July 3, 2016
A web site called “The Best Schools” recently published a list of the top twenty (20) professions they feel are the most viable and stable for the next decade. They have identified twenty (20) jobs representing a variety of industries that are not only thriving now, but are expected to grow throughout the next ten (10) years. Numbers were taken from projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2010 to 2020. I would like to list those jobs for you now as the BLS sees them. Please note, these are in alphabetical order.
- Biomedical Engineer
- Brick mason, Block mason, and Stone mason
- Civil Engineer
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Dental Hygienist
- Financial Examiner
- Health Educator
- Home Health Aide
- Human Resources Specialist
- Management Analyst
- Market Research Analyst
- Meeting/Event Planner
- Mental Health Counselor and Family Therapist
- Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist
- Physician and Surgeon
- Registered Nurse
- Software Developer
I would like now to present what the BLS indicates will be job growth for the engineering disciplines. Job prospects for engineers over the next ten (10) years are very positive and according to them, most engineering disciplines will experience growth over the coming decade.
Professions such as biomedical engineering will see stellar growth of twenty-three percent (23%) over the next ten (10) years, while nuclear engineering will actually see a four percent (4%) decline in jobs over the coming decade.
The engineering profession is expected to follow the range of average job growth — about five percent (5%) — through 2024. Engineers, however, are expected to earn more, beginning right after graduation. Two smart moves that will help engineering job prospects, according to the latest stats, include post-graduate education and the willingness to move into management. This is no different than it has always been. I would also recommend taking a look at an MBA, after you receive your MS degree in your specific field of endeavor.
I think it can be said that any profession in the fields of engineering and health services will be somewhat insulated from fluxations in the economy over the next ten years. We are getting older and apparently fatter. Both “conditions” require healthcare specialists. Older medical and engineering practitioners are retiring at a very fast rate and many of the positions available are due those retirements. At the present time, companies in the United States cannot find enough engineers and engineering technicians to fill available jobs. There is a huge skills gap in our country left unfilled due to lack of training and lack of motivation on the part of well-bodied individuals. It’s a great problem that must be solved as we progress into the twenty-first century. My recommendation—BE AN ENGINEER. The jobs for the next twenty years are out there. Just a thought.
June 10, 2016
There is absolutely no doubt the invention and development of chip technology has changed the world and made possible a remarkable number of devices we seemingly cannot live without. It has also made possible miniaturization of electronics considered impossible thirty years ago. This post is about the rapid improvement that technology and those of you who read my posts are probably very familiar with Moor’s Law. Let us restate and refresh our memories.
“Moore’s law” is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.”
You can see from the digital above, that law is represented in graph form with the actual “chip” designation given. Most people will be familiar with Moore’s Law, which was not so much a law, but a prediction given by Intel’s Gordon Moore. His theory was stated in 1965. Currently, the density of components on a silicon wafer is close to reaching its physical limit but there are promising technologies that should supersede transistors to overcome this “shaky” fact. Just who is Dr. Gordon Moore?
GORDON E. MOORE:
Gordon Earle Moore was born January 3, 1929. He is an American businessman, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation, and the author of Moore’s law. Moore was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in nearby Pescadero. He attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City and initially went to San Jose State University. After two years he transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1950.
In September, 1950 Moore matriculated at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he received a PhD in chemistry and a minor in physics, all awarded in 1954. Moore conducted postdoctoral research at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University from 1953 to 1956.
Moore joined MIT and Caltech alumnus William Shockley at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory division of Beckman Instruments, but left with the “traitorous eight“, when Sherman Fairchild agreed to fund their efforts to created the influential Fairchild Semiconductor corporation.
In July 1968, Robert Noyce and Moore founded NM Electronics which later became Intel Corporation where he served as Executive Vice President until 1975. He then became President. In April 1979, Moore became Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, holding that position until April 1987, when he became Chairman of the Board. He was named Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation in 1997. Under Noyce, Moore, and later Andrew Grove, Intel has pioneered new technologies in the areas of computer memory, integrated circuits and microprocessor design. A picture of Dr. Moore is given as follows:
JUST HOW DO YOU MAKE A COMPUTER CHIP?
We are going to use Intel as our example although there are several “chip” manufacturers in the world. The top ten (10) are as follows:
- INTEL = $48.7 billion in sales
- Samsung = $28.6 billion in sales
- Texas Instruments = $14 billion in sales.
- Toshiba = $12.7 billion in sales
- Renesas = $ 10.6 billion in sales
- Qualcomm = $10.2 billion in sales
- ST Microelectronics = $ 9.7 billion in sales
- Hynix = $9.3 billion in sales
- Micron = $7.4 billion in sales
- Broadcom = $7.2 billion in sales
As you can see, INTEL is by far the biggest, producing the greatest number of computer chips.
The deserts of Arizona are home to Intel’s Fab 32, a $3 billion factory that is performing one of the most complicated electrical engineering feats of our time. It’s here that processors with components measuring just forty-five (45) millionths of a millimeter across are manufactured, ready to be shipped to motherboard manufacturers all over the world. Creating these complicated miniature systems is impressive enough, but it’s not the processors’ diminutive size that’s the most startling or impressive part of the process. It may seem an impossible transformation, but these fiendishly complex components are made from nothing more glamorous than sand. Such a transformative feat isn’t simple. The production process requires more than three hundred (300) individual steps.
Sand is composed of silica (also known as silicon dioxide), and is the starting point for making a processor. Sand used in the building industry is often yellow, orange or red due to impurities, but the type chosen in the manufacture of silicon is a much purer form known as silica sand, which is usually recovered by quarrying. To extract the element silicon from the silica, it must be reduced (in other words, have the oxygen removed from it). This is accomplished by heating a mixture of silica and carbon in an electric arc furnace to a temperature in excess of 2,000°C. The carbon reacts with the oxygen in the molten silica to produce carbon dioxide (a by-product) and silicon, which settles in the bottom of the furnace. The remaining silicon is then treated with oxygen to reduce any calcium and aluminum impurities. The end result of this process is a substance referred to as metallurgical-grade silicon, which is up to ninety-nine percent (99 %) pure.
This is not nearly pure enough for semiconductor manufacture, however, so the next job is to refine the metallurgical-grade silicon further. The silicon is ground to a fine powder and reacted with gaseous hydrogen chloride in a fluidized bed reactor at 300°C giving a liquid compound of silicon called trichlorosilane.
