US manufacturing

china shipping port title

Whether you’re a regular MetalMiner reader, or have never heard of us before, you’re likely familiar with the outsize role China has played in trading with the Western world — and especially with the United States.

That’s why we’ve taken the opportunity to dive deep on a nuanced issue that’s central to the U.S.-China relationship, now and into the future. Our new project, China vs. the World: Why the Battle for New Trade Status is Such a Huge Deal, explores how China’s approach to global trade over the past several decades has affected American commerce (for better and worse), and how something called “market economy status” could change the rules of the game as we know it.

In the latest move, U.S. Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), the chairman and vice-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, respectively, introduced a House resolution calling on the current Administration to take action on this very issue. But resolving the issue will likely be a longer battle.

While the mainstream media has taken advantage of reporting presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s numerous references to China and his blunt stance on how he intends to change our relationship with that country, MetalMiner’s journalists and editors set out to unpack the tangible drivers behind these types of general sentiments, with a particular focus on — and for — U.S. manufacturing organizations.

Among the highlights:

  • The most comprehensive — yet easily understandable — exploration of what “market economy status” (MES) entails, why China is pushing the U.S. and Europe to grant the country MES, and what that would mean for trade, available today.
  • Our explainer video provides a quick ‘101’ on the topic, and an interactive timeline explores how China got from the dawn of Mao to WTO entry to today, step by step.
  • Personal video perspectives from key players across several different industries illustrate the China effect on American jobs, workers and approaches to business.

We hope you’ll find this type of project and its presentation refreshing and informative. If you like it, please share it with your networks! We welcome and value your feedback, so please feel free to send us a note at

Thank you for reading,

Taras Berezowsky
Managing Editor

US manufacturing growth is still only plodding along and platinum prices are at their lowest since 2009 thanks, in part, to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Markit PMI Still Barely Positive

US manufacturing activity remains at a nearly 2-year low this month, and job creation in the sector has slowed. Markit‘s purchasing managers’ index registered 53, indicating sluggishness due in part to the strong dollar and suggesting “the sector will have acted as a drag on the economy in the third quarter,” Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson told Reuters.

Free Sample Report: Our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook

Any reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

Platinum Near a 7-Year Low

The price of platinum, widely used in diesel car engines, could fall below $900 am ounce for the first time since the financial crisis in the wake of the emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG, according to some metals investors and analysts.

Free Download: Latest Metal Price Trends in the SeptemberMMI Report

Spot platinum fell heavily on Tuesday and nearly hit a 7-year low on Wednesday at $929.08 an ounce, before recovering slightly to $932.25, as some questioned whether the affair would have a lasting effect on demand for diesel cars.

Managing indirect spend is crucial for controlling costs. It is also a proven tactic. But direct connectivity still has a ways to go in aligning with indirect procurement. In a relevant piece of new research from our sister site Spend Matters, the team lays out just why direct procurement execution systems need to integrate visibly between tier-1 manufacturers, logistics providers, banking partners, MSPs, BPO firms, raw materials suppliers and more.

Direct Procurement Execution: What’s Changing? That’s the question answered in this FREE research download that encourages supply chain collaboration and Procure-to-Pay (P2P) integration in even the most complex ecosystems.

Get your copy today!

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 12.39.47 PMATTN: manufacturers, if you haven’t factored supply chain risk management into your global procurement strategy then now is the time to take a long, hard look at what AGCO is doing with the help of riskmethods.

The world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural machinery, AGCO won the “Excellence in eSolutions” award for its “Procurement transformation” achievements. Find out their secret to success by joining us for the webinar, Award-Winning Supply Chain Risk Management at AGCO with Thomas Kase, VP at Spend Matters, and Jan Theissen, director, Strategy & Methods, Global Purchasing & Materials Management at AGCO.

Read more about Supply Chain Risk Management on Spend Matters with Proactive Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) in an Uncertain World

This webinar will feature:

  • Full visibility along the entire supply chain, including sub-tiers, locations, logistical hubs, etc.
  • 100% automated monitoring and early warning system
  • Comprehensive approach: determine all kinds of risk, assess impact, and devise an action plan
  • ROI within 12 months through targeted efficiency increases

Register today!

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Rules and regulatory compliance already got ya down? Well, another rule’s comin’…(check out the video above for a preview.)

The final rule of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, set to go into effect mid-summer 2015, will likely have significant financial implications for US manufacturers. The potential cost, supported by several independent third-party studies, could be far below the original estimates put forth by the EPA. This has led to great cause for concern among domestic manufacturers as they already struggle to compete with international companies who, in many cases, receive heavily subsidized energy.

So what are US manufacturers to do? Stay tuned for “What EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Cost US Businesses (and What Procurement Can Do About It)”. This 45-minute interactive video presentation, with Q&A session following, will feature:

  • Lisa Reisman, CEO, Azul Partners and Executive Editor, MetalMiner™
  • Ross Eisenberg, Vice President, Energy and Resources Policy at National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • Mark Pruitt, Principal, Power Bureau
  • Jennifer Diggins, Director, Public Affairs, Nucor Corp.

What You’ll Learn About EPA’s Clean Power Plan

  • What the actual proposed rule entails
  • How manufacturers, including those in the steel industry, view the plan and its potential effects
  • How a typical steel cost breakdown could change
  • The roles volatility and grid reliability play
  • How purchasing / procurement professionals can best prepare themselves for regulatory compliance

Need CEH credit? Attending this webinar will count toward 1 CEH from ISM.

