Auto Manufacturers Own Insurance
Auto manufacturers are working towards developing their own insurance programs using data gained through new technologies, a move that threatens existing insurance providers already struggling to turn a “profit from motor insurance due to intense competition and a rising tide of fraudulent claims.

Walmart Suppliers to Stop Chemical Use
Walmart has asked its suppliers to remove eight different chemicals, including formaldehyde and triclosan, from their products in order “to eliminate controversial chemicals from household goods.” Walmart created the list of eight chemicals with the help of the Environmental Defense Fund. The move follows from the retailer’s 2013 commitment “to increase transparency about ingredients in products it sells, advance safer formulations and attain the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice certification for Walmart private brand products.” Walmart announced last April that its suppliers had already removed close to 95 percent of those eight chemicals by volume weight from products sold in its US stores. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the retailer’s policy now “requires that any priority chemical used in a product must be disclosed on the product’s packaging starting in 2018.”

What Ethanol?
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,500 US drivers showed more than half “said they were unfamiliar with ethanol,” and approximately “the same portion of respondents said they paid little or no attention to whether the gasoline they bought contained ethanol.”

Road Travel Up
Department of Transportation report showed “U.S. drivers logged two percent more miles in May than a year ago,” the 27th month in a row of year-over-year gains, although recently that growth slowed, “partly because of comparisons to last year’s strong volumes.” John Kemp writes that cheaper gasoline threatens to undermine the US government’s projection that substantial improvements in vehicle fuel economy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a cumulative 22 billion tons by 2050. Kemp says that the US’ “car/truck mix was expected to hit 67/33 percent” by 2025, “but with lower prices the mix is now expected to be close to 50/50,” meaning the overall fleet will be less fuel-efficient than originally expected. Kemp says that “the longer oil prices remain low, the more trucks will enter the fleet by 2025, and the further off course the fuel economy and greenhouse emissions targets will go.” He concludes that based “on current trends, the standards will fall short of their fuel consumption and emissions goals, so...agencies will have to decide whether to tighten them or accept the risk of undershooting the 2025 targets.”

Consumer Prices Up
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in June, matching the gain seen in May. It marked the fourth straight monthly increase in consumer costs. Higher energy costs have helped to buoy these growth in consumer prices over that time frame, up 1.3 percent in June alone. With that said, energy prices have declined over the past year as a whole, down 9.4 percent, and they have generally helped to keep a lid on larger pricing pressures over that time frame. Food costs have also been quite modest over the past year, up just 0.3 percent since June 2015, which has helped. In June, food prices were off by 0.1 percent, with costs lower for meats, dairy and fruits and vegetables. On a year-over-year basis, the consumer price index increased 1.1 percent, unchanged from the pace seen in the prior two releases but accelerating from 0.7 percent six months ago.

Manufacturing Reaches High
After a 0.3 percent decline in May, US manufacturing output rose 0.4 percent in June, “buoyed by automobile production,” to remain “slightly above” the forecast of 0.3 percent. Federal Reserve data released shows capacity utilization “rose to 75.4 percent from 74.9 percent in the prior month,” utility output increased 2.4 percent after falling 0.9 percent in the month prior, and machinery production increased 1.1 percent. Manufacturing, “excluding autos and parts,” remained steady “after a 0.1 percent rise.” EconoTimes adds that “decent stabilization in global energy prices,” coupled with “the fading effects of a strong dollar” and improving demand, “have helped manufacturers establish a strong footing on output this month.”

Labor Shortage
Fast Company predicts the US “will experience a labor shortage that will disproportionately affect some industries and professions” as a result of “low labor-force participation, declining immigration levels,” baby boomers’ retirement, and other factors. According to Fast Company, the report predicts skilled trade jobs, healthcare jobs of all types, sales jobs, and STEM jobs will be among the hardest to fill. A 2015 Deloitte study projects US manufacturing will face “a shortage of 2 million workers by 2020 in areas ranging from engineering to production workers” as millennials look to start careers in other fields.

Caterpillar Image Differs Outside US
Caterpillar Inc.’s new Cat S60 Smartphone is only one of many products, including “entire lines of apparel, luggage and other consumer goods,” that aren’t “available at all in the United States.” Although the company doesn’t distribute the smartphone in the US because “the company licensed to manufacture the phones” used “cellular technology that is standard” outside the US, the main reason the phone and other products are not sold in the US is “perception, said Kenny Beaupre, Caterpillar’s brand advocacy and licensing manager.” Beaupre said Caterpillar is perceived as “very urban, not tractors and dirt,” outside the US, but doesn’t sell “a lot of the lifestyle products” because the company is “known for our industrial products, our workwear.”

Closing the Gender Gap
Research conducted by the Manufacturing Institute found that women account for 47 percent of the US labor force, but only 27 percent of manufacturing workers are women – revealing a “gender gap in manufacturing” in the US. The institute is concerned about the data “because, while the industry says that one of its biggest problems is lack of skilled labor,” it is “ignoring or not cultivating a major potential source of employees.” Manufacturing Institute executive director Jennifer McNelly said women are “manufacturing’s largest pool of untapped talent” and the industry won’t be able to close the skills gap without addressing the gender disparity. A 2015 Manufacturing Institute survey of 600 female manufacturing employees indicated “strong feelings of gender disparity,” which McNelly said showed that “there’s a huge opportunity to reposition manufacturing careers for women.”

Industry Is Thriving
Strategy + Business reports that people who say manufacturing employment is in decline are off “by a long shot.” Rather, Strategy & Business says US manufacturing “is thriving” if you look at the “point of manufacturing,” which is to “make stuff that people and companies will buy and use, not to employ people to make stuff.”

Mexican Exports
Mexican factory exports jumped up in June, “helping to narrow the country’s trade deficit to its lowest level in more than a year, figures from the national statistics agency showed.” Reuters says that after being adjusted for seasonal swings, manufacturing exports “rose by 6.1 percent compared with the previous month,” but that non-oil consumer imports “declined by 1.8 percent.”

Tesla’s $5 billion Battery Factory
Tesla Motors is building “a massive, $5 billion factory in the Nevada desert that could nearly double the world’s production of lithium-ion batteries” and characterizes the move as the company’s “biggest bet yet.” The AP says Tesla “officially opened its Gigafactory recently, a little more than two years after construction began.” The factory is about 14 percent complete and will be 10 million square feet, which will make it one of the largest buildings in the world. The AP reports the company “says making its own lithium-ion batteries at the scale the Gigafactory will allow will reduce its battery costs by more than a third by 2018.”

And Now It’s Airplanes
The Obama Administration announced a plan to “start regulating planet-warming pollution from airplanes.” The “endangerment finding” from the EPA “concludes that the planet-warming pollution produced by airplanes endangers human health by contributing to climate change.” While it does not “include the details of a regulation,” it triggers “a legal requirement under the Clean Air Act for the EPA to establish a rule.”

Turnabout in Point of View
Korean experts say the 2008 global financial crisis prompted “advanced countries” to redirect “their industrial focus back to manufacturing.” According to nonprofit organization, the Reshoring Initiative, “818 U.S. manufacturers that had gone abroad returned to America between 2010 and 2015,” bringing with them 124,852 jobs. The article adds that 84% of US consumers participating in a survey last year said they preferred purchasing American-made goods, reflecting the “21st century version” of national buying campaigns of “small, underdeveloped countries” from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Other advanced industrial countries mirror the US, in an about-face “from a few decades ago when these industrial countries shunned manufacturing as a declining industry, the experts say.” The Times adds, “while advanced countries are pushing to revive manufacturing, Korean manufacturers’ competitiveness has been sliding.”

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