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Toyota plant closure latest step in Australian "Carmageddon"

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 2:11 AM
Updated: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 2:09 AM

After looming for four years, "Carmageddon" has hit the Australian auto industry.

Toyota closed its factory in Melbourne on Tuesday, ending 54 years of production by the Japanese firm in Australia, the first country outside of Japan where the company made cars.

Iconic local brand Holden plans to shutter its factory in Adelaide on Oct. 20, ending car manufacturing in Australia.

Ford Motor Co., which pioneered Australian-based auto making in 1925, heralded its end in 2013 by announcing it would close its last two Australian manufacturing plants in 2016.

General Motors-owned Holden followed suit several months later by announcing it, too, would close down. With the loss of those two firms making the supply of locally-produced auto components unsustainable, Toyota reluctantly soon followed.

Toyota Motor Corp. has been Australia's biggest auto manufacturer for the past decade, with 70 percent of its cars exported, mostly to the Middle East. Output at the Melbourne plant peaked in 2007, when it made 149,000 cars.

When the final Camry sedan rolled off the Melbourne production line, 2,700 Toyota workers became unemployed.

"It's sunk in now. I couldn't sleep last night," Michael Spiteri, who worked at the plant for 23 years, told Fairfax media.

The closure of the Holden plant will eliminate another 3,000 jobs.

Industry analysts forecast the loss of thousands more jobs in auto-related industries. Research by the University of Adelaide has predicted a worst-case scenario of 200,000 lost jobs nationwide due to the auto industry's collapse, which would take $AUD29 billion ($22.6 billion) out of Australia's GDP annually.

Professor John Spoehr, who co-authored the University's report, said the plant closings and resulting loss of supply chains will have a wide impact.

"We haven't seen in recent history the collapse of an entire industry, but that's what is happening," Spoehr told The Associated Press.

The factory closings have raised pressure on Australia's conservative government over job losses.

"This is a sad day for these thousands of workers and their families, and it's a sad day for Australia," Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Tuesday. "Other countries, including the U.S., Germany and Sweden, contribute much more than Australia per capita to their car industries."

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said changing tastes were the main factor leading car manufacturers to close their Australian operations.

"People stopped buying the sedans being made in Australia," he said. "The manufacturers who've progressively closed their operations in Australia have made it clear it's not because of a failure of government subsidies."

When Toyota announced it would close the Melbourne plant, it blamed the "unfavorable Australian dollar," high manufacturing costs and meager economies of scale in Australia, a country of only 23 million people.

While Australia's resource sector remains strong, manufacturing has suffered.

The global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group ranks Australia the worst performer among 25 nations assessed in its worldwide manufacturing cost-competitiveness index. Costs are higher than in Germany, the Netherlands and even Switzerland, and Australian manufacturing wages rose 48 per cent in the past decade while productivity fell, it says. Meanwhile, car output dropped by nearly half from about 400,000 cars in 2004.

Automakers offered retraining programs to help laid off workers find new jobs. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's National Vehicles Secretary Dave Smith told reporters outside the Toyota factory that only about half of the 1,200 workers laid off from Ford's factories last year, have found full time employment.

The Toyota plant's closure was "a terribly sad day for the whole country, and a tough blow for the thousands of affected workers and their families," Smith said.

"This plant is more than just a car plant for them," he said. "It's a passion, it's a part of their lives."

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Companies from across the world travel to new area plant: See why

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

Manufacturing technician Adam Fox, left, and international sales representative Ralf Schuerl prepare centerless grinding machine parts for display at United Grinding. The company celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Ty Greenlees
Manufacturing technician Adam Fox, left, and international sales representative Ralf Schuerl prepare centerless grinding machine parts for display at United Grinding. The company celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

At home in its new $13 million headquarters for six months, United Grinding showcased its new building in Miami Twp. to the rest of the world last week.

The company opened the doors to its 2100 United Grinding Blvd. (found off Old Byers Road) home to about 300 people from America, Europe and elsewhere over two days last week. 

The occasion — the company’s “The Artistry of the Grinding Universe” event, showcasing the latest in precision metal-shaping machines and techniques.

Owned by German company Korber Solutions, United Grinding drew representatives from fellow Korber-owned brands as well as customers for the technology showcase.