Register today to get the recorded presentation!



This guy is all for a pipeline. (He’s also a trademark of MillerCoors.)

Although President Obama just nixed TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands oil will in all likelihood continue to dribble from Canada to China and elsewhere, regardless of whether a pipeline links Alberta to the Gulf.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom many folks in the US manufacturing sector point to, when discussing the pros and cons of Keystone XL.

Keystone XL Pipeline and Construction Industry in the US

MetalMiner’s Jeff Yoders took readers through the implications of this glorified “construction stimulus” project in his analysis back in November 2014 – the last time Keystone was shot down:

The final environmental impact statement said 42,000 jobs would be created by Keystone XL in construction and support jobs in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

We have covered the rail car shortage in those states over the past few weeks and one of the side benefits of building the pipeline would be a reduction in strain on class 1 railroads, but the construction piece of the pipeline has been the focus of the argument since its initial permit application was applied for in 2008. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) points out that nearly 10,000 miles of pipeline have been built in the US since the application was filed with little to no argument. The AGC is a big supporter of Keystone XL.

Those 42,000 construction jobs certainly look enticing to the skilled laborers in those states still looking for work, yet, pipelines are anything but permanent solutions to unemployment. That same State Dept. environmental review found that the Keystone XL will create only 35 permanent jobs. (35, that’s it.) So, for such a limited impact is, essentially, a construction stimulus project really worth all of this debate?

If the environmental objections to the process of pumping large amounts of water and natural gas into tar sands to pump steam into the tar to extract oil are to be believed, then yes.

Read the rest of the article here: Keystone XL Senate Failure About More Than Construction

Keystone Costs, Benefits

Our Executive Editor Lisa Reisman interviewed Andrew Browning of Consumer Energy Alliance back in 2011, and he took us through why an “all-of-the-above” energy policy makes sense – including the construction of Keystone XL.

From the original post:

We look at the role of the massive Keystone pipeline from central Canada — our largest trading partner — down to the Gulf of Mexico as a transport conduit for Canadian crude. While a good portion of the pipeline already exists, there are significant phases still under regulatory review.

As much as folks talk about severing ties to crude oil entirely as an energy source, the sad truth is that we’re nowhere near making that a reality just yet. Simply to sustain the country while new energies are worked out and tested, oil has a firm place in the mix of energy sources that the US has to work with. Not only that, the production of the pipeline itself, Browning mentions, will help create jobs in steel and manufacturing. Bottom line, Browning says, “The Canadians are going to produce this.” It’ll go east or west if not south; it’ll end up in China if not the US.

FREE Download: Our latest MMI® Report, analyzing price trends for steel and 9 other metals.

We caught up with William Strauss, senior economist and economic advisor in the economic research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, on how he views current and future trends in the U.S. manufacturing economy. He’ll be speaking at Commodity/PROcurement EDGE this October.

MetalMiner: How would you characterize the current macroeconomic climate for manufacturers?

William Strauss: With regard to overall economy, the view is that it’s expanding, although at a fairly below-trend pace. That’s been a bit of a disappointment this year. In the first half of 2009, manufacturing had been on a tear, growing at a pace twice its historical growth rate. This was coming off of a downturn, of course, so inventories got depleted, and were being rebuilt. Even though the economy was muddling along, manufacturing led things. But the inventory story has come to an end.

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As global shipping continues to reach for the max — Panamax, Panamax Max, Post Panamax, Post Panamax Plus and New Panamax, to be exact, in addition to other massive container ships plying the global seas these days — our focus shifts to the liquids that have been traveling to Japan more and more lately.

Namely, crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), as the country has needed to beef up its fuel supply after the tsunami in the spring of 2011 precipitated the Fukushima disaster – and systemic shutdowns of much of the country’s nuclear power reactors.

So what does that mean for the future of US LNG exports, and for US manufacturing?

Are you a manufacturer with an aluminum buy? Learn how buying custom mill shapes (vs. standard products) can reduce your spend – register for our FREE webinar on March 7, 2013.

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commodity risk management


In his rebuttal to reshoring stories in the Atlantic, as we detailed in Part One, Alan Tonelson also brought up a good point about subsidizing reshoring for businesses which, although makes sense and is a good thing, is rather unsustainable in this current economic climate for the US (what with the huge national debt that the impending fiscal cliff is bringing into sharp focus).

Check out MetalMiner’s follow-up on the effects of reshoring on the US aluminum industry.

Made In The USA, But — To Buy In The USA?

However, the biggest ostensible benefit of reshoring manufacturing to the US on a macro level may be local job creation and not much more, if one is to take Timken CEO James Griffith’s overall viewpoint in this interview as a proxy for the entire manufacturing industry: that companies must get closer to where the growth is.

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MetalMiner's Conflict Minerals Legislative GuideThis is a follow-up post from “Dodd Frank Conflict Minerals Law: Headache for Metal Supply Chains,” published last week.

For expert commentary on metals impacted by Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — the so-called conflict minerals law — we contacted Michael Pfeifer, president of Industrial Metallurgists, LLC, which provides learning and courseware around material engineering and material training.

Mike has 20 years of experience as an engineer in product development and manufacturing.

We asked Mike to help us better understand the role of MSDS (material safety data sheets) in identifying materials that might fall under the conflict minerals rules. Mike reminded us that MSDS sheets do not serve as the “controlling document.”

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