Covid forced the United States to make more things. What will happen now?
grow up In the 1990s, in Duluth, Minnesota, Lloyd Armbrust always thought he would work in a factory. His father ran a lime processing plant in this city, which focused on manufacturing until there was none. As companies began to look for cheap labor and supplies overseas, factories in the Midwest gradually withered. Instead, Armbrust works in the publishing industry and advertising technology. During holidays and family gatherings, he would listen to his father sympathetically, but he was a little skeptical. He warned that the United States would face huge considerations for allowing China to become the world’s factory.
Those warnings echoed in Armbrust’s mind in April 2020, when he was investigating a 7-foot-tall machine that used two pairs of sharp steel shears. In an impulsive pandemic project, software entrepreneurs spent millions of dollars to stand up at a mask factory in Pflugerville, Texas, to meet Covid-driven demand and show that flexible manufacturing is still possible in the United States. However, the project is progressing slowly.
The machine in front of him, shipped from China, was supposed to cut off and put on earrings for surgical masks. It only processed about 100 masks and then got into trouble due to a malfunction of the fingertip size sensor that monitors the supply of finger strings. It is a common and inexpensive component in Taiwan, China, and Japan. In the United States, this is not available. Now Armbrewster is held hostage by a $7 sensor, taunting him thousands of miles away.
While the company was waiting for the sensor to arrive from overseas, production did not resume for more than a week. He said: “It opened my eyes. I thought,’Wow, the United States is really behind.’ He realized that his father was right about China: “They have such a huge infrastructure advantage. “
After a year of battle for manufacturing, Armbrust American has now become a success story. The company can produce 1 million masks per day and has provided supplies to public schools in Texas and Illinois. This is part of the micro-industry recovery in response to the pandemic as American manufacturers spring up or meet new demands.Ford worker Shake out the mask. Marlin Wire in Baltimore began manufacturing test tube racks. But now, with the normalization of the economy and the return of cheap imports, Armbrewster and others worry that their hard work and lessons learned over the past year may be lost.
Last spring, when others were fascinated by moldy things, Ambbrust struggled to deal with the consequences of the vicious circle of American industry, but this manufacturing process lasted for decades: as the import of masks and other commodities led to American factories With the closure, the motivation for domestic production of materials and machinery has also declined. In turn, the factory becomes difficult to operate or open.
The development of sensors is by no means the only problem Armbrust encountered when it entered the US manufacturing industry. The company had to ship most of its machinery from Asia and hire translators to decode incomplete documents, which are usually written in Chinese. Some machines that are usually shipped closer to the factory were damaged in transit.
Materials and manufacturing expertise are also difficult to obtain. The fabric (called meltblown) that forms the filter layer in the mask is mainly produced in Asia. An Armbrust employee secured the initial supply through a social distance transaction with the Detroit parking lot. But the pandemic pushed prices to the stratosphere, and the company soon decided to make its own meltblown. Naturally, the necessary machinery must be shipped from China. Armbrust paid a consultant to fly there from Germany to inspect the machine before it traveled to Pflugerville.
When the 35-foot-tall machine arrived, an engineer noticed with concern that no platform could get close to the ground, and that part of it required regular maintenance. The supplier recommends wrapping the machine in shredded chicken and allowing workers to climb as needed-what Armbrust is worried about will be frowned upon by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (USHA). “We were like,’We can’t do it, if people fall, they might die,'” Armbrewster said. “They said,’Oh, they usually don’t die.'”