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United Grinding celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Staff Writer)

The 110,00-square-foot building appears to be made for showcasing, with a good chunk of it set aside as a permanent showroom. Here, visitors can see Walter, Studer, EWAG and Blohm machines and learn the latest ways to strengthen quality and speed production.

United Grinding has about 140 Miamisburg employees. (About 30 employees are based elsewhere.) The company moved from Earl Boulevard — and consolidated a sister location in Virginia — to the current site just west of southbound Interstate 75.

The move involved incentives exceeding $18 million in investments and incentives, including a Montgomery County ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) grant.

The company serves customers in aerospace, automotive, medical, tool and die and other industries.

Andreas Steiner, automation engineer, prepares a universal grinder at United Grinding. United Grinding celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Staff Writer)

“We wanted to have all of our employees as much as possible under one roof,” Steve Jacobson, United Grinding president and chief executive, said.

“This area of the Midwest is our hub zone, if you will,” he added. “The majority of our business — about 60 to 70 percent of our business — is located within about six hours’ drive of our location.”

And why is metal shaping considered an “artistry?”

Because parts need to be perfect, and they need to be made perfectly more than once. Customers bring parts to United Grinding for a proof of concept or demonstration, and those typically are the most challenging parts they produce, the CEO said.

At United Grinding, customers see whether they can make the parts faster, less expensively or with greater quality.

Walk around the building, and you’ll see several appearances of the German acronym “Puls” — which stands for “passion and precision,” said Jacob Baldwin, a United Grinding spokesman.

Steve Jacobson, president and CEO of United Grinding which celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Staff Writer)

“It’s a combination of not only engineering, but art that goes into the design and development of a part,” Jacobson said. “Of course, if that happens with a part, you need a process that mimics the same way (for additional production).”

As a European company, United Grinding has a strong corporate identity, Jacobson said. “There’s an art theme there, when you look around and see how we designed the building. Not only for functionality, but it looks like a nice building,” he said.

United Grinding celebrated the opening of its new North American Headquarters in Miamisburg on April 17, 2018. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Staff Writer)
Anyone familiar with a Korber building in another part of the world — say, in Bern, Switzerland — will recognize common features in the Miamisburg building, Baldwin said.

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Dream internship: Harley-Davidson seeks college students to ride across America

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 2:36 PM

MILWAUKEE, WI- SEPTEMBER 1:  The headquarters of Harley-Davidson sits nearly empty September 1, 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
MILWAUKEE, WI- SEPTEMBER 1: The headquarters of Harley-Davidson sits nearly empty September 1, 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Harley-Davidson is seeking a select group of college students who are eager for an internship on two wheels.

>> Read more trending news 

The motorcycle company's #FindYourFreedom internship is going viral, and for good reason. The 12-week paid internship involves riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle across the country this summer. The best perk of all? Interns who complete the program get to keep the motorcycle.

Full requirements for the internship can be found on Harley-Davidson's website. In addition to riding across the country, interns will be expected to attend company events along the way, post scenes from the journey on social media and serve as  brand ambassadors, recruiting others into the sport of motorcycling.

Applicants who don't know how to ride a motorcycle will be required to take a course offered by Harley-Davidson Riding Academy.

The internship is open to college juniors and seniors who are at least 18 years old and are interested in marketing and public relations. Creative applications are encouraged.

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ALDI just announced a new grocery store is coming to Butler County. Find out where

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

No frills grocer ALDI reopened April 16, 2018, in West Chester Twp. after a 5-week remodeling effort.

No-frills grocery discount chain ALDI has submitted plans to build a new location in Fairfield.

Officials with the grocery chain have received approvals from the city’s Design and Review Committee and Planning Commission to build a new 22,000-square-foot store on a 2.25-acre lot at the corner of Pleasant Avenue and Patterson Boulevard.

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That’s inside the Patterson Place shopping center that once housed a Marsh grocery store that was razed several years ago.

“It’s a good-looking building,” said Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman. “It’s their new prototype.”

No-frills grocery discount chain ALDI has submitted plans to build a new location in Fairfield.(STAFF PHOTO)

Kathman said staff is conducting a review of the submitted technical plans — the engineering and architectural drawings — “but they then have to come to terms and close on the real estate on the property.”

He said the company wanted to get the zoning and city approvals completed before they closed on the property, which he said, “We expect that to happen relatively soon.”

