get ahead.

In more informal moments, one also got a distinct feeling of resolve that the European capital equipment and tooling industry, remembering what happened to their US counterparts, vow that they will not allow foreign competition to take away market share that they feel is rightly theirs. This is a strong, widely-held conviction. An interesting battle is already underway - well in advance of 1993.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:European Machine Tool Show
Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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