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Green Incentives for Manufacturing in Michigan

Posted: November 30th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Green Incentives

Manufacturing in Eagle Technologies’ home state of Michigan has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. The problem has been the collapse of the auto industry (which is now on the upswing). Sure, Michigan state officials have tried to shift the work force to other things, such as promoting tourism and filmmaking.

However, Michigan is a blue collar, industrial state. Recognizing the rise in alternative energy needs and the abundance of manufacturing talent, officials have created a slew of incentives that have actually succeeded in drawing factories back to the state, with the promise of more business to come. These green incentives for manufacturing are Michigan’s way of leading the industrial horses to Michigan’s talented unemployment pool to drink.

Below are a few of the green incentives that state officials have created to promote alternative energy and manufacturing.

Nonrefundable Business Activity Tax Credit

Businesses engaged in green alternative researching or actively manufacturing in Michigan are eligible for a state business tax credit. There are a few stipulations of course. You must be registered with the Michigan Next Energy Authority, an agency that presides over alternative energy in the state. The credit is limited by tax liability, but can reap savings for the business on the tax bill.

Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone (RERZ) incentive

In order to lure manufacturing businesses to certain areas in Michigan that need the revenue and jobs, the state has created RERZ. It is an area that is predetermined by the state inside of which businesses can reap the benefit of exemptions from:
•    Michigan Business Tax
•    State education tax
•    Personal tax
•    Property tax
•    Local tax in some areas.
For 15 years, a business can operate in the state practically tax-free. There is a catch. The company must be located inside the RERZ and it must also manufacture, research or develop the actual renewable energy or the systems used in creating it.

Refundable Payroll Tax Credit

Businesses certified by the Michigan NextEnergy Authority are also eligible for a credit of their payroll taxes. The credit is the qualified payroll multiplied by the company’s income tax rate. Only the payroll for certain employees apply, those actively performing alternative energy related duties.

Through these incentives, Michigan has succeeded in drawing not only employment to a state that was among the highest in the nation, but also encouraging new companies to look at alternative energy as a primary focus. This will help in the effort to wean the nation off fossil fuels while keeping Michigan families fed and sheltered.

Filed under: Automative, Going Green, Green Alternative Energy, Manufacturing | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Alternative Energy in Auto Manufacturing: The Global Nudge

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Alternative Energy: Global Trends

The world has recognized and reacted to the need for more alternative energy sources. Customers are looking for greener, more environmentally friendly products and governments are looking for ways to preserve their natural resources while employing their populations. Alternative energy is the solution. No industry has experienced a shift as dramatic as the auto industry towards green energy. The change wasn’t accidental. Governments worldwide have partnered with customer demand to give the auto industry a collective shove in the right direction.

Putting Money Where Policies are

The biggest shove has come in the form of cash and tax incentives that are continuing to grow, especially in the auto industry. Ethanol Producer Magazine reports that the nations governing the 13 major auto markets across the globe offered almost a $44 billion dollars in cash, grants, loans, and tax incentives to manufacturers. The U.S. was the largest contributor. The American government provides more than half of the cash incentives available to companies located within its borders.

One of the most popular ideas was the “Cash for Clunkers” program that boosted auto sales in 2009, especially the sales of hybrid motor powered vehicles. However, the U.S. wasn’t alone, over 159 other nations created similar programs that jump-started automotive production. Vehicles powered by alternative energy sources, primarily hybrids, benefited the most.

In addition to these programs, many governments offer grants for research and development, loans for conversion to renewable energy manufacturing and resources as well as tax cuts for companies that specialize in manufacturing hybrid, electric and ethanol-fueled vehicles.

So It Is Written…

Public policy has provided another major nudge toward green auto production. When governments fund the projects and create regulations backing the money, industry has no choice but to jump on the alternative energy bandwagon. The correlation between funding and policy is so strong that the International Energy Agency found that $312 billion dollars in incentives was spent in 2009 on fossil fuel research, development, and manufacturing. The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, also known as the G20, is urging its fellow members and the rest of the world to cut that funding dramatically by 2020.

Governments worldwide and here at home are looking to reduce the global dependence on fossil fuels. This means increased opportunities for manufacturers in the renewable energy business in the next decade.

Filed under: Automative, Conservation, Going Green, Green Alternative Energy, Manufacturing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Parts: The Hybrid Motor’s Gift to the U.S. Economy

Posted: November 24th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Auto Parts

Hybrid motors are showing up in many of the new car models rolling off the assembly line today. In addition to boosting the automotive industry out of the financial crisis that they suffered in 2008, the hybrid motor has also revived industries that once thrived off of gas powered motor production. Motor parts production suffered greatly as the major automobile producers slowed production to a snail’s pace. Many of them were forced to close, sending millions of dependent families, and the communities they live in, into financial straits as well.

