“From a corporate good-governance perspective, Tesla has a lot of red flags,” Andrew Poreda, a senior analyst who specializes in socially responsible investing at Sage Advisory Services, an investment firm in Austin, told The Times last month. “There are almost no checks and balances.”

Mr. Musk’s management style and success — he is listed as the world’s richest man by Bloomberg and Forbes — have earned him admirers but have made him a lightning rod. Tesla has lost a number of top executives in recent years, many of whom have gone on to top jobs at other automakers, tech companies and battery makers.

Recently, Mr. Musk praised the work ethic in China, where labor conditions can be harsh or even abusive, suggesting that workers in the United States were lazy. “They won’t just be burning the midnight oil. They’ll be burning the 3 a.m. oil,” he said about Chinese workers in an interview with The Financial Times. “So they won’t even leave the factory type of thing. Whereas in America, people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”

Still, some analysts remain bullish about Tesla’s prospects. “In our view, Tesla likely does not need to hire any more employees to maintain its growth, and we think the plan to reduce the work force likely shows that Tesla over hired last year,” Seth Goldstein, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar, said in a note on Friday.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Intel Makes Semiconductors in a Global Shortage

Some feature more than 50 billion tiny transistors that are 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are made on gigantic, ultraclean factory room floors that can be seven stories tall and run the length of four football fields.

Microchips are in many ways the lifeblood of the modern economy. They power computers, smartphones, cars, appliances and scores of other electronics. But the world’s demand for them has surged since the pandemic, which also caused supply-chain disruptions, resulting in a global shortage.

That, in turn, is fueling inflation and raising alarms that the United States is becoming too dependent on chips made abroad. The United States accounts for only about 12 percent of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity; more than 90 percent of the most advanced chips come from Taiwan.

Intel, a Silicon Valley titan that is seeking to restore its longtime lead in chip manufacturing technology, is making a $20 billion bet that it can help ease the chip shortfall. It is building two factories at its chip-making complex in Chandler, Ariz., that will take three years to complete, and recently announced plans for a potentially bigger expansion, with new sites in New Albany, Ohio, and Magdeburg, Germany.

Why does making millions of these tiny components mean building — and spending — so big? A look inside Intel production plants in Chandler and Hillsboro, Ore., provides some answers.

Chips, or integrated circuits, began to replace bulky individual transistors in the late 1950s. Many of those tiny components are produced on a piece of silicon and connected to work together. The resulting chips store data, amplify radio signals and perform other operations; Intel is famous for a variety called microprocessors, which perform most of the calculating functions of a computer.

Intel has managed to shrink transistors on its microprocessors to mind-bending sizes. But the rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company can make even tinier components, a key reason Apple chose it to make the chips for its latest iPhones.

Such wins by a company based in Taiwan, an island that China claims as its own, add to signs of a growing technology gap that could put advances in computing, consumer devices and military hardware at risk from both China’s ambitions and natural threats in Taiwan such as earthquakes and drought. And it has put a spotlight on Intel’s efforts to recapture the technology lead.

Chip makers are packing more and more transistors onto each piece of silicon, which is why technology does more each year. It’s also the reason that new chip factories cost billions and fewer companies can afford to build them.

In addition to paying for buildings and machinery, companies must spend heavily to develop the complex processing steps used to fabricate chips from plate-size silicon wafers — which is why the factories are called “fabs.”

Enormous machines project designs for chips across each wafer, and then deposit and etch away layers of materials to create their transistors and connect them. Up to 25 wafers at a time move among those systems in special pods on automated overhead tracks.

Processing a wafer takes thousands of steps and up to two months. TSMC has set the pace for output in recent years, operating “gigafabs,” sites with four or more production lines. Dan Hutcheson, vice chair of the market research firm TechInsights, estimates that each site can process more than 100,000 wafers a month. He puts the capacity of Intel’s two planned $10 billion facilities in Arizona at roughly 40,000 wafers a month each.

After processing, the wafer is sliced into individual chips. These are tested and wrapped in plastic packages to connect them to circuit boards or parts of a system.

That step has become a new battleground, because it’s more difficult to make transistors even smaller. Companies are now stacking multiple chips or laying them side by side in a package, connecting them to act as a single piece of silicon.