Impurities such as iron, aluminum, boron and phosphorous also react to give their chlorides, which are then removed by fractional distillation. The purified trichlorosilane is vaporized and reacted with hydrogen gas at 1,100°C so that the elemental silicon is retrieved.
During the reaction, silicon is deposited on the surface of an electrically heated ultra-pure silicon rod to produce a silicon ingot. The end result is referred to as electronic-grade silicon, and has a purity of 99.999999 per cent. (Incredible purity.)
Although pure to a very high degree, raw electronic-grade silicon has a polycrystalline structure. In other words, it’s made of many small silicon crystals, with defects called grain boundaries. Because these anomalies affect local electronic behavior, polycrystalline silicon is unsuitable for semiconductor manufacturing. To turn it into a usable material, the silicon must be transformed into single crystals that have a regular atomic structure. This transformation is achieved through the Czochralski Process. Electronic-grade silicon is melted in a rotating quartz crucible and held at just above its melting point of 1,414°C. A tiny crystal of silicon is then dipped into the molten silicon and slowly withdrawn while being continuously rotated in the opposite direction to the rotation of the crucible. The crystal acts as a seed, causing silicon from the crucible to crystallize around it. This builds up a rod – called a boule – that comprises a single silicon crystal. The diameter of the boule depends on the temperature in the crucible, the rate at which the crystal is ‘pulled’ (which is measured in millimeters per hour) and the speed of rotation. A typical boule measures 300mm in diameter.
Integrated circuits are approximately linear, which is to say that they’re formed on the surface of the silicon. To maximize the surface area of silicon available for making chips, the boule is sliced up into discs called wafers. The wafers are just thick enough to allow them to be handled safely during semiconductor fabrication. 300mm wafers are typically 0.775mm thick. Sawing is carried out using a wire saw that cuts multiple slices simultaneously, in the same way that some kitchen gadgets cut an egg into several slices in a single operation.
Silicon saws differ from kitchen tools in that the wire is constantly moving and carries with it a slurry of silicon carbide, the same abrasive material that forms the surface of ‘wet-dry’ sandpaper. The sharp edges of each wafer are then smoothed to prevent the wafers from chipping during later processes.
Next, in a procedure called ‘lapping’, the surfaces are polished using an abrasive slurry until the wafers are flat to within an astonishing 2μm (two thousandths of a millimeter). The wafer is then etched in a mixture of nitric, hydrofluoric and acetic acids. The nitric acid oxides the surfaces to give a thin layer of silicon dioxide – which the hydrofluoric acid immediately dissolves away to leave a clean silicon surface – and the acetic acid controls the reaction rate. The result of all this refining and treating is an even smoother and cleaner surface.
In many of the subsequent steps, the electrical properties of the wafer will be modified through exposure to ion beams, hot gasses and chemicals. But this needs to be done selectively to specific areas of the wafer in order to build up the circuit. A multistage process is used to create an oxide layer in the shape of the required circuit features. In some cases, this procedure can be achieved using ‘photoresist’, a photosensitive chemical not dissimilar to that used in making photographic film (just as described in steps B, C and D, below).
Where hot gasses are involved, however, the photoresist would be destroyed, making another, more complicated method of masking the wafer necessary. To overcome the problem, a patterned oxide layer is applied to the wafer so that the hot gasses only reach the silicon in those areas where the oxide layer is missing. Applying the oxide layer mask to the wafer is a multistage process, as illustrated as follows.
(A) The wafer is heated to a high temperature in a furnace. The surface layer of silicon reacts with the oxygen present to create a layer of silicon dioxide.
(B) A layer of photoresist is applied. The wafer is spun in a vacuum so that the photoresist spreads out evenly over the surface before being baked dry.
(C) The wafer is exposed to ultraviolet light through a photographic mask or film. This mask defines the required pattern of circuit features. This process has to be carried out many times, once for each chip or rectangular cluster of chips on the wafer. The film is moved between each exposure using a machine called a ‘stepper’.
(D) The next stage is to develop the latent circuit image. This process is carried out using an alkaline solution. During this process, those parts of the photoresist that were exposed to the ultraviolet soften in the solution and are washed away.
(E) The photoresist isn’t sufficiently durable to withstand the hot gasses used in some steps, but it is able to withstand hydrofluoric acid, which is now used to dissolve those parts of the silicon oxide layer where the photoresist has been washed away.
(F) Finally, a solvent is used to remove the remaining photoresist, leaving a patterned oxide layer in the shape of the required circuit features.
The fundamental building block of a processor is a type of transistor called a MOSFET. There are “P” channels and “N” channels. The first step in creating a circuit is to create n-type and p-type regions. Below is given the method Intel uses for its 90nm process and beyond:
(A) The wafer is exposed to a beam of boron ions. These implant themselves into the silicon through the gaps in a layer of photoresist to create areas called ‘p-wells’. These are, confusingly enough, used in the n-channel MOSFETs.
A boron ion is a boron atom that has had an electron removed, thereby giving it a positive charge. This charge allows the ions to be accelerated electrostatically in much the same way that electrons are accelerated towards the front of a CRT television, giving them enough energy to become implanted into the silicon.
(B) A different photoresist pattern is now applied, and a beam of phosphorous ions is used in the same way to create ‘n-wells’ for the p-channel MOSFETs.
(C) In the final ion implantation stage, following the application of yet another photoresist, another beam of phosphorous ions is used to create the n-type regions in the p-wells that will act as the source and drain of the n-channel MOSFETs. This has to be carried out separately from the creation of the n-wells because it needs a greater concentration of phosphorous ions to create n-type regions in p-type silicon than it takes to create n-type regions in pure, un-doped silicon.
(D) Next, following the deposition of a patterned oxide layer (because, once again, the photoresist would be destroyed by the hot gas used here), a layer of silicon-germanium doped with boron (which is a p-type material) is applied.
That’s just about it. I know this is long and torturous but we did say there were approximately three hundred steps in producing a chip.
The way a chip works is the result of how a chip’s transistors and gates are designed and the ultimate use of the chip. Design specifications that include chip size, number of transistors, testing, and production factors are used to create schematics—symbolic representations of the transistors and interconnections that control the flow of electricity though a chip.
Designers then make stencil-like patterns, called masks, of each layer. Designers use computer-aided design (CAD) workstations to perform comprehensive simulations and tests of the chip functions. To design, test, and fine-tune a chip and make it ready for fabrication takes hundreds of people.
