The Last Word: A ‘Cure' for Media's Bad News

October 29, 2007
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No matter how many times I think I have addressed the topic of manufacturing health in the United States, it seems like I always find myself revisiting the subject. As with any health issue, it’s important that there be regular updates that identify the “patient’s” condition. If the patient doesn’t have an accurate diagnosis, his business could be at risk. First, the U.S. economy is healthy. And second, manufacturing continues to grow.

At the time I write this column, September employment numbers showed that nonfarm payroll employment rose 110,000 during that month. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the job numbers for August and July with 93,000 and 25,000 gains, respectively. The dollar regained some of the ground it lost during September. The price of gold dropped, lessening worries about inflation. The Dow Jones is opening regularly above 14,000 points. All of these are good signs of a healthy economy.

As for manufacturing in particular, according to the United States Manufacturing Technology Consumption (USMTC) report for August 2007, the most recent available as I write this column, manufacturing consumption increased 26.6% from July 2007 and 9.6% from August 2006. The USMTC report shows machine tool orders increasing in every region of the United States. This is all happening during a time usually associated with plants being shut down for retooling and those responsible for purchasing being on vacation.

Purchases for measurement, test and inspection equipment, software and services tend to be four to six months behind the purchase of machine tools. So for suppliers, the positive USMTC numbers reinforce already strong sales-that started back in May or June-for the rest of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. That is further supported by internal research Quality Magazine has done regarding quality-related investment during 2007 and 2008. Many exhibitors at the recent Quality Expo report a high number of attendees interested in solutions and who are looking to make purchases; “tire kickers” were in short supply.

So, if the independent data supports the fact that the U.S. economic, manufacturing and quality “health” are doing well, why am I revisiting this topic yet again? Because, if one’s primary source of news about these topics is the mainstream media, one would not hear this information at best, and at worst, it would be misreported. Case in point. The original August 2007 labor reports showed a job loss of 4,000. The mainstream media, and many of the presidential candidates, predicted a recession. After the numbers were revised, a common occurrence, no presidential candidates nor mainstream media outlets could be found to retract or “clarify” their original predictions. This has been a regular occurrence, pointed out in this column, as the mainstream media has repeatedly misled the public about manufacturing growth in the past.

If the mainstream media can’t get the overall economic story right-and they can’t-then how will they ever get the story correct on more intricate subjects such as manufacturing and quality? They won’t.

Many of us run into people, inside and outside of manufacturing and quality, who have the wrong idea about the continual positive economic news. Those people may miss out on critical opportunities to expand their businesses, and thereby create a negative impact on their local economy.

The best “medicine” to the “misdiagnosis” by the mainstream media is to be in charge of your own health. Get the information yourself. Visit the Web sites of places such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), U.S. Dept. of Commerce (www.commerce.gov), the Association of Manufacturing Technology (www.amtonline.org) and Quality Online (www.qualitymag.com). In this approach you can at least rest assured you are getting the preventive care you and your business need.

Share your thoughts with me at williamst@qualitymag.com.

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