Where packaging a handful of chips together is now routine, Intel has developed one advanced product that uses new technology to bundle a remarkable 47 individual chips, including some made by TSMC and other companies as well those produced in Intel fabs.

Intel chips typically sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars each. Intel in March released its fastest microprocessor for desktop computers, for example, at a starting price of $739. A piece of dust invisible to the human eye can ruin one. So fabs have to be cleaner than a hospital operating room and need complex systems to filter air and regulate temperature and humidity.

Fabs must also be impervious to just about any vibration, which can cause costly equipment to malfunction. So fab clean rooms are built on enormous concrete slabs on special shock absorbers.

Also critical is the ability to move vast amounts of liquids and gases. The top level of Intel’s factories, which are about 70 feet tall, have giant fans to help circulate air to the clean room directly below. Below the clean room are thousands of pumps, transformers, power cabinets, utility pipes and chillers that connect to production machines.

Fabs are water-intensive operations. That’s because water is needed to clean wafers at many stages of the production process.

Intel’s two sites in Chandler collectively draw about 11 million gallons of water a day from the local utility. Intel’s future expansion will require considerably more, a seeming challenge for a drought-plagued state like Arizona, which has cut water allocations to farmers. But farming actually consumes much more water than a chip plant.

Intel says its Chandler sites, which rely on supplies from three rivers and a system of wells, reclaim about 82 percent of the freshwater they use through filtration systems, settling ponds and other equipment. That water is sent back to the city, which operates treatment facilities that Intel funded, and which redistributes it for irrigation and other nonpotable uses.

Intel hopes to help boost the water supply in Arizona and other states by 2030, by working with environmental groups and others on projects that save and restore water for local communities.

To build its future factories, Intel will need roughly 5,000 skilled construction workers for three years.

They have a lot to do. Excavating the foundations is expected to remove 890,000 cubic yards of dirt, carted away at a rate of one dump truck per minute, said Dan Doron, Intel’s construction chief.

The company expects to pour more than 445,000 cubic yards of concrete and use 100,000 tons of reinforcement steel for the foundations — more than in constructing the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Some cranes for the construction are so large that more than 100 trucks are needed to bring the pieces to assemble them, Mr. Doron said. The cranes will lift, among other things, 55-ton chillers for the new fabs.

Patrick Gelsinger, who became Intel’s chief executive a year ago, is lobbying Congress to provide grants for fab construction and tax credits for equipment investment. To manage Intel’s spending risk, he plans to emphasize construction of fab “shells” that can be outfitted with equipment to respond to market changes.

To address the chip shortage, Mr. Gelsinger will have to make good on his plan to produce chips designed by other companies. But a single company can do only so much; products like phones and cars require components from many suppliers, as well as older chips. And no country can stand alone in semiconductors, either. Though boosting domestic manufacturing can reduce supply risks somewhat, the chip industry will continue to rely on a complex global web of companies for raw materials, production equipment, design software, talent and specialized manufacturing.


Produced by Alana Celii

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Europeans Are Responding to Exorbitant Gas and Power Bills

A German retiree facing sky-high energy bills is turning to a wood-burning stove. The owner of a dry cleaning business in Spain adjusted her employees’ work shifts to cut electric bills and installed solar panels. A mayor in France said he ordered a hiring freeze because rising electrical bills threaten a financial “catastrophe.”

Europeans have long paid some of the world’s highest prices for energy, but no one can remember a winter like this one. Lives and livelihoods across the continent are being upended by a series of factors, including pandemic-induced supply shortages and now geopolitical tensions that are driving some energy prices up fivefold.

Matters could get worse if tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate further, potentially interrupting the flow of gas. Russia provides more than a third of Europe’s natural gas, which heats homes, generates electricity and powers factories. Even as politicians and leaders in capitals across Europe are freezing prices, slashing taxes on energy and issuing checks to households hardest hit by the price increases, concerns are growing about what the persistently high prices could mean for people’s jobs and their ability to pay their bills.

“People are very upset and very distressed,” said Stefanie Siegert, who counsels consumers in the eastern German state of Saxony who find themselves struggling to pay their gas and power bills.

rocked France in 2018. But Ms. Siegert, whose agency counseled more than 300 customers in January — three times its monthly average — said she wouldn’t be surprised if the anger currently directed at the prospect of a vaccine mandate shifted its sights to energy prices.