The “recipe” for making a chip varies depending on the chip’s proposed use. Making chips is a complex process requiring hundreds of precisely controlled steps that result in patterned layers of various materials built one on top of another.
A photolithographic “printing” process is used to form a chip’s multilayered transistors and interconnects (electrical circuits) on a wafer. Hundreds of identical processors are created in batches on a single silicon wafer. A JPEG of an INTEL wafer is given as follows:
Once all the layers are completed, a computer performs a process called wafer sort test. The testing ensures that the chips perform to design specifications.
After fabrication, it’s time for packaging. The wafer is cut into individual pieces called die. The die is packaged between a substrate and a heat spreader to form a completed processor. The package protects the die and delivers critical power and electrical connections when placed directly into a computer circuit board or mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. The chip below is an INTEL Pentium 4 version.
Intel makes chips that have many different applications and use a variety of packaging technologies. Intel packages undergo final testing for functionality, performance, and power. Chips are electrically coded, visually inspected, and packaged in protective shipping material for shipment to Intel customers and retail.
Genius is a wonderful thing and Dr. Gordon E. Moore was certainly a genius. I think their celebrity is never celebrated enough. We know the entertainment “stars”, sports “stars”, political “want-to-bees” get their press coverage but nine out of ten individuals do not know those who have contributed significantly to better lives for us. People such as Dr. Moore. Today is the funeral of Caius Clay; AKA Muhammad Ali. A great boxer and we are told a really kind man. I have no doubt both are true. His funeral has been televised and on-going for about four (4) hours now. Do you think Dr. Moore will get the recognition Mr. Ali is getting when he dies? Just a thought.
June 5, 2016
Several days ago I was walking my oldest grandson’s dog Atka. (I have no idea as to where the name came from.) As we rounded the corner at the end of our street, I heard a buzzing sound; a very loud buzzing sound. The sound was elevated and after looking upward I saw a quadcopter about one hundred feet in the air going through a series of maneuvers in a “Z” fashion. It was being operated by a young man in our “hood”, a young man of nine years. His name is Dillon; very inquisitive and always with the newest toys. The control he was using was a joy-stick apparatus with two thumb wheels on either side. Simple but effective for the flight paths he put the copter through. The JPEG below will give you some idea as to the design.(NOTE:Dillon’s copter did not have a camera in the body. He was not recording the subject matter the device flew over.)
A quadcopter, also called a quadrotor helicopter or quadrotor, is a multi-rotor helicopter, as you can see from above, lifted and propelled by four rotors. Rotor-craft lift is generated by a set of rotors or vertically oriented propellers.
Quadcopters generally use two pairs of identical fixed pitched propellers; two clockwise (CW) and two counter-clockwise (CCW). These use independent variation of the speed allowing each rotor to achieve the necessary control. By changing the speed of each rotor it is possible to specifically generate a desired total thrust and create a desired total torque, or turning force.
Quadcopters differ from conventional helicopters which use rotors capable of verifying their blades dynamically as they move around the rotor hub. In the early days of flight, quadcopters (then referred to as ‘quadrotors’) were seen as possible solutions to some of the persistent problems in vertical flight such as torque-induced control as well as efficiency issues originating from the tail rotor. The tail rotor generates no useful lift and can possibly be eliminated by counter-rotation of other blades. Also quadcopters are designed with relatively short blades which are much easier to construct. A number of manned designs appeared in the 1920s and 1930s. These vehicles were among the first successful heavier-than-air vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL)vehicles. Early prototypes suffered from poor performance and later prototypes required too much pilot work load, due to poor stability and limited control.
In the late 2000s, advances in electronics allowed the production of cheap lightweight flight controllers, accelerometers (IMU), global positioning system and cameras. This resulted in a rapid proliferation of small, cheap consumer quadcopters along with other multi rotor designs. Quadcopter designs also became popular in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) research. With their small size and maneuverability, these quadcopters can be flown indoors as well as outdoors. Low-cost motors and mass-produced propellers provide the power to keep them in the air while light weight and structural integrity from engineered plastics provides durability. Chip-based controllers, gyros, navigation, and cameras give them high-end capabilities and features at a low cost. These aircraft are extremely useful for aerial photography. Professional photographers, videographers and journalist are using them for difficult, if not impossible, shots relative to standard means. A complete set of hardware may be seen below.
One of the most pleasing versions of a camera-equipped quadcopter is given as follows:
As with any new technology, there can be issues of safety. Here are just a few of the incidents causing a great deal of heartburn for the FAA.
- At 8:51 a.m., a white drone startled the pilot of a JetBlue flight, appearing off the aircraft’s left wing moments before the jet landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Five hours later, a quadcopter drone whizzed beneath an Allegiant Air flight as it approached the same runway. Elsewhere in California, pilots of light aircraft reported narrowly dodging drones in San Jose and La Verne.
- In Washington, a Cessna pilot reported a drone cruising at 1,500 feet in highly restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, forcing the U.S. military to scramble fighter jets as a precaution.
- In Louisville, a silver and white drone almost collided with a training aircraft.
- In Chicago, United Airlines Flight 970 reported seeing a drone pass by at an altitude of 3,500 feet.
- All told, 12 episodes — including other incidents in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Florida and North Carolina — were recorded one Sunday of small drones interfering with airplanes or coming too close to airports, according to previously undisclosed reports filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year, according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014. The agency has acknowledged growing concern about the problem and its inability to do much to tame it.
- So far, the FAA has kept basic details of most of this year’s incidents under wraps, declining to release reports that are ordinarily public records and that would spotlight where and when the close calls occurred.
- On March 29, the Secret Service reported that a rogue drone was hovering near a West Palm Beach, Fla., golf course where President Obama was hitting the links. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary confirmed the incident. He declined to provide further details but said the Secret Service “has procedures and protocols in place to address these situations when they occur.”
- Two weeks later, just after noon on April 13, authorities received a report of a white drone flying in the vicinity of the White House. Military aircraft scrambled to intercept the drone, which was last seen soaring over the Tidal Basin and heading toward Arlington, Va., according to the FAA reports.
- On July 10, the pilot of an Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle said a small drone came within 50 feet of the fighter jet. Two weeks later, the pilot of a Navy T-45 Goshawk flying near Yuma, Ariz., reported that a drone buzzed 100 feet underneath.