The new ALDI should open by sometime in the fourth quarter, Kathman said.

MORE: ALDI remodeling 3 Butler County stores

The new ALDI should have a ripple effect on vacant space in the shopping plaza in which it is being constructed. Kathman said company officials told him they’ve seen other business follow the opening of a new ALDI store.

ALDI is investing $14 million to model 11 stores in Cincinnati and the surrounding area by 2019, part of its $1.6 billion plan to remodel more than 1,300 U.S. stores by 2020. Its West Chester location reopened Monday following remodeling efforts and a Hamilton location shut down for remodeling on Sunday. a Middletown location will be remodeled in September.

ALDI previously announced plans to invest $3 billion for the addition of 650 new Aldi locations in the United States during the next five years, bringing its total number of stores to 2,000 by the end of 2019.

The grocer, which has been part of the Cincinnati community for more than 20 years, is “always looking for opportunities” to bring the ALDI difference” to more of its fans, including the Fairfield community,” according to Sarah Brown, ALDI Springfield division vice president

“Our upcoming Fairfield store will deliver a modern and convenient shopping experience with a focus on fresh items, including robust produce, dairy and bakery sections, and more room for customers’ favorite products with approximately 22,150 square feet of selling space,” Brown said. “The store’s modern design will also feature open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally-friendly building materials – such as recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting.”

The company did not answer questions regarding how much it would cost to build the new store and how many employees it planned to hire.

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Toddler toys, decorative pillows, and water bottles among the latest product recalls 

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:41 PM

Toddler toys, decorative pillows, and water bottles among the latest product recalls

Children’s xylophones, water bottles sold at Costco, and 21 styles of decorative pillows are among the latest recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

The Petit Collage musical jumbo wooden xylophones made by Wild & Wolf are under recall because the ball on the end of the stick can detach and pose a choking hazard. 

There is one report of the ball separating and another report of a loose ball, but no injuries.

They were sold at Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters and other retailers.

Don’t let your child use the toy and contact Wild & Wolf at 855-215-5879 to receive a free replacement beater stick. 

Reduce Hydro Pro Water bottles are being recalled over lead paint. 

They were sold in two packs with a dog and lamb design printed on the outside.

No one has been hurt, but the pink paint on the outside of the bear bottles contain levels of toxic lead that exceed federal standards.

Don’t use the recalled bottles and contact Base Brands at 833-600-2887 or return them to place of purchase for a full refund or replacement bottle. 

Decorative pillows by Primark are being recalled because they may catch on fire. 

No one has been hurt, but don’t use the cushions which come in 21 shapes, sizes and colors, click here for full product codes and descriptions. 

Contact Primark at 855-215-5829 or return the pillows to the store for a full refund. 

One million Square D safety switches are under recall because the could shock or electrocute users, although no injuries have been reported.

The power may stay on when in the “OFF” position on several catalog numbers of the general duty switches made by Schneider Electric. 

Contact Schneider Electric at 877-672-1953 or click here to find out how to inspect the switch, receive free service support, and a replacement switch. 

Pressure washer surface cleaners by Briggs and Stratton are being recalled because  the spray bar can fly off and cause an injury. 

One person reported needing sutures on a cut to the knee after being struck by the bar.    There are four other reports of the bars detaching from the central hub. 

3000 PSI Briggs and Stratton and Crafsman branded surface cleaners are involved in the recall.

Stop using the cleaners and Contact Briggs and Stratton at 877-370-7505 to receive a free replacement. 

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Jo-Ann Stores are recalling string light sets which can break and cut you.

Two people have  been cut by the decorative glass jars in the Jo-Ann’s Makers Holiday 10-count LED string lights. 

Don’t use the lights and contact Jo-Ann stores at 888-739-4120 for a full refund. 

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Polaris is recalling Ranger XP recreational off-highway vehicles and Phoenix 200 all-terrain vehicles due to injury and crash concerns.

Multiple model numbers of the 2016 and 2017 Ranger XP ROVs have seat belt brackets that can separate from the frame. No injuries have been reported.

All model year 2014 through 2017 Phoenix ATVs are being recalled because of nine reports of a damaged throttle limiter, with one minor injury.

Stop using the ROVs and ATVs and contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 for a free repair.

For more on these and other recalls visit CPSC.gov.

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