“When you talk with people, you feel their anger,” she said. “It is very depressing.”

price cap on energy bills was recently raised 54 percent, increasing annual charges to 1,971 pounds. That increase will affect 22 million households beginning in April, contributing to broadening worries in Britain about the rising cost of living.

Similar concerns can be found throughout the continent.

Athina Sirogianni, 46, a freelance translator in Athens, said she remembered fondly the day about a decade ago when her building switched from oil to natural gas. The move cut her utility bill in half.

Nyrstar, the world’s second-largest zinc processor, produces nearly 500 tons of the metal each day at a sprawling factory in Auby, in northern France, a complex that consumes as much energy as the French city of Lyon.

When its electrical rates surged from €35 to €50 per megawatt-hour to €400 last December, it made no sense to keep the factory running, said Xavier Constant, Nyrstar France’s general manager. At that rate, he said, “the more we produce the more we lose,” and so the plant shut down last month for three weeks.

Nyrstar temporarily halved production at its other European plants in October when the energy crisis set in, prompting a brief spike in the global price of zinc.

Last fall, fertilizer plants in Britain were forced to close because of gas prices. And several German companies that produce glass, steel and fertilizer have also scaled back production in recent months.

To ease the burden of the high prices, the government in Berlin reduced by half an energy surcharge on bills aimed at funding the country’s transition to renewable sources of power, and plans to phase it out by the end of next year.

on Twitter. He said the facility’s electricity prices had increased 100 percent.

He and other hospital directors have appealed to the government in Warsaw to intervene, saying the recent cuts to taxes on energy and gasoline were not enough.

In Germany, there is rising tension in municipally owned utilities that must accept customers, like Mr. Backhaus in Saxony, whose relatively low-cost contracts have been dropped by private energy companies because the companies can’t pay ballooning energy rates.

The municipal utilities are forced to increase the rates for these new customers, often almost astronomically high, to cover the cost of buying extra energy on the spot market at record prices. That leads to tensions in communities, and can threaten municipal finances.

“Anyone who wants to will be supplied with energy by the municipal utilities,” said Markus Lewe, president of the German Association of Cities and Towns. “But it must not lead to the municipal utilities and their loyal customers being asked to pay for questionable business models of other providers and having to answer for their shortsighted financing.”

He called on the federal government to intervene, to protect cities from the price instability.

In France, local leaders are also looking to the federal government to help ease the sting of skyrocketing energy bills.

Boris Ravignon, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, said his city is facing “a catastrophe” after its January energy bill more than tripled, wiping out the region’s budget surplus for infrastructure and public services in a single month. The city is trying to cut costs by switching streetlights to LED bulbs, which use less electricity, and has proposed a new hydroelectric project.

The mayor has already frozen planned hirings and said the city may have no choice but to raise the cost of public services like water, transportation, fees to use sports halls like the city’s public pool, and cultural events.

“We really want to protect citizens from these increases,” Mr. Ravignon said. “But when prices reach such crazy heights, it’s impossible.”

Reporting contributed by Adèle Cordonnier in France, Raphael Minder in Spain and Niki Kitsantonis in Greece.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Rivian Loses Its Shine as Investors Fret About Production Delays

The company also did not tell investors that its chief operating officer, Rod Copes, a Harley-Davidson veteran, left the company last year. Public companies and those in the process of listing their shares generally disclose the departures of top executives. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Mast said Mr. Copes had a “phased transition from Rivian in fall 2021, prior to the I.P.O.” and retired in December, after the offering.

Mr. Copes, 55, said in an interview that he did not leave Rivian because of concerns about his performance or because there were problems with production. He said that he had achieved key goals and that the structures were in place for Rivian’s ramp-up in production. “It was a smooth and seamless transition,” Mr. Copes said.

But corporate governance experts think Rivian ought to have disclosed his impending departure to investors during the I.P.O., given his senior role. “If they knew he was leaving, the optimal disclosure would have been to identify their C.O.O. but indicate that he was leaving,” John C. Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School, said in an email.

According to one former executive, Rivian has a poor management culture.

The executive, Laura Schwab, said she was fired last year from a high-ranking sales and marketing position after expressing concerns about what she called the “boys’ club culture” and “gender discrimination” at the company. She filed a lawsuit in state court in California accusing Rivian of violating the state law prohibiting employment discrimination and retaliation.