For public safety, the FAA has promulgated regulations that MUST be adhered to by those owning drones such as quadcopters. Anyone owning a quadcopter or drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration if they intend to fly outdoors. It will cost those owners $5.00. If the copter tips the scales at over fifty-five (55) pounds, including any extra equipment or cameras attached, the FAA no longer considers it a model aircraft or a recreational Unmanned Aircraft System and a very long list of additional regulations apply. Model aircraft also cannot be used for commercial purposes or for payment. They can only be used for hobby and recreational uses. A few FAA guidelines are given as follows:
- Quadcopters or any unmanned recreational aircraft cannot be flown above four hundred (400 ) feet.
- They must remain in site of the operator.
- Quadcopters cannot fly within five (5) miles of any airport without written approval of the FAA.
- Quadcopters cannot fly over military bases, national parks, or the Washington D.C. area and other sensitive government buildings; i.e. CIA, NSA, Pentagon, etc.
- The FAA has extended the ban on planes flying over open-air stadiums with 30,000 or more people in attendance.
Privacy concerns can lead to hot tempers. Last year, a Kentucky man used a shotgun to blast a drone out of the air above his home. A New Jersey man did the same thing in 2014, and a woman in Seattle called the police when she feared a drone was peeping into her apartment. (The drone belonged to a company conducting an architectural survey.) And in November, repeated night-time over-flights by a drone prompted calls to Albuquerque police complaining of trespassing—the police concluded that the flyer wasn’t breaking any laws.
State laws already on the books offer some privacy protections, especially if a drone is shooting photos or video. Erin E. Rhinehart, an attorney in Dayton, Ohio, who studies the issue, says that existing nuisance and invasion-of-privacy statutes would apply to drone owners. If you could prove you were being harassed by a drone flying over your house, or even that one was spying on you from afar, you might have a case against the drone operator. But proof is difficult to obtain, she says, and not everyone agrees on how to define harassment.
Some states are trying to strengthen their protections. In California, nervous celebrities may benefit from a law signed by Governor Jerry Brown this past fall. The meat of the legislation reads, “A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission…in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff.” And a similar privacy law in Wisconsin makes it illegal to photograph a “nude or partially nude person” using a drone. (Dozens of states have passed or are considering drone-related laws.) The point being, people do NOT like being the subject of peeping-toms. We can’t, for the most part, stand it and that includes nosey neighbors. The laws, both local, state and Federal are coming and drone users just as well need to get over it.
May 13, 2016
I have never presented to you a “re-blog” but the one written by Meagan Parrish below is, in my opinion, extremely important. We all know the manufacturing sector has really taken a hit in the past few years due to the following issues and conditions:
- Off-shoring or moving manufacturing operations to LCCs (low cost countries). Mexico, China, South Korea and other countries in the Pacific Rim have had an impact on jobs here in the United States.
- Productivity gains in manufacturing. The ability of a manufacturer to economize and simply “do it better” requires fewer direct and indirect employees.
- Robotic systems and automation of the factory floor has created a reduced need for hands-on assembly and production. This trend will only continue as IoT (Internet of Things) becomes more and more prominent.
- Obvious forces reducing jobs in American manufacturing has been the growth in China’s economy and its exports of a large variety of cheap manufactured goods (which are a great boon to American and other consumers). Since China did not become a major player in world markets until after 1990, exports from China cannot explain the downward trend in manufacturing employment prior to that year, but Chinese exports were important in the declining trends in manufacturing during the past 20 years. More than three-fourths of all U.S. traded goods are manufactured products, so goods trade most directly affects manufacturing output. Thus, increases in net exports (the trade balance) increase the demand for manufactured products, and increases in net imports (the trade deficit) reduce the demand for manufactured goods. The U.S. has run a goods trade deficit in every year since 1974 (U.S. Census Bureau 2015).
- The recession cut jobs in all sectors of the American economy, but especially in factories and construction.
- Manufacturers need fewer unskilled workers to perform rote tasks, but more highly skilled workers to operate the machines that automated those tasks. Manufacturers have substituted brains for brawn.
- Trade Negotiations have to some degree left the United States on a non-level playing field. We simply have not negotiated producing results in our best interest.
Manufacturing employment as a fraction of total employment has been declining for the past half century in the United States and the great majority of other developed countries. A 1968 book about developments in the American economy by Victor Fuchs was already entitled The Service Economy. Although the absolute number of jobs in American manufacturing was rather constant at about 17 million from 1969 to 2002, manufacturing’s share of jobs continued to decline from about 28% in 1962 to only 9% in 2011.
Concern about manufacturing jobs has become magnified as a result of the sharp drop in the absolute number of jobs since 2002. Much of this decline occurred prior to the start of the Great Recession in 2008, but many more manufacturing jobs disappeared rapidly during the recession. Employment in manufacturing has already picked up some from its trough as the American economy experiences modest economic growth, and this employment will pick up more when growth accelerates.
As a result of the drop in manufacturing, many of our workers are on welfare as demonstrated by the following post written by Ms. Meagan Parrish. Let’s take a brief look at her resume. The post will follow.
MEAGAN PARRISH BIO:
Meagan Parrish kicked off her career at Advantage Business Media as Chem.Info’s intrepid editor in December 2014. Prior to this role, she spent 12 years working in the journalism biz, including a four-and-a-half year stint as the managing editor of BRAVA, a regional magazine based in Madison, Wis. Meagan graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in international relations and spent a year working toward a master’s in international public policy. She has a strong interest in all things global — including energy, economics, politics and history. As a news junkie, she thinks it’s an exciting time to be working in the world of chemical manufacturing.
Study: One-Third Of Manufacturing Workers Use Welfare Assistance
There was a time when factory jobs lifted millions U.S. workers out of poverty. But according to new data, today’s wages aren’t even enough to support the lives of 1 in 3 manufacturing employees.
The study, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that about one-third of manufacturing workers seek government assistance in the form of food stamps, healthcare subsidies, tax credits for the poor or other forms of welfare to offset low wages.
This amounts to about 2 million workers, and between 2009 and 2013, the cost for assisting these workers added up to $10.2 billion per year.
What’s more, the amount of employees on assistance shoots up 50 percent when temporary workers are included. In fact, the use of temp workers, who can be paid less and offered limited benefits, is one of the main reasons why the overall wages picture looks bleak for manufacturing.
“In decades past, production workers employed in manufacturing earned wages significantly higher than the U.S. average, but by 2013 the typical manufacturing production worker made 7.7 percent below the median wage for all occupations,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, in the paper.
“The reality is the production jobs are increasingly coming to resemble fast-food or Wal-Mart jobs,” Jacobs said.
