Watch this ship grow 49 feet longer

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What’s a cruise company to do when it needs a bigger ship? Apparently, just saw it in half and add an extra 49 feet. Silversea Cruises began the lengthening process of its Silver Spirit ship this month as part of a $100 million renovation, USA Today reports (March 20, 2018).

The transformation is currently underway at Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy. This type of lengthening has never before been employed for the extension of a luxury cruise ship. An extension is much cheaper than ordering a brand new ship, which can cost upwards of $1 billion.

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Adidas Automates to Make Shoes Faster

By Barry Render

In a production hall as clean as a hospital, pea-size beads of white plastic pour into what looks like a minivan-size Adidas shoe box, complete with 3 white stripes down the side. That’s fitting, because in just a few seconds the machine heats and molds the stuff into soles of Adidas running shoes, with only one worker needed to wedge in pieces of plastic called stability bars. This is Adidas AG’s “Speedfactory,” where the shoemaker aims to prove it can profitably produce footwear in high-cost, developed economies, reports Businessweek (Oct. 9, 2017). Continue reading

Outsourced Jobs to India May Now Go To Indiana

August 2, 2017

For years, American companies have been saving money by “offshoring” jobs — hiring people in India and other distant cubicle farms. “Today,” writes The New York Times (July 31, 2017), “some of those jobs are being outsourced again — in the U.S.” Salaries have risen in places like South Asia, making outsourcing there less of a bargain. (A decade ago an American software developer cost 5-7 times as much as an Indian developer. Now the gap has shrunk to 2 times). In addition, as brands pour energy and money into their websites and mobile apps, more of them are deciding that there is value in having developers on the same continent. Continue reading

Chinese Manufacturers Head for South Carolina

August 6, 2015

Ni Meijuan (center) at Keer's S.C. factory

Twenty-five years ago, Ni Meijuan earned $19 a month working the spinning machines at a vast textile factory in China. Now at the Keer Group’s cotton mill in South Carolina, Ni is training American workers to do the job she used to do. “They’re quick learners,” she said. “But they have to learn to be quicker.”

Once the epitome of cheap mass manufacturing, textile producers from formerly low-cost nations are starting to set up shop in America, reports The New York Times (Aug. 3, 2015). It is part of a blurring between high- and low-cost manufacturing nations that few would have predicted a decade ago. Textile production in China is becoming increasingly unprofitable after years of rising wages, higher energy bills, and mounting logistical costs.

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The Dinosaur says, “If You Want to Check In, Press One.” Welcome to The Henn na – or Weird Hotel.

July 22, 2015

Wierd Hotel JapanThe English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid, writes The Guardian (July 15, 2015). “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor punches a button on the desk, and types in information on a touch panel screen. From the front desk to the porter that’s an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, the Henn na Hotel in southwestern Japan, is manned almost totally by robots to save labor costs. The hotel uses facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, to register the digital image of the guest’s face during check-in. The reason? Robots aren’t good at finding keys if people happen to lose them.

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It’s Ikea’s World

April 8, 2015

 At Ikea’s distribution center in Älmhult, Sweden, pallets are stacked and retrieved through a fully automated process.

At Ikea’s distribution center in Älmhult, Sweden, pallets are stacked and retrieved through a fully automated process.

 

In a stunning global expansion, the Swedish home furnishings giant has been quietly planting its blue and yellow flag in places you’d never expect. “Pay attention, Wal-Mart:” writes Fortune (April 6, 2015),  “You could learn a few things.” Ikea, it seems, is a genius at selling Ikea—flat packing, transporting, and reassembling its quirky Swedish styling all across the planet. The furniture and furnishings brand is in more countries than Wal-Mart, Carrefour, and Toys “R” Us. Continue reading

Mexico’s Auto Assembly Lines Surge Ahead

March 24, 2015

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assembly linesWhen Audi decided to move global production of its Q5 SUV to North America, the prize went to Mexico. Audi now is finishing a $1.3 billion factory in a small town called San Jose Chiapa. Mexico’s low wages and improved logistics were part of the draw. But for Audi, which plans to ship the factory’s output all over the world, what tipped the scales was Mexico’s unrivaled trade relationships. The Audi deal shows that Mexico’s 40 different free-trade pacts give it allure in the global car market, threatening the American South’s industrial renewal.

Seven Asian and European auto makers have just opened, or will open shortly, new Mexican assembly plants, reports The Wall Street Journal (March 18, 2015). Others have made significant expansions in Mexico, among them Nissan, GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. This month, VW said it would spend $1 billion Continue reading