Then, along came the hybrid car, with a motor that is both gas and electric powered. The production of such a motor required retraining, retooling, and re-energizing of an industry that everyone feared was dead.

The Parts

In truth, it wasn’t until the financial collapse of the auto industry that Americans found out just how much they really rely on cars to survive. Surprisingly, seven out of 10 auto manufacturing plants make parts for the cars and not the full car. The importance of the parts industry is further highlighted in creating the hybrid vehicle. For example, the makers of Honda utilize over 600 separate parts suppliers to make their hybrid vehicles. Few parts are made by Honda themselves. This allows businesses an opportunity to hire millions of workers, therefore improving local economies.

The Foreign Connection

It is a common assumption that hybrid vehicles parts are largely produced outside the U.S. This assumption is supported by that fact that the original leading hybrid car companies, such as Honda (located in Japan) lie outside of the U.S.’s borders. However, these foreign firms often build extensive production plants within the U.S., further boosting local economies. Honda alone employs millions of people in this way.

No matter what your view of hybrid motor technology may be, you must admit that the contraption saved the auto industry in the U.S. The parts sector is just one segment of the auto production system. The hybrid motor alone is a complicated mechanism that is the source of employment for many people. Thus the hybrid vehicle not only saves the environment, it is also doing its part in resurrecting the American economy.

Filed under: Automative, Green Alternative Energy, Hybrid Motors, Manufacturing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Is HACCP Certification Necessary?

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Filing Cabinets

In an era of massive food recalls, organics, and the trend toward everything antimicrobial, any process that ensures food safety should be utilized in the food manufacturing industry to prevent contamination. However, the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) system is one that implements controls on the manufacturing process that can prove costly to the company implementing them. This is especially true in companies looking to convert their plants to adhere HACCP policies. Unfortunately, some managers see the policies as expensive and unnecessary.

What is HACCP?

The name Hazard Analysis Critical Point Control implies correctly that the system’s focus is identifying the points in the food production process that could allow contamination. HACCP is thus about Prevention: examining your process, spotting the weak areas, and correcting them in a way that makes food manufacturing a much safer process. According to the International HACCP Alliance, the policies result in strict controls and monitoring to avoid contamination.

How long has HACCP been around?

The International HACCP Alliance states that the system and policies have been utilized in some form since the 1960’s. The first food manufacturer to use it was the Pillsbury Company in creating foods for the astronauts to use in the sanitary environment found in the space shuttles. The codes have been revised and adapted since then.

Is it Mandatory?

The US Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, has adopted guidelines for several food manufacturing industries over the years. This makes a switch to a prevention system easier.

Is it expensive?

Adopting HACCP policies can be costly for companies that have been operating under the minimum requirements mandated by the FDA. The switch will require training of employees and managers, facility and equipment inspections and studies to determine weaknesses. Additional equipment, plant space, and materials may be required as a result of the inspections and studies. The new equipment will include monitoring, reporting, and maybe even corrective systems. Many companies within the meat, fish, and poultry industries are already utilizing all or some of the HACCP policies, so a switch may not be as expensive.

Why should I bother?

HACCP has become the “gold standard” for food safety worldwide. In order to compete with international firms and also a growing number of domestics ones, your company must have the HACCP certification. It ensures that the product you are selling is free of food contaminants. It is also an assurance that the food distributor and retailer may remain free of the dreaded recall.

When undertaking the necessary steps to make your plant is HACCP compliant, consult the customer care specialists at Eagle Technologies. In addition to supplying the equipment, the customer care department can assist with information about the policies, as they pertain to your particular equipment.

Filed under: Food Processing, Manufacturing | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Things to Consider About “Going Green”

Posted: November 17th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Going Green

Going green seems to be the most popular trend in manufacturing and other industries. Companies are churning out products labeled “organic”, “made with renewable materials”, “eco-friendly” and more. Customers, however, are scratching their heads amongst store shelves trying to figure out which products are truly environmentally sound. In an effort to help these consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have come up with a solution for consumers that manufacturers also need to consider before slapping on the next “green” label.

Prove It!

According to the FTC, the claims on the labels and in ads must be substantiated in reasonable scientific fact. The source of the claim must be credible as well. Any seals of approval or certifications must also be proven. You can’t place a label on a product based solely on evidence you read about on the internet or in a unsubstantiated study.

Practice What You Preach

A customer must be able to confirm your claims in regular use of the product. For example, if your food container is biodegradable, it must degrade in a landfill where most of the containers are placed after regular use, according to Eileen Connelly of the Associated Press.

Watch What You Say

Do not use words like “made from renewable materials” when the product is constructed from recycled materials. You can’t say that the product is biodegradable if it takes ten years to do so. Look at the EPA’s Green Guides for definitions of such words to avoid misuse.