By comparison, the number of fast-food workers who rely on public assistance is about 52 percent.
Oregon was named as the state that has the highest number of factory workers using food stamps, while Mississippi and Illinois lead the country in states needing healthcare assistance. When all forms of government subsidies were factored in, the states with the most manufacturing workers needing help were Mississippi, Georgia, California and Texas.
The research found that the median wage for non-supervisory manufacturing jobs was $15.66 in 2013, while one-fourth of the workers were making $11.91, and many more make less.
A CNBC report on the study detailed the struggles of a single mom working as an assembler at a Detroit Chassis plant in Ohio for $9.50 an hour. She often doesn’t get full 40-hour work weeks and said she has to rely on food stamps, Medicaid and other government programs.
“I absolutely hate being on public assistance,” she said. “You constantly have people judging you.”
The report comes as debate about the minimum wage heats up in the presidential race. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 has been a chief platform issue for Democratic presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders. Presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump has also shown support for lifting wages to some degree.
The findings have also added a sour note to recent good news about jobs in the U.S. Recently, the White House was boasting about improvements in the economy and cited a government report showing that about 232,000 new positions were created during the past 12 months.
CONCLUSIONS: MY THOUGHTS
To me this statistic is shameful. We are talking about the “working poor”. Honest people who cannot provide for their families on the wages they earn or with the skill-sets they have. Please note, I’m not proposing a raise in the minimum wage. I honestly feel that must be left to individual states and companies within each state to make that judgment. I feel the following areas must be addressed by the next president:
- Revamp the corporate and individual tax code. What we have is an abomination!
- Review ALL trade agreements made over the past twenty (20) years. Let’s level the playing field if at all possible.
- Eliminate red tape producing huge barriers to individuals wishing to start companies. When it comes to North American or Western European manufacturing, there are certainly more regulatory barriers to entry.
- Review all regulations, yes environmental also, that block productive commerce.
- Overbearing regulations can give too much power to a few, and potentially corrupt ruling regime and prevent innovative ideas from flourishing. It can perhaps be an obstacle for a foreign nation to invest in a country due to those conditions and regulations which increase costs. (The fact that some of these regulations are usually for the benefit for the people of that nation poses another problem.
- We have a huge skills gap in this country. Skills needed to drive high-tech companies and process MUST be improved. This is an immediate need.
- Beijing signaled with its currency devaluationthat the domestic economic slowdown it has failed to reverse is no longer a problem confined within China’s borders. It is now the world’s problem, too. This problem must be addressed by the next administration.
- Companies need to review their labor policies and do so quickly and with fairness. I’m of the opinion that people are almost universally the best judges of their own welfare, and should generally see to their own welfare (including continuing skill improvement and education), but I’m not in any way opposed to market based loans and even some limited amount of public funding for re-education of indigent non-productive workers (although charity & private sources would be a first choice for me).
As always, I welcome your comments.
May 1, 2016
As you probably know, I don’t “DO” politics. I stay with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In other words, subjects I actually know something about. With that being the case, I do feel the technical community must have definite opinions relative to pronouncements made by our politicians. Please keep in mind; most politicians have other than technical degrees so they are dependent upon input from individuals in the STEM professions. That’s really what this post is about—opinions relative to Senator Sander’s Energy Plan. (NOTE: My facts are derived from Senator Sander’s web site and Design News Daily Magazine. Mr. Charles Murray wrote an article in March detailing several points of Sander’s plan. )
Sanders’ ideas seemingly represent a growing viewpoint with the American population at large. He fared fairly well in the Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary election although history indicates he will not be the Democratic candidate facing the GOP representative unless Secretary Clinton is indicted by the FBI. I personally feel this has a snowball’s chance of happening. Sanders’ popularity provides an opportunity for engineers to weigh in on some of the hard issues facing the country in the energy arena. We want to know: How do seasoned engineers react to some of his ideas? Let’s look first at a brief statement from “Bernie” relative to his ideas on energy.
“Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP, and Shell at the expense of average Americans. CEO’s are raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people — all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into complacency in the face of climate change. Enough is enough. It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.”
— Senator Bernie Sanders
Bernie’s comprehensive plan to combat climate change and insure our planet is habitable and safe for our kids and grandkids will:
- Cut U.S. carbon pollution by forty percent (40%) by 2030 and by over eighty percent (80%) by 2050 by 1.) putting a tax on carbon pollution, 2.) repealing fossil fuel subsidies and 3.) Making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
- Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of ten (10) million good-paying jobs by creating a one hundred percent (100%) clean energy system. Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system for electricity, heating, and transportation is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs, clean up our air and water, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.
- Return billions of dollars to consumers impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change. Bernie will tax polluters causing the climate crisis, and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject us to unfair rate hikes. Bernie knows that climate change will not affect everyone equally – disenfranchised minority communities and the working poor will be hardest hit. The carbon tax will also protect those most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.
- Acceleration Away from Fossil Fuels. Sanders proposes a carbon tax that he believes would reduce carbon pollution 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. He also wants to ban Arctic oil drilling, ban offshore drilling, stop pipeline projects like the Keystone XL, stop exports of liquefied natural gas and crude oil, ban fracking for natural gas, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining. Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. Massive lobbying and unlimited super PAC donations by the fossil fuel industry gives these profitable companies disproportionate influence on our elected leaders. This practice is business as usual in Washington and it is not acceptable. Heavy-handed lobbying causes climate change skepticism. It has no place in the executive office.
- Investment in Clean Sustainable Energy. Sanders proposes investments in development of solar, wind, and geothermal energy plants, as well as cellulosic ethanol, algae-based fuels, and energy storage. As part of his move to cleaner energy sources, he is also calling for a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the US.
- Revolutionizing of Electric Transportation Infrastructure. To begin ridding the country of tailpipe emissions, Sanders wants to build electric vehicle charging stations, as well as high-speed passenger rail and cargo systems. Funds, he says, would also be needed to update and modernize the existing energy grid. Finally, he is calling for extension of automotive fuel economy standards to 65 mpg, instead of the planned 54.5 mpg, by 2025.
- Reclaiming of Our Democracy from the Fossil Fuel Lobby. Sanders wants to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from the White House. More importantly, he is proposing a “climate justice plan” that would bring deniers to justice “so we can aggressively tackle climate change.” He has already called for an investigation of Exxon Mobil, his website says.