Ms. Schwab said she had been part of 30 vehicle introductions in prior auto industry jobs, including at Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover. Soon after arriving at Rivian, she said, she felt compelled to express concerns that the company was in danger of missing delivery targets.

“The production line doesn’t go from zero to thousands of cars overnight; it just doesn’t work that way,” she said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Why This Could Be a Critical Year for Electric Cars

Sales of cars powered solely by batteries surged in the United States, Europe and China last year, while deliveries of fossil fuel vehicles were stagnant. Demand for electric cars is so strong that manufacturers are requiring buyers to put down deposits months in advance. And some models are effectively sold out for the next two years.

Battery-powered cars are having a breakthrough moment and will enter the mainstream this year as automakers begin selling electric versions of one of Americans’ favorite vehicle type: pickup trucks. Their arrival represents the biggest upheaval in the auto industry since Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 and could have far-reaching consequences for factory workers, businesses and the environment. Tailpipe emissions are among the largest contributors to climate change.

While electric vehicles still account for a small slice of the market — nearly 9 percent of the new cars sold last year worldwide were electric, up from 2.5 percent in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency — their rapid growth could make 2022 the year when the march of battery-powered cars became unstoppable, erasing any doubt that the internal combustion engine is lurching toward obsolescence.

The proliferation of electric cars will improve air quality and help slow global warming. The air in Southern California is already a bit cleaner thanks to the popularity of electric vehicles there. And the boom is a rare piece of good news for President Biden, who has struggled to advance his climate agenda in Congress.

more than a dozen new electric car and battery factories just in the United States.

“It’s one of the biggest industrial transformations probably in the history of capitalism,” Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said in an interview. “The investments are massive, and the mission is massive.”

But not everyone will benefit. Makers of mufflers, fuel injection systems and other parts could go out of business, leaving many workers jobless. Nearly three million Americans make, sell and service cars and auto parts, and industry experts say producing electric cars will require fewer workers because the cars have fewer components.

Over time, battery ingredients like lithium, nickel and cobalt could become more sought after than oil. Prices for these materials are already skyrocketing, which could limit sales in the short term by driving up the cost of electric cars.

The transition could also be limited by the lack of places to plug in electric cars, which has made the vehicles less appealing to people who drive long distances or apartment residents who can’t charge at home. There are fewer than 50,000 public charging stations in the United States. The infrastructure bill that Congress passed in November includes $7.5 billion for 500,000 new chargers, although experts say even that number is too small.

could take decades unless governments provide larger incentives to car buyers. Cleaning up heavy trucks, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, could be even harder.

Still, the electric car boom is already reshaping the auto industry.

The biggest beneficiary — and the biggest threat to the established order — is Tesla. Led by Elon Musk, the company delivered nearly a million cars in 2021, a 90 percent increase from 2020.

Tesla is still small compared with auto giants, but it commands the segment with the fastest growth. Wall Street values the company at about $1 trillion, more than 10 times as much as General Motors. That means Tesla, which is building factories in Texas and Germany, can easily expand.

“At the rate it’s growing now, it will be bigger than G.M. in five years,” said John Casesa, a former Ford executive who is now a senior managing director at Guggenheim Securities, at a Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago forum in January.

Most analysts figured that electric vehicles wouldn’t take off until they became as inexpensive to buy as gasoline models — a milestone that is still a few years away for moderately priced cars that most people can afford.

But as extreme weather makes the catastrophic effects of climate change more tangible, and word gets around that electric cars are easy to maintain, cheap to refuel and fun to drive, affluent buyers are increasingly going electric.

outsold diesel cars in Europe for the first time. In 18 countries, including Britain, more than 20 percent of new cars were electric, according to Matthias Schmidt, an independent analyst in Berlin.

study.

Inevitably, a transition this momentous will cause dislocation. Most new battery and electric car factories planned by automakers are in Southern states like Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. Their gains could come at the expense of the Midwest, which would lose internal combustion production jobs.

Toyota, a pioneer in hybrid vehicles, will not offer a car powered solely by batteries until later this year. Ram does not plan to release a competitor to Ford’s Lightning until 2024.