Don’t Bluff on the Process

“Reduced carbon footprint” is another term that is often misused in manufacturing. This term and others that describe environmentally friendly manufacturing processes must do so accurately. Here again, you should consult the EPA’s Green Guides before making a claim on the product label.

In an effort to help consumers, the FTC and EPA have also made green manufacturing more honest. Actually, the trend is often overstated in industry media. Green products and services only made up one to two percent of the industry output in 2007. Also consider that the FTC can and will issue a public cease and desist order to companies making false claims. Unheeded claims can result in hefty fines.

Filed under: Conservation, Consumer Products, Going Green | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

Importance of Teamwork in a Crisis

Posted: November 12th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

Crisis management is an often overlooked area in manufacturing, that is, until disaster actually strikes. A crisis is defined by Bernstein Crisis Management as any situation that is threatening or could threaten to harm people or property, seriously interrupt business, damage reputation and/or negatively impact share value. It results in lost time, reputation and product damage. The dreaded recall often follows certain types of crisis. Manufacturing companies can minimize the results through simple team work.

Developing a plan for a crisis is an important first step to minimizing the damage. Plans include more than drills. Teams must be created to handle different facets of the crisis. Schedules are used to coordinate the effort. Communications must be established in order to get information sent out as soon as possible. Establish these things before the crisis to have a blueprint to follow when things are chaotic.

Companies need more than one team to coordinate the crisis response effort. Some companies have tiers: crisis management team, crisis communication team and a crisis action team.

The Crisis Management Team

The managers disseminate the information needed for access and task completion. They also have the contact information that is used to notify the proper agencies and to get the crisis effort moving. They essentially give the orders.

The Crisis Communication Team

The communications team handles public relations, the news, internet, and print media. They also ensure that employee’s families, product-users and other affected parties are properly notified of the crisis. The communications team may work with a manager to communicate with shareholders as well, distributing the information needed during and after the crisis.

The Crisis Action Team

The action team is “on the ground” or “in the trenches” putting the crisis plan in action. They are the people pulling products from the shelves, evacuating the building, or rebuilding after a natural disaster. This team is often the largest and may consist of members outside of the company, depending on the crisis.

A company may designate teams according to a particular crisis as well: people for natural disasters, product failures, financial crises, etc. Each team is trained and well versed in handling their particular crisis.

In manufacturing, crisis are often serious, expensive, and involving many people. Daimler Chrysler’s financial failure, BP’s billion dollar oil leak and Hurricane Katrina are just a few disasters that have rocked the industry. Out of them came a lesson to companies large and small: Always be prepared during a crisis.

Filed under: Management & Leadership | 4 Comments »

The Hazards of Keeping up with the Joneses

Posted: November 10th, 2010 | By: Eagle Tech

The Hazards of Keeping Up with the Technological Joneses

It’s easy to get caught up in the technological advances that come pouring into the manufacturing world each year. The robotics manufacturing industry alone is expanding every year. Like competition amongst neighbors for the newest riding mower, manufacturing plants are affected by a type of envy upon seeing their competitor with the newest, cutting-edge machinery. However, there are advantages to resisting the urge to keep up with the manufacturing “Joneses”.

1. Bugs

Everyone knows that the newest technology always comes with glitches, bugs and defects that go unseen until the machines are in operation. Robotics manufacturing machines are no different. Oftentimes, the first buyers are guinea pigs who find out the problems that are fixed before future orders are completed. Wait until the second generation or updated versions are created before buying.

2. Fit

Sometimes that concept of a new machine works better than the actual machine. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars to discover that the robots you bought do not work well in your plant? Instead, ask the manufacturer to see the robots at work. If they have yet to sell the technology, just wait until they do. Just as you would before buying a car, you must test drive the machines to be sure that they will work for you.

3. Customization

With first generation technology, there is usually a “one size fits all”. The next generation product usually has more accessories, colors, and ways to customize it. The same is true in manufacturing robotics. Waiting for the next generation robotics will allow you to customize and improve upon the machinery. This will ensure that you are spending money on a piece of equipment that your company can and will use.

4. Adjustment

Another vital consideration in waiting for new robotics is the time it will take to get the right machine. Many plants need that time to shift workers, equipment, and plant space to accommodate the new technology. Once you spot a new robotics technology, begin preparing for it. Once the second generation is created, you and your workforce will be ready to welcome the new technology into the plant.

Keeping up with the Joneses is never easy or very wise. However, resisting is often difficult, especially if your fiercest competitor is the “Jones” that your are trying to keep up with. Just remember the time and money savings that you will reap by waiting and your competitor’s waste by purchasing the first robot off the assembly line.

Filed under: Factory Automation, Manufacturing | Tags: , | No Comments »