COMMENTS FROM ENGINEERS:
- As engineers we should recognize the value of confronting real problems rather than dwelling on demagoguery. Go Bernie. This comment is somewhat generic but included because there is an incredible quantity of demagoguery in political narrative today. Most of what we here is without specifics.
- “Without fuel, we have no material or energy to manufacture anything. Plastics, fertilizer (food), metals, medicine –- all rely on fuel … We are not going to reduce our need for fuel by eighty percent (80%) without massive technology breakthroughs.” I might add, those breakthroughs are decades away from being cost effective.
- “I like the idea of renewable energy and I think there are many places in which we are on the right track. A big question is how fast it takes to get there. The faster the transition, the more pain will occur … The slower the transition, the more comfortably we’ll all be able to adapt.”
- “Imagine if we had rolling power outages throughout the United States on a daily basis because of the shutdown of coal or nuclear power plants.”
- Another engineer wrote that “the actual numbers of death and cancer risks associated with all the nuclear disasters from Three Mile Island to (Chernobyl) and the Fukushima plant pale in comparison to the result of death and misery of coal and fossil fuel power plants supplying most of our electricity today and for the foreseeable future.”
- Another commenter said that “for Sanders to rid the US of fossil fuels, he must be one hundred percent (100%) in favor of nuclear energy. No amount of wind, solar, or geothermal will ever replace an ever-growing energy need.”
- Little or no attention in the forum was paid to the issue of intermittency –- in particular, whether a grid that’s heavy in renewables would be plagued by intermittency problems and, if so, how that might be solved. Intermittent problems where no electrical power will NOT be tolerated by the US population. I think that’s a given. We are dependent upon electrical energy. This certainly includes needed security.
As a parting shot we read: “I am suggesting that folks carefully examine the record of those yelling the loudest, and then decide what to believe,” noted reader William K. “As engineering professionals, we should always be examining the history as well as the current.”
I would offer a sanity check: WE WILL NEVER COMPLETELY REMOVE OURSELVES FROM THE PRODUCTS PROVIDED BY FOSSIL FUELS. We must get over it. As always, I welcome your comments.
April 18, 2016
OK, I know you are aware of the acronym—STEM, but let’s refresh.
Now that that’s over with. The development of the microchip and integrated circuitry gave rise to our digital age. It seems that the integrated circuit was destined to be invented. Two separate inventors, unaware of each other’s activities, invented almost identical integrated circuits or ICs at nearly the same time.
Jack Kilby, an engineer with a background in ceramic-based silk screen circuit boards and transistor-based hearing aids, started working for Texas Instruments in 1958. Mr. Kilby holds patents on over sixty inventions and is well known as the inventor of the portable calculator (1967). In 1970 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. A year earlier, research engineer Robert Noyce co-founded the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. Mr. Noyce, with sixteen patents to his name, also founded Intel, the company responsible for the invention of the microprocessor, in 1968. From 1958 to 1959, both electrical engineers were working on an answer to the same dilemma: how to make more from less.
In 1961 the first commercially available integrated circuits came from the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. All computers at that time were made using chips instead of the individual transistors and their accompanying parts. Texas Instruments first used the chips in Air Force computers and the Minuteman Missile in 1962. They later used chips to produce the first electronic portable calculators. The original IC had only one transistor, three resistors and one capacitor and was the size of an adult’s pinkie finger. Today, an IC smaller than a penny can hold 125 million transistors.
For both men the invention of the integrated circuit stands historically as one of the most important innovations of mankind. Almost all modern products use chip technology. The invention of the chip ushered in the digital age and the age of STEM.
Over the past ten years, jobs in the STEM professions have grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs and are projected to grow seventeen percent (17%) through 2018 as compared to nine point eight percent (9.8%) for all other occupations. This should indicate that there is room for everyone, not just men, not just white men, but women, African-American, Asians, Hispanics, etc and it will take all interested parties to fill the upcoming need for trained professionals. With this being the case, colleges and universalities across the United States have been working to attract more women into STEM professions.
The Girl Scouts of America published a study entitled “Generation STEM” involving a questionnaire asking what girls say about the STEM professions. They found that teenage girls love STEM, with seventy-four percent (74%) of high school girls across the country being very interested in STEM-related professions. This definitely runs counter to several negative stereotypes that persist about young ladies and their interest in scientific or mathematic pursuits. Let’s now look at several facts. The digital photograph below has several surprising conclusion.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not indicate several difficult aspects of women joining the scientific and engineering community. There are challenges, as follows:
Challenge 1: Shortage of mentors for women in STEM fields.
Women tend to have a harder time finding female mentors in STEM occupations. A more experienced employee can show you the ropes and promote your accomplishments. This is important for anyone in any career. It is especially important for women in STEM, because they are often less likely than their male coworkers to promote themselves. As you can see above, many women fully qualified in their fields of study leave their professions due to pressures from other than ability.
Solution 1: If you can’t find a mentor in your organization, join a professional association.
Many associations like the Association for Women in Science, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Association for Women in Mathematics. All have networking and mentoring opportunities (both online and in person).
Challenge 2: Lack of acceptance from coworkers and supervisors.
If you work in a STEM field, you might work mainly or exclusively with men. You may find it difficult to be accepted as part of the group. There’s legal help if you face sexual harassment or discrimination in hiring and pay. It’s not always easy to know what to do about subtle or unintentional exclusion. This really surprised me when I read it. In the engineering teams I have been associated with, all lady members were treated with respect and as absolute equals. Apparently, this is not always the case.
Solution 2: Work for a company with female-friendly policies and programs.
Many companies understand that it’s profitable to keep their talented female employees happy. They make special efforts to recruit women. They move them into leadership positions and offer flexible work or mentoring programs. Take time to research potential employers. Find out if they understand and want to reduce the challenges for women working in male-dominated occupations.
Challenge 3: Coping with gender differences in the workplace.
Let’s face it: men and women have different interaction styles. This plays itself out at work. If you’re a woman working mostly with men, your daily reality will be different than if you were in a female-dominated workplace.
Solution 3: Educate yourself.
Read up on gender differences in communication. Learn what to expect by talking to women in STEM fields who can share insights. Don’t wait to be asked before offering an opinion. Learn how to handle mistakes, blame, and guilt in a male-dominated workplace. Learn the art of saying no to unreasonable requests.
One problem that affects both men and women is preparedness relative to their high school years. Our country is just not producing students for the rigors of the STEM professions. They are simply not prepared to move into fields of study that will ultimately see them graduate with a four year degree and move into technology. The chart below indicates some of the disturbing problems we have as a nation.