Chinese companies like SAIC, which owns the British MG brand, are using the technological shift to enter Europe and other markets. Young companies like Lucid, Rivian and Nio aim to follow Tesla’s playbook.

Old-line carmakers face a stiff learning curve. G.M. recalled its Bolt electric hatchback last year because of the risk of battery fires.

The companies most endangered may be small machine shops in Michigan or Ontario that produce piston rings and other parts. At the moment, these businesses are busy because of pent-up demand for all vehicles, said Carla Bailo, chief executive of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“A lot of them kind of have blinders on and are not looking that far down the road,” Ms. Bailo said “That’s troubling.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Why Tesla Soared as Other Automakers Struggled to Make Cars

For much of last year, established automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor operated in a different reality from Tesla, the electric car company.

G.M. and Ford closed one factory after another — sometimes for months on end — because of a shortage of computer chips, leaving dealer lots bare and sending car prices zooming. Yet Tesla racked up record sales quarter after quarter and ended the year having sold nearly twice as many vehicles as it did in 2020 unhindered by an industrywide crisis.

Tesla’s ability to conjure up critical components has a greater significance than one year’s car sales. It suggests that the company, and possibly other young electric car businesses, could threaten the dominance of giants like Volkswagen and G.M. sooner and more forcefully than most industry executives and policymakers realize. That would help the effort to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change by displacing more gasoline-powered cars sooner. But it could hurt the millions of workers, thousands of suppliers and numerous local and national governments that rely on traditional auto production for jobs, business and tax revenue.

Tesla and its enigmatic chief executive, Elon Musk, have said little about how the carmaker ran circles around the rest of the auto industry. Now it’s becoming clear that the company simply had a superior command of technology and its own supply chain. Tesla appeared to better forecast demand than businesses that produce many more cars than it does. Other automakers were surprised by how quickly the car market recovered from a steep drop early in the pandemic and had simply not ordered enough chips and parts fast enough.

G.M. and Stellantis, the company formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, all sold fewer cars in 2021 than they did in 2020.

Tesla’s production and supply problems made it an industry laughingstock. Many of the manufacturing snafus stemmed from Mr. Musk’s insistence that the company make many parts itself.

Other car companies have realized that they need to do some of what Mr. Musk and Tesla have been doing all along and are in the process of taking control of their onboard computer systems.

Mercedes, for example, plans to use fewer specialized chips in coming models and more standardized semiconductors, and to write its own software, said Markus Schäfer, a member of the German carmaker’s management board who oversees procurement.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

It also helps that Tesla is a much smaller company than Volkswagen and Toyota, which in a good year produce more than 10 million vehicles each. “It’s just a smaller supply chain to begin with,” said Mr. Melsert, who is now chief executive of American Battery Technology Company, a recycling and mining firm.

recall more than 475,000 cars for two separate defects. One could cause the rearview camera to fail, and the other could cause the front hood to open unexpectedly. And federal regulators are investigating the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system, which can accelerate, brake and steer a car on its own.

“Tesla will continue to grow,” said Stephen Beck, managing partner at cg42, a management consulting firm in New York. “But they are facing more competition than they ever have, and the competition is getting stronger.”

The carmaker’s fundamental advantage, which allowed it to sail through the chip crisis, will remain, however. Tesla builds nothing but electric vehicles and is unencumbered by habits and procedures that have been rendered obsolete by new technology. “Tesla started from a clean sheet of paper,” Mr. Amsrud said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Supply Chain Woes Prompt a New Push to Revive U.S. Factories

When visitors arrive at the office of America Knits in tiny Swainsboro, Ga., the first thing they see on the wall is a black-and-white photo that a company co-founder, Steve Hawkins, discovered in a local antiques store.

It depicts one of a score of textile mills that once dotted the area, along with the workers that toiled on its machines and powered the local economy. The scene reflects the heyday — and to Mr. Hawkins, the potential — of making clothes in the rural South.

Companies like America Knits will test whether the United States can regain some of the manufacturing output it ceded in recent decades to China and other countries. That question has been contentious among workers whose jobs were lost to globalization. But with the supply-chain snarls resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it has become intensely tangible from the consumer viewpoint as well.

Mr. Hawkins’s company, founded in 2019, has 65 workers producing premium T-shirts from locally grown cotton. He expects the work force to increase to 100 in the coming months. If the area is to have an industrial renaissance, it is so far a lonely one. “I’m the only one, the only crazy one,” Mr. Hawkins said.

