Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chile's mine disaster and the alleged decline of American manufacturing

There's a lot of talk about the decline of US manufacturing and the "hollowing out" of the US industrial sector. "We don't make anything anymore" is an oft-heard lament. Like Mark Twain's famous quip, however, reports of the death of US manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated as illustrated by this chart:

To that I would also add the following two stories I have come across regarding Chile's ongoing saga with its trapped miners:

With the world captivated by the plight of 33 Chilean miners trapped in a mine more than 2,300 feet below the surface, a local manufacturer of drill rigs is involved in the rescue effort.

Schramm Inc. on East Virginia Avenue is a major manufacturer of drill rigs and the manufacturer of the particular rig — the T685 — that reached the trapped miners a few days ago.

There are 40-plus Schramm drill rigs in Chile right now, said Edward Breiner, president and CEO of Schramm, in an interview Friday.

If not for a tiny camera system developed by Aries Industries of Waukesha, the families and rescuers of 33 trapped Chilean miners might not have caught a glimpse of their loved ones.

Aries manufactures pipeline inspection and rehabilitation equipment for water, wastewater, natural gas, oil and disaster recovery services. The company manufactures a camera system that has been used many times in coal mine disasters in this country and was available to Chilean rescuers.

...Disaster crews began to drill a borehole to reach the miners, not knowing if they were alive. However, the opening was not large enough for Aries' mine disaster camera system.

Chilean officials then contacted Aries' Fresno, Calif., operation, where an even more specialized camera system was available, Lenahan said.

The slim-line system is only 1.375 inches in diameter and can reach a length of 5,000 feet.
High-tech and specialized -- the story of US manufacturing.

Update: Commentary from Mark Perry.

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