- Computer scientists are in high demand, but only a fraction of U.S. high schools offer advanced training on the subject—and that fraction is shrinking.
- Of the more than 42,000 public and private high schools in the United States, only 2,100 high schools offered the Advanced Placement test in computer science last year, down 25 percent over the past five years, according to a recent report by Microsoft.
- In schools where computer science is offered, it often does not count toward graduation. Only nine states—Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia—allow computer science courses to satisfy core math or science requirements, according to the report. (This is ridiculous!)
- With an estimated 120,000 new jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in computer science expected in the next year alone, and nearly 3.7 million jobs in STEM fields currently sitting unfilled, computer science is the future. This is, for the most part, due to students being unprepared right out of high school. Before students can gain access to these courses, schools need teachers qualified to teach them. And districts with dwindling budgets and restrictive pay structures are competing with the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Facebook for talent. One of the fundamental things we need to do is rethink the way that we recruit, retain, and compensate teachers to be able to deal with this changing labor market.
- Over the past ten years, the percentage of ACT-tested students who said they were interested in majoring in engineering has dropped steadily from 7.6 percent to 4.9 percent.
- Over the past five years, the percentage of ACT-tested students who said they were interested in majoring in computer and information science has dropped steadily from 4.5 percent to 2.9 percent.
- Fewer than half (41 percent) of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates achieved or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Math.
- Only a quarter (26 percent) of ACT-tested 2005 high school graduates achieved or exceeded the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in Science.
- In the graduating class of 2005, just slightly more than half (56%) of ACT-tested students reported taking the recommended core curriculum for college-bound students: four years of English and three years each of math (algebra and higher), science, and social studies.
What can be done?
- Align rigorous, relevant academic standards—across the entire K–16 system—that prepare all students for further education and work.
- Establish a common understanding among secondary and postsecondary educators and business leaders of what students need to know to be ready for college and workplace success in scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical fields.
- Evaluate and improve the alignment of K–12 curriculum frameworks in English/language arts, mathematics, and science to ensure that the important college and work readiness skills in STEM fields are being introduced, reaffirmed, and mastered at the appropriate times.
- Raise expectations that all students need strong skills in mathematics, science, and technology and that all students can meet rigorous college and workplace readiness standards.
- Require all high school students to take at least three years of rigorous, specific college-preparatory course sequences in math and science.
- Recruit, train, mentor, motivate, reward, and retain highly qualified mathematics, science, and technology professionals to teach in middle school and beyond.
- Ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn college readiness skills and has access to key courses in the STEM fields.
- Evaluate and improve the quality and intensity of all STEM core and advanced courses in high schools to ensure both greater focus on in-depth content and greater secondary-to-postsecondary curriculum alignment.
- Sponsor model demonstration programs that develop and evaluate a variety of rigorous science, mathematics, and technology courses and end-of-course assessments for all students.
- Provide opportunities for dual enrollment, distance learning, and other enrichment activities that will expand opportunities for students to pursue advanced coursework in STEM areas.
- Establish and support model programs that identify students with STEM academic potential and interests and expose them to STEM opportunities.
- Include parents, teachers, and counselors in outreach programs that help them learn about STEM professions so they can encourage students to go into those fields.
- Initiate new and expand existing scholarship programs to attract more students into STEM fields.
- Assess foundational science and math skills in elementary school to identify students who are falling behind while there is still time to intervene and strengthen their skills.
- Identify and improve middle and high school student readiness for college and work using longitudinal student progress assessments that include science and mathematics components.
- Establish and support model programs that utilize end-of-course assessments for STEM courses to ensure rigor and effectiveness.
- Incorporate college and workforce readiness measures into federal and statewide school improvement systems.
If a rising tide floats all boats, improvements in high school science and mathematics will attract more ladies into the STEM professions. Everyone benefits.
As always, I welcome your comments.
March 17, 2016
In 1985 I was self employed, as I am now, as a consulting engineer. That year, being my “rookie” year, was one in which I had a great deal to learn. One painful learning experience involved theft of intellectual property—MY PROPERTY. I suppose in hindsight it was good it happened early in my company’s history but the memories of that event remain very much etched in my psyche.
The company involved, we will call them Company “A”, manufactured microwave (MW) ovens; many hundreds of MWs each day. Company “A” had very personnel-intensive assembly lines with many “hands-on” operations. They recognized that automation could save them hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a daily basis. My company developed robotic systems to automate manufacturing processes. It seemed like a good fit.
I had called on them several times prior to receiving a telephone call one afternoon asking if I could come for another visit to discuss a project preparatory to quoting. I scheduled an appointment two hours later in the same day. (Cash flow is a huge issue for any company and particularly a new, fledgling company.)
The project involved rotation a partially-assembled MW door so additional components could be installed prior to final assembly. As with any company, they ask me to provide several options with accompanying cost projections for each. There were three viable possibilities with varying complexity that satisfied their demands for production times and degrees of employee involvement. After three weeks of design work and drafting, I presented each option to the purchasing manager of Company “A”. I was assured the appropriate individuals would review my work and the options and make a decision quickly so I could order parts and start fabrication of the robotic superstructure. A week went by, then two weeks, then a month, then six weeks until finally I get a phone call. This is just about how it went.
PURCHASING AGENT: Hey, can you come down to take a look at another project and possible provide a quote?
CIELO TECH: How about the quote I furnished five weeks ago? Are you going ahead with that one?
PURCHASING AGENT: We are still deciding on which option we want to use. This one is still in the works but we do feel you can do the work and we are very satisfied with your second option.
CIELO TECH: OK, good. I will be down tomorrow afternoon. (I don’t remember the time but that’s of no real consequence at this point.)
I made the visit the next day. We again, went to their assembly line to get a better picture of the job they wished me to look at and eventually quote. It was a fairly simple hold-down fixture requiring installation of rivets attaching four mating brackets. Not that complex but a good project and if you can automate the process you are better off for it. I was given all of the parts necessary to design my fixture but while walking back to his office, he was paged to answer an emergency phone call. One that could not wait. During those days, there were no cell phones so he answered the call from a desk phone located at the head of an adjacent assembly line. The phone call lasted for several minutes and during that period of time I was approached by an employee asking if I could come take a look at the system I had just installed. JUST INSTALLED! It apparently needed a slight adjustment—tweaking. A great deal of confusion swelled up and as I got closer to the adjacent assembly line I realize that MY robotic system was running and running wide open. MY SYSTEM. The purchasing agent caught up with us.