General Motors disclosed in December that it was considering spending upward of $4 billion to expand electric vehicle and battery production in Michigan. Just days later, Toyota announced plans for a $1.3 billion battery plant in North Carolina that will employ 1,750 people.

little change in the balance of trade or the inclination of companies operating in China to redirect investment to the United States.

Since the pandemic began, however, efforts to relocate manufacturing have accelerated, said Claudio Knizek, global leader for advanced manufacturing and mobility at EY-Parthenon, a strategy consulting firm. “It may have reached a tipping point,” he added.

Decades of dependence on Asian factories, especially in China, has been upended by delays and surging freight rates — when shipping capacity can be found at all.

Backups at overwhelmed ports and the challenges of obtaining components as well as finished products in a timely way have convinced companies to think about locating production capacity closer to buyers.

“It’s absolutely about being close to customers,” said Tim Ingle, group vice president for enterprise strategy at Toyota Motor North America. “It’s a big endeavor, but it’s the future.”

New corporate commitments to sustainability are also playing a role, with the opportunity to reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption in transportation across oceans emerging as a selling point.

Repositioning the supply chain isn’t just an American phenomenon, however. Experts say the trend is also encouraging manufacturing in northern Mexico, a short hop to the United States by truck.

traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:

“Incentives to help level the playing field are a key piece,” said David Moore, chief strategy officer and senior vice president at Micron. “Building a leading-edge memory fabrication facility is a sizable investment; it’s not just a billion or two here and there. These are major decisions.”

In the aftermath of the coronavirus and restrictions on exports of goods like masks, moving manufacturing closer to home is also being viewed as a national security priority, said Rick Burke, a managing director with the consulting firm Deloitte.

“As the pandemic continues, there’s a realization that this may be the new normal,” Mr. Burke said. “The pandemic has sent a shock wave through organizations. It’s no longer a discussion about cost, but about supply-chain resiliency.”

Despite the big announcements and the billions being spent, it could take until the late 2020s before the investments yield a meaningful number of manufacturing jobs, Mr. Burke said — and even then, raw materials and some components will probably come from overseas.

Still, if the experts are correct, these moves could reverse decades of dwindling employment in American factories. A quarter of a century ago, U.S. factories employed more than 17 million people, but that number dropped to 11.5 million by 2010.

Since then, the gains have been modest, with the total manufacturing work force now at 12.5 million.

But the sector remains one of the few where the two-thirds of Americans who lack a college degree can earn a middle-class wage. In bigger cities and parts of the country where workers are unionized, factories frequently pay $20 to $25 an hour compared with $15 or less for jobs at warehouses or in restaurants and bars.

Even in the rural South, long resistant to unions, manufacturing jobs can come with a healthy salary premium. At America Knits, a private-label manufacturer that sells to retailers including J. Crew and Buck Mason, workers earn $12 to $15 an hour, compared with $7.50 to $11 in service jobs.

The hiring is being driven by strong demand for the company’s T-shirts, Mr. Hawkins said, as well as by a recognition among retailers of the effect of supply-chain problems on foreign sources of goods.

“Retailers have opened their eyes more and are bringing manufacturing back,” he said. “And with premium T-shirts selling for $30 or more, they can afford to.”

A few years ago, Julie Land said she would naturally have looked to Asia to expand production of outerwear and other goods for her Canadian company, Winnipeg Stitch Factory, and its clothing brand, Pine Falls.

Instead, the 12-year-old business is opening a plant in Port Gibson, Miss., in 2022. Fabric will be cut in Winnipeg and then shipped to Port Gibson to be sewn into garments like jackets and sweaters. The factory will be heavily automated, Ms. Land said, enabling her company to keep costs manageable and compete with overseas workshops.

“Reshoring is not going to happen overnight, but it is happening, and it’s exciting,” she said. “If you place an order offshore, there is so much uncertainty with a longer lead time. All of that adds up.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Supply-Chain Kinks Force Small Manufacturers to Scramble

“We are not going to assemble iPhones in the U.S.,” Mr. Shih said.

Some experts believe the problems will persist. “Our findings indicate the disruption could be for up to three years,” said Manish Sharma, group chief executive of operations services at the consulting firm Accenture.