PURCHASING AGENT: You are not supposed to be here.
CIELO TECH: I can understand why. This is my system. Who built it and why was my design used?
The employee was truly baffled and embarrassed and slowly moved back to his work cell after receiving looks that could kill from the purchasing agent. My questions were not answered but one comment was given.
PURCHASING AGENT: You can sue us if you wish but you won’t win. We can keep this thing in court long enough to bankrupt you. You know that.
I did know that. He was correct. To prosecute the theft would have tied me up for years and taken a tremendous amount of time and creative capital. I simply did not have the time to recoup my investment. I left, never to return. About a year later, Company “A” moved their production to China. I had provided too much detailed information and my designs were very easy to fabricate. Lesson learned. I’m sure he was a hero to his management and boasted on how much money he saved the company. The fact that his actions were very much immoral had no real concern to him and his management cared not one whit.
QUESTION: Just how big is intellectual property theft and counterfeiting in our country today? As Senator Bernie Sanders would say: “It’s YHUGGGGGGE”. Let’s take a look.
According to ABC News, counterfeiting has become a one-trillion-dollar industry globally, and has deprived governments of much needed tax revenue. The United States alone loses 250 billion dollars a year to various types of intellectual property theft, resulting in the loss of 750,000 jobs nationally. In the music industry, the people who suffer the most from pirating are neither the musicians nor the companies. Instead, low- or mid-level employees, like song writers and sound designers, are left without a job because of sales that are lost to illegal downloads. According to the Crime Prevention Council:
“Not only is the United States the wealthiest country on Earth, but it is also the world’s greatest producer of intellectual property. American artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and researchers have created a nation with a rich cultural fabric. Every day, Americans can avail themselves of consumer goods, entertainment, business systems, health care and safety systems and products, and a national defense structure that are the envy of the world. It is frequently said that the American imagination knows no bounds, and that is probably true. In fact, the U.S. Patent Office recently issued its eight millionth patent (Cyber Attacks and Intellectual Property Theft, Defense Tech, August 22, 2011). The U.S. Copyright Office has issued more than 33.6 million copyrights to date (U.S. Copyright Office). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Intellectual Property Center has calculated the worth of intellectual property in the United States as being between $5 trillion and $5.5 trillion (Counterfeiting and Piracy: How Pervasive Is It?, Electrical Contractor magazine, 2008, retrieved November 12, 2011).
More than 250,000 more people could be employed in the U.S. automotive industry if it weren’t for the trade in counterfeit parts (Counterfeit Goods and Their Potential Financing of International Terrorism). According to the Council of State Governments (Intellectual Property Theft: An Economic Antagonist, September 7, 2011), the U.S. economy loses $58 billion each year to copyright infringement alone—crimes that affect creative works. That includes $16 billion in the loss of revenue to copyright owners and $3 billion in lost tax revenue. Furthermore, the problem is transnational: The U.S. Department of Commerce puts the value of fake products—such as CDs, DVDs, software, electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, and auto products—at five to seven percent of world trade.
This one really scares me. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates 15 percent of the pharmaceuticals that enter the United States each year are fakes, with that number having increased 90 percent since 2005 (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real Risk, Wellescent.com). Some are manufactured domestically, but more than 75 percent of these drugs come from India (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real Risk, Wellescent.com). Frequently, online pharmacies that distribute fake drugs purport to be located in Canada, but a recent study conducted at the University of Texas found that of 11,000 online sites that claimed to located there, only 214 were actually Canadian (Counterfeit Drugs: Real Money, Real Risk, Wellescent.com). According to an article published on the Secure Pharma Chain Blog on March 22, 2008 (Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Statistics, Secure Pharma Chain Blog), 60 percent of all counterfeit drugs have no active ingredients, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that “even a small percentage of counterfeit drugs in the drug supply can pose significant risks to thousands of Americans” (FDA: Drugs: FDA Initiative To Combat Counterfeit Drugs, retrieved November 11, 2011). Moreover, counterfeit drugs are commonly made and distributed by criminal gangs (Bad Medicine in the Market, AEI Outlook Series, Institute for Policy Research, American Enterprise Institute, retrieved November 11, 2011).
Who are the biggest offenders? Offenders in foreign countries are the principal source of the threat to United States IP. Production of infringing goods is conducted primarily outside the United States and these items may cross numerous borders prior to delivery to consumers in the United States. The one notable exception is the production of pirated works in the United States for domestic production. The magnitude and type of threat to United States interests varies from country to country. Offenders in China pose the greatest threat to United States interests in terms of the variety of products infringed, the types of threats posed (economic, health and safety, and national security), and the volume of infringing goods produced there. The majority of infringing goods seized by CBP and ICE originated in China. Offenders in China are also the primary foreign threat for theft of trade secrets from United States rights holders. China‘s push for domestic innovation in science and technology appears to be fueling greater appropriation of other country‘s IP. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (China Commission) has cautioned that China‘s approach to faster development of sophisticated technology has included the ―aggressive use of industrial espionage As the globalization and growth of multinational corporations and organizations blurs the distinction between government and commerce, it is difficult to distinguish between foreign-based corporate spying and state-sponsored espionage. Although most observers consider China‘s laws generally adequate for protection of IPR, they believe China‘s enforcement efforts are inadequate. Despite some evidence of improvement in this regard, the threat continues unabated. Offenders in India are notable primarily because of their increasing role in producing counterfeit pharmaceuticals sent to consumers in the United States. Offenders in the tri-border area of South America are a noteworthy threat because of the possible use of content piracy profits to fund terrorist groups, notably Hizballah. The most significant threat to United States interests from offenders in Russia is extensive content piracy, but this is principally an economic threat as the pirated content is consumed domestically in Russia. Distribution and sales of infringing goods are the principal violations in the United States. Except for pirated content, there is limited domestic production of infringing goods. Physical pirated content is commonly produced in the United States because it is more cost effective to create this content domestically than import it from overseas. Printing of sports apparel and paraphernalia for last minute sports events, such as the World Series or Super Bowl, also is common in the United States because there is not enough time to import these goods from other countries.
What can be done to halt theft? Rigorous prosecution of “local” property theft can be accomplished if the theft results from companies originating in the United States. That must be done. Off-shore theft from companies around the globe and counterfeiting is much more difficult but could be handled if we were so inclined to do so. It’s purely political.
As always, I welcome your comments.