Even Two-One-Two New York, a strictly domestic manufacturer of apparel with a plant on Long Island, is being forced to do things differently, said Marisa Fumei-South, the company’s owner and president.

The company has accumulated larger stocks of yarn and other raw materials in response to rising prices and higher shipping costs. “We’re sitting with a lot of inventory,” Ms. Fumei-South said. “We’re waiting to see how this evolves.”

That kind of behavior feeds on itself, Mr. Shih said. As companies buy up supplies to get ahead of rising prices, it contributes to the inflationary dynamic. “People are ordering more than they need, and that’s aggravating shortages,” he said.

American Giant, a maker of hoodies, T-shirts and other clothing, has sidestepped the worst of the supply chain problems because it makes its products in North Carolina and other domestic locations, said its founder and president, Bayard Winthrop.

The company’s apparel, sold through its own stores and online, falls between products sold by retailers like Old Navy or Lands’ End and more expensive brands. A full-zip sweater for men sells for $128, while a woman’s slub turtleneck goes for $70.

But American Giant can’t escape higher labor costs and surging cotton prices, Mr. Winthrop said. While he expects cotton prices to eventually come down, he’s not so sure how long it will take.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Supply Chain Shortages Help a North Carolina Furniture Town

HICKORY, N.C. — Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, as millions of workers lost their jobs and companies fretted about their economic future, something unexpected happened at Hancock & Moore, a purveyor of custom-upholstered leather couches and chairs in this small North Carolina town.

Orders began pouring in.

Families stuck at home had decided to upgrade their sectionals. Singles tired of looking at their sad futons wanted new and nicer living room furniture. And they were willing to pay up — which turned out to be good, because the cost of every part of producing furniture, from fabric to wood to shipping, was beginning to swiftly increase.

More than a year later, the furniture companies that dot Hickory, N.C., in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, have been presented with an unforeseen opportunity: The pandemic and its ensuing supply chain disruptions have dealt a setback to the factories in China and Southeast Asia that decimated American manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s with cheaper imports. At the same time, demand for furniture is very strong.

In theory, that means they have a shot at building back some of the business that they lost to globalization. Local furniture companies had shed jobs and reinvented themselves in the wake of offshoring, shifting to custom upholstery and handcrafted wood furniture to survive. Now, firms like Hancock & Moore have a backlog of orders. The company is scrambling to hire workers.

12 percent nationally through October. Furniture and bedding make up a small slice of the basket of goods and services that the inflation measure tracks — right around 1 percent — so that increase has not been enough to drive overall prices to uncomfortable levels on its own. But the rise has come alongside a bump in car, fuel, food and rent costs that have driven inflation to 6.2 percent, the highest level in 31 years.

The question for policymakers and consumers alike is how long the surge in demand and the limitations in supply will last. A key part of the answer lies in how quickly shipping routes can clear up and whether producers like the craftsmen in Hickory can ramp up output to meet booming demand. But at least domestically, that is proving to be a more challenging task than one might imagine.

container ships cannot clear ports quickly enough, and when imported goods get to dry land, there are not enough trucks around to deliver everything. All of that is compounded by foreign factory shutdowns tied to the virus.

With foreign-made parts failing to reach domestic producers and warehouses, prices for finished goods, parts and raw materials have shot higher. American factories and retailers are raising their own prices. And workers have come into short supply, prompting companies to lift their wages and further fueling inflation as they increase prices to cover those costs.

Chad Ballard, 31, has gone from making $15 per hour building furniture in Hickory at the start of the pandemic to $20 as he moved into a more specialized role.

according to data from Zillow.

toilet paper to new cars. The disruptions go back to the beginning of the pandemic, when factories in Asia and Europe were forced to shut down and shipping companies cut their schedules.

“We have a labor market that is tight and getting tighter,” said Jared Bernstein, a White House economic adviser. Mr. Bernstein said the administration was predicting that solid wage growth would outlast rapid inflation, improving worker leverage.

domestic manufacturing. This moment could help that agenda as it exposes the fragility of far-flung supply networks.

But pandemic employee shortages, which are happening across the United States in part because many people have chosen to retire early, could also serve as a preview of the demographic shift that is coming as the country’s labor force ages. The worker shortages are one reason that ambitions to bring production and jobs back from overseas could prove complicated.

Hickory’s furniture industry was struggling to hire even before the coronavirus struck. It has a particularly old labor force because a generation of talent eschewed an industry plagued by layoffs tied to offshoring. Now, too few young people are entering it to replace those who are retiring.

Local companies have been automating — Hancock & Moore uses a new digital leather cutting machine to save on labor — and they have been working to train employees more proactively.

Several of the larger firms sponsor a local community college’s furniture academy. On a recent Thursday night, employers set up booths at a jobs fair there, forming a hopeful ring around the doorway of the school’s warehouse, welcoming potential candidates with branded lanyards and informational material. It was the first furniture-specific event of its kind.

But progress is slow, as companies try to assure a new — and smaller — generation of young people that the field is worth pursuing. Corporate representatives far outnumbered job seekers for much of the night.

“It’s such a tough market to find people,” said Bill McBrayer, human resources manager at Lexington Home Brands. Companies are turning to short-term workers, but even firms specializing in temporary help cannot find people.

“I’ve been in this business 35 years,” he said, “and it’s never been like this.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Vietnam’s Workers Hesitate to Return After Covid Outbreak

Thu Trang traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2019, ecstatic to get a job at a factory. She worked eight-hour shifts and was guaranteed overtime pay, and the wages were nearly triple what she had made as a farmer back home.

But during a Covid-19 outbreak this summer, the factory where she worked making Adidas, Converse and New Balance shoes virtually shut down. She and her co-workers were forced to live in a cramped apartment for nearly three months, subsisting on a diet of rice and soy sauce. In October, when restrictions loosened as global supply chain issues surged, Thu Trang decided she would pack up and return to her home province, Tra Vinh.

Her manager promised her higher wages, but she didn’t bother to find out how much.

“Even if the company doubles or triples our wages, I insist on moving back home,” said Thu Trang, who asked to be identified only by her first name because she feared retribution from her company and the government. “Ho Chi Minh City was once a destination where we sought our future, but this is no longer a safe place.”

Just last year, Vietnam’s coronavirus controls were lauded by health officials around the world. The country was so successful that it achieved the highest economic growth in Asia last year, at 2.9 percent. That outlook has dimmed: Workers have fled their factories, managers are struggling to get them back, and economists are forecasting that a full recovery in output won’t come until next year.

monthslong factory shutdowns in the Southeast Asian country. It could mean a longer wait for Nike sneakers, Lululemon yoga pants and Under Armour tank tops before the holidays. Several American retailers have already switched to suppliers in China to ease the crunch.

Patagonia and other brands.

Ms. Doan said that when the government imposed coronavirus restrictions, she went days without food and received only about $130 for August and September from local authorities. The subsidy was not enough for her to pay rent. She said she was waiting for the company to approve her resignation.

“My trust in the authorities has vanished,” she said. “They failed to control the pandemic effectively, causing many to die from infection and to live in hunger.”

the deliveries of gifts during the Christmas season.

Nike cut its 2022 revenue growth forecast, saying in September that it had lost 10 weeks of production because 80 percent of its footwear factories were in the south of Vietnam and nearly half of its apparel factories in the country were closed.

On earnings calls, Chico’s, a women’s clothing maker based in Florida, and Callaway, the golf company, said they had moved some of their production out of Vietnam.

Adam Sitkoff, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, said many companies were looking for workarounds and other remedies to help ease the stress.

“American companies are seeing what they can do,” Mr. Sitkoff said. “If we charter buses and send them to whatever province and hometown, will that help us get the people back?”

American businesses have pushed the Vietnamese government to speed up its vaccine program, which they say is essential for workers to feel safe. Only 29 percent of the population has been fully inoculated, one of the lowest rates in Southeast Asia. Vietnam says it hopes to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its population by the end of the year.

Nguyen Huyen Trang, a 25-year-old worker for Changshin Vietnam, a major supplier for Nike, is fully vaccinated but said she still feared being back on the factory floor. Ms. Nguyen and her husband returned to their home in Ninh Thuan, a province in central Vietnam, from Dong Nai when cases there started soaring at the end of July. Her husband wants to go back to the city, but her family is pressuring her to stay.

She said her manager called her in October and offered to increase her wages if she returned. Her response, she said, was “a definite head-shaking no.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<